October 3, 2008
Family friendly; live-action comedy
Drew Barrymore, George Lopez, Jamie Lee Curtis, Piper Perabo, Manolo Cardona, Andy Garcia, Cheech Marin, Paul Rodriguez, Placido Domingo
Analisa LaBianco (screenplay) and Jeff Bushell (story)
Mandeville Films/Smart Entertainment, Walt Disney Pictures
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Beverly Hills Chihuahua: Paw-Fect Fun
By Laura J. Bagby
CBN.com Sr. Producer
How about a movie that’s funny, clean, family and animal friendly, and that features a cast of comedians, more than 200 dogs, and some exotic locations?
Bark! Who goes there? It’s Beverly Hills Chihuahua, and it opens in theatres nationwide today.
Snobby pampered pooch Chloe (voiced by Drew Barrymore) enjoys life in the lap of luxury in Beverly Hills with her besotted owner, Aunt Viv (Jamie Lee Curtis), completely oblivious to the gardener’s dog, street-smart Papi (voiced by George Lopez), who is smitten with – excuse the pun – puppy love for the beautiful white Chihuahua.
But the diamond-collared cutie eventually must shed her design duds when Rachel (Piper Perabo), tasked with caring for Chloe while Aunt Viv is away on a business trip, accidentally loses the pooch on a spur-of-the-moment trip to Mexico. Rachel teams up with Sam the gardener (Manolo Cardona) and his dog Papi to track Chloe down before Aunt Viv comes back into town and finds out about Rachel’s irresponsibility.
In the meantime, South of the Border is where Chloe must discover who she really is; trust her Mexico companion, a former Police dog named Delgado with mysterious past (voiced by Andy Garcia); and learn what true love is really all about – even when that true love just might be right in front of her nose.
Along the way, it isn’t just Chloe who discovers what she is really made of. Delgado must overcome physical challenges to find his inner strength, Papi must act on his instincts to win the love of his life, and Rachel must find her internal compass to become a more capable and aware adult. Together, our cast of characters must work together to find True North.
On first instinct, I thought, a movie about Chihuahuas? Where did this idea come from?
So I asked the story writer, Jeff Bushell, who revealed that the original concept came from a dog he owned in his past, who was half Chihuahua and half mini Pinscher. He called her the “self-hating dog” because she acted contrary to her Chihuahua breed by barking at the gardeners. That got Bushell to thinking, “What if she was this rich handbag dog and she was denying herself?” He began fleshing out the details and added in the visit to Chihuahua, Mexico, and – viola! – the storyline was well on its way.
Fortunately for filmgoers, rather than making this film one-dimensional, writers Bushell and Analisa LaBianco decided to insert a layer of deeper themes: themes like discovering and accepting one’s true heritage; refraining from making quick judgments about others and seeing beyond those initial appearances; and the whole concept of empowerment, finding that inner voice, which Bushell believes will especially appeal to younger viewers.
“This little dog is so fierce,” said Bushell. “And that’s part of her [Chloe’s] journey is that she doesn’t feel she has any power. Then she learns from these mystical, wild Chihuahuas that she actually has this huge bark and can be a presence. That for kids is hugely relatable, because they always are smaller and they look up to bigger people.”
Echoing that sentiment, LaBianco adds, “It’s a little dog and they identify. They are little, too.”
The writers also pair opposites together to create on-screen zest. We see this in the often comedic pairing of the refined, graceful, and aloof Chloe with the blue-collar, bleeding heart Papi. We also see an interesting dynamic between Chloe and the wounded hero, Delgado. And in this particular relationship, the writers pulled from filmic history to pay homage to a past great Hollywood director.
“One of the models was It Happened One Night, Preston Sturges -- just that idea,” said Bushell. “The heiress goes on the run, and instead of a salt-of-the-earth guy, a salt-of-the-earth Police dog finds her. He is kind of street smart, and she is very effete, and that is kind of that classic journey.”
For a different thematic view, read When Life Goes to the Dogs.
Despite what you might have seen in the over-the-top trailer, I am willing to guess that this live-action comedy will beat your initial expectations.
That’s because the Mandeville Films/Smart Entertainment Production is more than just a string of knee-slapping laughs and what could have been stagey acting and a very thin plot.
You get to watch and hear enjoyable performances by well-known stars. As screenwriter Analisa Labianco’s first choice for voicing Chloe, Drew Barrymore does an excellent job of making the rather uppity dog endearing. George Lopez is just plain funny and truly fits the energy of his doggy double, Papi. Jamie Lee Curtis is stunning and delightfully ridiculous as Aunt Viv. Andy Garcia is absolutely perfect as the Robert De Niro-type Police dog Delgado. The ever-flexible Piper Perabo makes a great lost-in-space blonde on screen (in person, she is anything but!). And then there are the additional Hispanic world’s well-known comedic talents of Cheech Marin (Manuel) and Paul Rodriguez (Chico) and the debut of Colombian actor Manolo Cardona to add authentic Latin flavor and credibility.
As a delightful tale of puppy love, self-discovery, empowerment, and comedic adventure, Beverly Hills Chihuahua is a fun film for both adults and kids alike and animal lovers everywhere.
Overall rating: B.
Check out Beverly Hills Chihuahua
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More articles by Laura Bagby on CBN.com
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