America is a dog-loving country. There are so many canines in my neighborhood that when I take a walk I can almost feel people looking at me funny, wondering why I’m not attached to something on a leash. Disney has capitalized on that furry obsession with one series—the “Buddies” pictures, featuring golden retriever pups—and now they’ve hit on another successful doggie film franchise: “Beverly Hills Chihuahua.”
It began in 2008 with a familiar talking-dogs tale of a “mutt” who fell for a lady, and continued with “Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2” in 2010, with a hackneyed plot about fighting to save a home in a movie that was only made bearable by the introduction of puppies born to Papi (George Lopez) and Chloe (Drew Barrymore).
The third installment—“Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3: Viva La Fiesta!”—comes to Blu-ray combo pack on September 18, and while it’s not going to win any awards (not even a Golden Fire Hydrant), it’s better than the first uninspired sequel. At least the writers tried to be clever.
Groan if you will, but you have to give them points for using understatement and reversals in a lot of lines, as when Papi gushes over his beloved Chloe in hot-blooded Latin fashion, “Like an angel fell from heaven . . . and grew fur,” or, “You are my sun, my moon . . . my squeaky chew-toy of love.” Later, there’s this dog-lover inside joke: “I can’t go to jail . . . I’ve never even been crated.”
The writers have a lot of fun with doggie rock group names as well. In addition to a performance by reggae pooches in dreads and “Black Labbeth,” a heavy metal group in which one of the Labrador retrievers is dressed to look like bedraggled rock icon Ozzy Osbourne (and Papi complains, “It’s just the same three chords, over and over!”), the dogs talk about great bands they love—like R.E.O. Tailwaggin, Lady Gaga and the Tramp, and Black-Eyed Fleas. In a playful allusion to “There’s Something about Mary” there’s also a trio of mariachi-playing dogs who tell the story at the onset and reappear several times during the film to toss out additional narration through song.
Though the dogs dominate—with Delaney Jones returning as the voice of pup Ali, Madison Pettis as the pup Lala, Emily Osment as pup Pep, with newcomers Logan Grove (Papi Jr.) and Kay Panabaker (Rosa) joining the litter, the humans are more of a presence this time around. Erin Cahill and Marcus Coloma reprise their roles as Rachael and Sam, married now and wanting a change of life . . . like, a movin’ on up Jefferson’s sort of change. So when Sam notices an ad for a sous chef at the swanky Royce restaurant at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena—real places, by the way—where they’re also in need of another landscape designer, the two of them interview. It doesn’t go well until the Langham honcho notices little Chloe and recognizes her pampered pedigree from previous dog shows and publicity. Would she be the “face” of their new ad campaign to attract owners with dogs to their hotel? The answer is yes, of course, but only on the condition that Rachael and Sam get hired, the puppies get to attend the hotel’s doggie school free of charge, and they all get to live on the premises.
Sound familiar? Well, at times it does feel a bit like “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” the Disney Channel sitcom about a pair of mischievous boys who get to stay at a hotel because their mother works there—only with puppies getting blamed for the mischief. The acting is certainly the same juggling of cute and over-the-top elements, and the complication, crisis, and resolution are just as pre-fab—no character development or scenic construction needed.
But Disney knows their audiences, if nothing else, and with the doggie movies it’s all about the dogs doing cute things and wearing cute costumes. And what could possibly be cuter than having dogs plan a quinceañera for downcast Rosa to show her that Papi believes in her and thinks she’s all grown up? Besides, it gives Papi something to do, since his role as “home schooler” has been rendered obsolete by the puppy school and chief dog instructor Oscar (Jake Busey) and an overly perky human doggie day caregiver (Briana Lane). And it gives everyone a third-act party.
There are echoes of the first “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” in that “Uncle” Pedro (Ernie Hudson), who looks to be a good-hearted pit bull but with a menacing smile, finds his love-meter rising when a rich woman (Frances Fisher) brings her fancy show dog to the hotel. And the villainy is pure live-action Disney, with several hotel employees trying to sabotage the Langham and get her and other guests to leave.
But as “elevated” as the writing is this time around (and believe me, I say that comparatively speaking), it’s still formulaic fluff that will appeal mostly to children and dog lovers.
“BHC3” comes to Blu-ray via an AVC/MPEG-4 transfer and is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen. I saw no compression issues, and everything is sharp and clear and bright and visually peppy—just what the veterinarian ordered.
The audio is an English DTS-HD MA 5.1, with additional options in French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 and subtitles in English SDH, French and Spanish. There’s not as much rear-action ambient sound as I would have expected in the quiet scenes—only in the more raucous ones. Other than that, the dialogue and music and effects are nicely mixed.
There’s not much in the way of extras—just a six-minute “Hangin’ with Papi” in-character on-the-set slash “I love working with him” featurette that’s mildly humorous. Aside from that, there are just two music videos, an English and Spanish version of “Living Your Dreams,” performed by Disney Channel’s Raini Rodriguez (“The Suite Life of Zack & Cody,” “Austin & Ally”).
This combo pack also includes a DVD version of the film and a Digital Copy plus a coupon good for a free plush toy (shipping and handling not included).
If you liked “Beverly Hills Chihuahua,” you’ll like this second sequel more than the first. It felt like the filmmakers just tried harder this time around, and that’s something I appreciate . . . even in furry fluff like this.