Cats & Dogs 2 is just about the last new-release movie you’d expect to release in 3D Blu-ray. I mean really, Cats & Dogs 2? A movie that puts fake mouths and voiceover tracks on real-life animals, then makes them “act” out a story about how a Dr. Evil-like feline is plotting to destroy the world while humanity’s last hope is a secret FBI-like society of dogs? It sounds more like a straight-to-video special than a pre-holiday 3D Blu-ray release. But the weird thing is, Cats & Dogs 2 actually works in 3D. And just as surprising, it seldom stumbles into the cheese-fest that it could’ve become. In fact, Cats & Dogs 2 has several laugh-out-loud moments that outshine some of the 3D effects. Granted, that latter part isn’t necessarily what you want to read in a review of its performance as a 3D Blu-ray.
I’ve said before that I’m not opposed to a little “Velveeta” 3D cheese in these earliest 3D Blu-ray Discs since the technology is so new, and the producers of Cats & Dogs 2 share that mindset, at least in the first few minutes. The opening credits are chock full of 3D “gotchas” such as zooming text, bouncing balls and collage-like artwork, and the first time you see a dog you know the rest of the movie will have some great depth when it comes to the animals. Just a few minutes later, when Chris O’Donnell appears for the first time, you’ll swear he was about to crawl out of the TV. The 3D on that first close-up is just that good.
But just as fast as you want to believe this could be the best 3D film around, the camera pans backward. O’Donnell is put in the context of a crowded parking lot, and the dimension is lost. Sadly, that’s how much of the film performs. Although the animals in Cats & Dogs 2 have fantastic depth, as do a few excellent but isolated sequences, most of the scenes feel surprisingly flat. A quick glance at the Sony Bravia 3D TV shows the probable reason why.
Without the glasses on — which is normally a cardinal sin when watching a 3D Blu-ray due to the distortion of the images — most scenes show very little separation. There’s just not that much foreground/background discrepancy. Without that feeling of distance, there’s no possible way to “feel” a 3D effect. Animal and human close-ups allow for depth, and in Cats & Dogs 2 those scenes deliver across the board, but if there’s not a close-up involved, the film just seems flat. Crisp, yes — it’s a 1080p HD presentation, after all — but not deep like you’d expect from a 3D Blu-ray.
For instance, the first time the hairless villain Kitty Galore gives a monologue, the shadows and facial structure present some great dimension, and the depth is accentuated by the character taking up the entire frame without bursting past the edges. However, the rest of the first 20 minutes of the film just looks like a great HD but 2D Blu-ray presentation. The same holds true with all the dogs, as their real-life faces are dimensional and lend themselves to a deep 3D image. Between the natural depth on their faces and the crisp 1080p graphics, the dogs look as realistic as can be expected for something on a TV. And there are lots of close-ups, too, since the filmmakers had to show the CG lips moving to indicate talking. But when the dogs are presented in the context of a larger scene or panorama, the depth just disappears.
Fortunately, the crosstalk in Cats & Dogs 2 3D is kept to a minimum, with only one scene really suffering from it. But, that scene is bad enough to “make up” for the rest of an otherwise solid 3D presentation. At the 35-minute mark, when the secret-agent dogs visit an old woman’s house filled with cats, the crosstalk results in such blurriness that it’s nigh impossible to focus on any individual character or movement. The problem resolves itself after about 40 seconds, but it’s incredibly disorienting to watch it for that long.
As the movie nears its end, one last reminder pops up about the film’s unrealized 3D potential. About 20 minutes before the closing credits roll, the movie goes into high gear with action scenes that include cats, dogs and even a pigeon. The animals all have good depth as individual elements, but the sheer amount of on-screen activity and the speed with which the clips were edited together don’t lend themselves to a very effective 3D presentation. It’s a fitting climax and bookend to the movie, though, because it’s similar to the opening: great character depth, but less-than-great overall scene depth.
In terms of bonus features, there’s a very nice surprise here in the form of a 3D bonus feature called Looney Tunes: Coyote Falls, a remixed version of a classic Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoon. You don’t often see bonus features in 3D, but Warner Bros. nicely included one here. The image of a 3D Wile E. Coyote bungee jumping off a bridge is great, and the slapstick visual effects are perfect for impactful 3D visuals. The ironic downer for the three-minute short, however, is that the action is so fast that it’s often hard to appreciate the 3D effects (similar to Clash of the Titans 3D Blu-ray, which was also ironically released by Warner). In fact, the best 3D effect comes in a first-person perspective at the end of the cartoon that only lasts three or four seconds. Still, it’s really fun to see a Looney Tunes cartoon in 3D and surround sound, but in and of itself this feature won’t be the linchpin of your purchase decision.
Still, while Cats & Dogs 2: The Revenge of Kitty Galore may not be a cinematic masterpiece, it does have some hilarious one-liners and a surprisingly nice surround-sound mix. There are also a TON of old movie references, from James Bond to Silence of the Lambs to Star Wars, each of which is presented in such a way that you’ll have a good belly laugh. The 3D effects are good where the animals are concerned, but it’s a shame that the foreground/background mixes didn’t allow more opportunity for similar scene-wide depth. Still, I went in expecting a less-than-memorable experience, so in that regard, Cats & Dogs 2 is a great success. The fact that it’s got decent 3D effects on the animals is just gravy (train).
Click the following link to get the best price over at Amazon (it’s $13.99 off MSRP as of press time): Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore (Three Disc: Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy).
- It may not have been the most logical choice for a 3D Blu-ray release, but it actually works — for the most part. The image is incredibly crisp, but some of the depth just isn’t there when it comes to non-close-up cinematography.
— Jonas Allen