Sunday, August 17, 2008

In defense of Beverly Hills Chihuahua

(note: this was a guest post I did on The Movie Watch a couple of weeks back now that I have another new post coming I figured this was the right time to post this.)

As long as I'm a new contributor on the Movie Watch, I might as well blow any reputation I might have in my first post. Ye
sterday I read that Ezra said that he'd rather watch the direct-to-DVD sequel to 101 Dalmatians. While I would not expect Beverly Hills Chihuahua to be the next Citizen Kane or anything after seeing the latest trailer it looks far from a throw away family film.

I'll admit it, I was as negative as everyone else when I saw the first poster for this movie. It didn't really show much besides for two chihuahuas, an Aztec temple and a large marquee bragging about the voice roles of George Lopez (ugh) and Drew Barrymore. Many felt it looked like the worst movie of the year, though with films like Meet Dave and The Love Guru (yes, I've seen them) I'd beg to differ. The second punch to this movie's face was the teaser that was attached to WALL-E. This teaser really said little what the movie was actually about and for 90% of the people in the audience it would be the only footage they'd see from the actual movie before its September release. For the seasoned movie viewer the teaser really had nothing to offer besides for poorly animated Chihuahua's playing the drums. With the inevitable pop-culture references as implied by an old DJ BOBO pop song blaring in the background with Chihuahua's singing and dancing behind it. This teaser made the offensive trailer for Madagascar seem tame. The fact that this movie also is helmed by the director of the live-action Scooby-Doo movies and Big Mamma's House didn't do much to win me over on this movie either.

However when I saw that new trailer that was posted by Disney up on YouTube more recently it was a very different movie than the gimmicky dreck I was expecting. The new trailer seemed more like Homeward Bound with a pretty inoffensive and subdued sense of humor. The trailer even did the miraculous job of putting the teaser into perspective making the little prologue about the Aztecs before the opening make a lot more sense. The trailer also had very little CGI apart from the obvious moving lips on the dogs whereas the teaser was completely 3D animated. The other surprise was that there were no pop-culture references in the full trailer either apart from that Scarface line but that's so deeply embedded into our culture I don't know if it even counts. In a world where the trailer for Madagascar Escape 2 Africa was getting an uproarious laugh in the movie theater this is a great thing. Sure, it had its share of lame jokes in the trailer but so do a lot of Disney movies. If you judged Enchanted by its trailer it would look pretty formulaic as well. Disney is concerned first and foremost with families and if showing a gang of chihuahuas playing the bongos was enough to get the kids excited, then it will ultimately be
a success.

The new trailer made me develop quite a soft spot for this movie. It reminded me a lot of the movies I've been forced to sit through in elementary school just to get the mangey kids quite for an hour or so. I had no clue at that time what the general fan consensus those movies had. In fact, a lot of the films I fondly remembered received terrible reviews, such as Mouse Hunt whereas Babe was nominated for an Academy Award and I had no idea at the time. I was crushed when I saw Roger Ebert's scathing review of Home Alone when they opened up their review archive to the internet. But at the same time I agreed with a lot of his criticism. He may have missed the point of a simple dumb family movie. Roger Ebert had a point in that it would have more emotional resonance if they showed Kevin as a vulnerable and defenseless kid in the face of criminals, but it would seem entirely out of place among the various slapstick gags that were to follow. If screenwriter John Hughes were to follow Ebert's advice he'd have to retool the film entirely for something that's already become a classic family movie in its current state.

To get things straight I'm still not going to go out of my way to see Beverly Hills Chihuahua, that is unless by some weird miracle it winds up getting a Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. However, this is definitely something I'd watch on a lazy sunday had it been on Disney Channel or something and in comparison to other non-Disney family dreck like Fly Me to the Moon and Space Chimps this movie's looking pretty promising for its fairly young audience. At the very least prints of Salvador Dali's short film Destino will be screened before all the prints of Beverly Hills Chihuahua, that's worth the price of admission alone or it could make a better stoner film than Pineapple Express, and that's saying a lot.
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