Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3: Viva La Fiesta

What Did I Know Going In

  • It's about talking dogs.
  • There might be some racism.
  • Kids go apeshit for it.

Initial Impressions

  • Looks cheap as hell, but that's never stopped Disney before.
  • The animation on the dogs' mouths is borderline creepy.

The Plot, As Far As I Can Tell

Papi and Chloe are a monogamously-committed chihuahua couple that struggle with anti-dog marriage laws have minor disagreements on how to raise their litter of chihuahua puppies. Their owners are middle class(?) folks with blah jobs who hear about an opportunity to work at a posh hotel where they would also live full-time.  While the owners decide to apply for what are apparently their dream positions - sous chef for the lady, and, in a shockingly progressive turn of events, landscaping for her Latino husband - Papi and Chloe make a lot of embarrassing dog puns and talk about peanut butter.

After more than enough of that, we get to the hotel, which is not just a posh hotel for humans, but also a posh hotel for dogs.  The owner, played by a tired Cedric Yarbrough, falls gah-gah for Chloe and immediately hires the humans so he can make Chloe the centerpiece of his new marketing campaign.  Everything suddenly looks like it's turning up roses for dogs and humans alike.

Unfortunately, there's a downside to their new dream life.  For one, Papi's youngest daughter (or should I say DOG-ter HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA), Rosa, is a runt and feels insecure about her size.  For another, the puppies are all going to a new puppy school, and Papi feels dissatisfied with their puppy curriculum. (He's been home schooling his children, you see, which is a weird thing for a dog to do, and he feels threatened by the prospect of his dogs being educated by somebody with credentials, which is a weird thing for dogs to have.)

On top of that, the humans are finding that their dream jobs require - gasp - hard work, and that's kind of a bummer.

Papi decides he can at least do something to cheer up his little Rosa, so he starts planning her Quinceanera.  This involves a couple of montages, not the least of which involves an insufferable sequence in which Papi screens multiple dog bands with really obnoxious pun names like "Houndgarden" and "Black-Eyed Fleas" before finally settling on (naturally) a mariachi band of chihuahuas.

Side note: I'm not exactly sure how this works.  Where is Papi getting the money for the bands he's hiring?  For that matter, does the band even work for money?  How exactly does the Dog economy work, and in what way does it affect the Human economy?  It's not like the dog bands are imaginary.  They're wearing actual clothes and playing actual instruments - there's even a scene where Chloe plays Moonlight Sonata for a bunch of snooty rich humans, and they all hear it and applaud, so musically-inclined canines are an accepted part of this universe.  Who's making their little tiny dog-sized instruments?

Anyway, things get more and more tense between Papi and everybody else, whom Papi suspects of all kinds of wrong-doings.  Eventually it turns out he's right to be suspect, as there's some nebulous evil scheme going on between some of the staff members of the hotel who are redirecting high profile clients to another posh dog hotel across the street... but let's be honest.  If you're watching this movie, you're either a kid who doesn't give a crap about that, or you're the parent of the kids and you especially don't give a crap about that.  You're mainly in it for the talking dogs, right?

Good news!  There are, in fact, talking dogs.  And last time we left them, Papi was planning a quinceanera.  He enlists the help of a flamboyantly gay pug and, in the process of organizing, tears apart all the hotel scenery.  This ends up getting the owners fired, but in the very next scene, Papi leads his fellow dogs in a rebuilding montage to set things right.  He also traps the scheming hotel staff and brings their crimes to light, which prompts Cedric Yarbrough to shake his little dog paw and give him a tiny fist-bump while pretending not to cringe the whole time.

With everything set straight, the owners are re-hired and everybody lives happily and crappily-animated ever after.

The Things I Liked

I probably wouldn't have said this if I didn't watch Alpha and Omega 3 before this one, but I'm impressed the movie actually made an attempt at interpersonal (intercaninal?) conflicts.  They could easily have just had the dogs fart around - literally - and kiddies would've lapped it up.

That's not to say that the plot or conflicts are particularly interesting or innovative.  Just that they exist.  It's more than I expected.

I also have to say, I'm impressed at how well-filmed the movie is.  I feel like this is a generic compliment I give to a lot of movies, but I sincerely mean it.  The cinematography is really fluid and wonderful, with some truly beautifully framed shots.  Who'd have expected so much out of a low-budget turd?  I guess Disney knows what they're doing.

The Things I Didn't Like

This is kind of a weird movie, guys.  I'll forgive the shitty jokes and uninteresting story since it's a movie for kids who just want to see talking dogs, so... you know, whatever.  There's only so much quality you can expect.  But a lot of it is just really creepy and uncomfortable.

For example, look at the animation.  The dogs' heads sometimes have a weird bobble effect when they're standing up, like they've been superimposed on dwarf actors who were dressed in dog suits.  (And if that's how the special effects were actually done, who should feel more embarrassed - the little person actors or the special effects artists?)

The worst animation, though, is when the dogs smile.  I think it's because dogs do not actually smile in real life, so seeing them curl up their lips is a just plain wretched effect.  The worst part of this is at the very end when the three mariachi chihuahuas look at the camera with dead eyes and all three smile in unison as if they're pretending they're not going to eat your soul.  It's so... unnerving.

Ironically, one of the moments of animation that isn't creepy is when one of the dogs (a non-chihuahua) keeps smiling, and it's supposed to look weird.  It's a recurring joke that the movie finds hilarious and won't let you forget, so they do it maybe six or seven times.  By the third time around, it's no longer hideous... it's just annoying.

There's also this weird conservative undercurrent that I don't really appreciate.  Papi's whole thing is that he's cranky about his kids being educated by other people and he doesn't like their values.  He also has an immediate distrust of change and other people's opinions.  In the end, all of his gut feelings are affirmed, so... what?  We should resist diversity and improvement?  Way to screw up kids, Disney.

But overall, I think the thing I dislike the most is just the overall dogness.  That's absurd, I know, but it gets under your skin after awhile.  There's a bunch of stupid dogs walking around and acting like they have problems, and I just can't stand it.  If they were little kids, there could at least be a little bit of precociousness that might win you over, but they're just dogs.  Seeing them get pampered and treated like human beings just started to piss me off by minute twenty or so.

Lousy mutts.

Here Are Some of My Notes While Watching

  • The dogs have a guard dog?
  • Are there humans?
  • All I can think when they say they "don't like to lick cats" is that they don't eat pussy.  I'm foul.
  • Okay, there are humans.  They must be abominations.
  • It's one of those "humans don't understand dogs because they're ethically inferior even though dogs literally eat piles of shit" movies.
  • Cedric Yarbrough?  Oh, no, what are you doing here?  Please tell me they paid you well.
  • Why does Papi keep talking as if he's a working class dude with the weight of the world on his shoulder?  He doesn't pay any bills.  Man, this talking dog movie is bullshit.
  • Dog in scuba gear - how?  He did it himself?!
  • Is that Kyle Gass?
  • "One of dad's weird Mexican holidays."  Jesus Christ, white people-dogs....
  • There's a gay pug.  Hi-larious.
  • There's a snooty rich lady that's presented as being superficial, vain, and lamentable.  But isn't she basically just being every bit as snotty and stupid as the two working class dog owners who keep wasting their money on their dogs?
  • Chloe actually plays the piano?
  • Dog reggae.
  • I'm so tired.

Would I Recommend It

Nah, not really.  I know, I know, kids' movies get a free pass... but this is pretty frustrating.

What Do I Think the Prequels Were About

Confession time: I'm somewhat familiar with the plot of the first one, which I absorbed through a combination of cultural osmosis and podcasts about bad movies.  So I know it has to do with Chloe getting lost away from home and falling in love with Papi.

Which means Part 2 must have been about the stupid puppies.  I'm going to guess it opened up with Chloe having all her pups and then there was some kind of forced tension about whether or not Papi and Chloe would be able to take care of all of them.  Maybe it was like a Homeward Bound type situation where the owners had to move and the pups got separated, and they went on some adventure to get back home while Papi and Chloe made friends with the weird bulldog that follows them around.

The thing that's really weird is that the owners seem like they're in dire straits - or at least "not amazing" straits - when the movie starts, and I was under the impression that Part 1 was all about Chloe's owner being a socialite.  So I guess Part 2 is also about how she lost all her money?  And maybe that's what makes them have to move because they can't afford their house any more?

What Should the Next One Be About

I'm guessing the series doesn't have any human babies in yet, does it?  So that seems to be the natural next step.

Part 4 would be about the owners having a little baby, and it grows up surrounded by chihuahuas.  And at first they're all jealous of it because now the humans realize that spending so much time and affection on dogs is kind of stupid when there are actual human lives that might depend on them, so there's a lot of tension.  Especially from Rosa, since she's such a special little runt.

But then the baby gets kidnapped during a terrible scheme gone wrong.  See, there's a high profile CEO coming to the hotel (I'm assuming the owners don't leave their current jobs) with a baby of the same age, and a couple of bumbling goons are working with a shady associate of the CEO who wants to oust him from power.  The shady guy formulates a terrible scheme to have the CEO's baby held for ransom, which in some way parlays to him using company money to pay, which means the shady guy can get the board of directors to have him fired and then he'll take over.

Except he's an idiot and hired bumbling goons, so they kidnap the wrong baby.  And while the goons try to figure out how to put back the chihuahua-family baby and steal the rich baby instead, the chihuahuas have to figure out how to rescue their baby (because they see how sad the owners are).  Eventually Papi saves the day, the crooks are caught, and the CEO decides to give the owners a huge reward of some sort.

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