Cats & Dogs: Paws Unite! straightaway sets out its stall, immediately introducing us to a secret organisation which labours under the acronym FART.
And yep, you’ve guessed it: it’s silent but deadly.
But actually, the film gets the lavatorial gags out the way quite quickly and settles into an utterly bizarre but strangely enjoyable tale in which an uneasy truce between cats and dogs is tested by a self-styled “most nefarious villain in the world” ie a cockatoo which thinks it’s a parrot.
Cats (“furballs”) and dogs (“butt sniffers) have been forced to get along by the simple fact that, apparently, humans are fed up with their fighting. The parrot’s plan is that if he can get cats and dogs to start fighting again, then they will be quickly knocked off the number one and number two favourite pets slots… and then he, the parrot, might finally find an owner.
Amid all the rivalry for human affections amongst a bunch of assorted oddbods who disguise the fact they can talk, essentially we’ve got Toy Story with fart jokes – but somehow it romps along quite nicely, even pulling in some sweet little lessons.
Among the humans, there’s an over-pressured tennis nerd boy and a young girl whose father’s failed music career has left them on the brink of eviction. The animals contrive to deprive them of their phones and then lock the two of them in a lift where, wonder of wonders, they discover how lovely it is simply to talk to each other. It’s nicely done.
Doggone it, the film really isn’t the cat-astrophe the trailers made it seem; and at an hour and 20 minutes, it manages not to outstay its welcome.
In yet another thin week for cinema releases, this one is definitely in the better-than-expected category.