Beverly Hills Chihuahua

Beverly Hills Chihuahua

**1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Chloe is an heiress. Wrapped in cashmere and diamonds, she's a spoiled little Beverly Hills princess used to getting what she wants. But when the woman assigned to care for her takes her on holiday to Mexico, and she falls into the hands of kidnappers, her whole world falls apart. As the former police officer she turns her nose up at risks his life to save her, and as an old admirer sets out to track her down, she must, ultimately, find and save herself.

If you think you might have seen this film before, you're almost right. The plot has featured in a number of old classics. But there's a twist. This time, Chloe and her admirers are talking dogs.

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Many people have made vicious remarks about this film without having seen it. That's not really fair. If you go to see a film about talking dogs, you should know what you're letting yourself in for - besides which, this is really much better than you might think. Kids will love it and attendant parents, if they let themselves, may end up enjoying the ride.

What sets Beverly Hills Chihuahua apart from most of its ilk is that it's a properly crafted adventure film, with its own ideas and some strong set pieces. It doesn't just whisk its characters from A to B to meet the demands of the plot - it shows us how their characters develop along the way, and the less interesting human characters never get in the way of the action that matters.

Its writers have also made an effort to flesh out each of the minor characters and to bring some depth and charm to familiar stereotypes. The police dog, having witnessed the death of his (human) partner, has lost his sense of smell and given up on himself; Chloe's admirer, Papi, struggles to win her attention because, being Hispanic, he's automatically seen as beneath her; and we also meet a rat and iguana con-man team with their eyes on Chloe's diamond collar. Plus, in one of the film's best sequences, we are introduced to a community of radical chihuahuas who inhabit ancient Mayan ruins and try to persuade our heroine to reclaim her roots and her pride.

The film's weak link, and the thing that really stops it getting the praise it would otherwise deserve, is Drew Barrymore. Whilst I was unable to find out the names of the dogs involved, who are uniformly excellent (and deserving of Fido nominations), her name gets top billing, and she's simply atrocious. No real Beverly Hills chihuahua would tolerate being voiced by her. This is a real shame, because it adds to Chloe's insufferability even at the point when she's starting to warm to her new friends and, as a character, is becoming more appealing.

Many people will refuse to watch a talking dog film no matter what, but if you have to do so, you could do much worse than this. If at times it's overly sentimental, this is because it's trying to put across some important messages about pet care and responsibility, which may help you when your kids start begging you for a puppy as the credits roll.

Reviewed on: 12 Jan 2009
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Beverly Hills Chihuahua packshot
When a spoiled chihuahua 'heiress' gets out of her depth in Mexico, she finds a friend in a gruff former police dog, and a longtime admirer sets out to search for her.
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Director: Raja Gosnell

Writer: Analisa LaBianco, Jeffrey Bushell

Starring: Drew Barrymore, Piper Perabo, Andy Garcia, George Lopez, Axel Alba, Jamie Lee Curtis, Cheech Marin, Paul Rodriguez, Edward James Olmos

Year: 2008

Runtime: 91 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US

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