Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite (2020)
Directed by: Sean McNamara | 84 minutes | animation, action | Actors: Callum Seagram Airlie, Sarah Giles, Lauren K. Robek, John Murphy | Original voice cast: Melissa Rauch, Max Greenfield, George Lopez, Garry Chalk, Paul Dobson, Michael Daingerfield, Pauline Newstone, Sunni Westbrook
‘Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite’ is, you guessed it, the third film in the ‘Cats & Dogs’ franchise, in which (secretly talking) cats and dogs compete for the number one spot in people’s lives. Where in the first film the cats were the absolute bad guys, the makers already met cat lovers a little more in part 2, by also writing sympathetic cat roles. In part 3 – set ten years after the events of ‘Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore’, cats and dogs have long realized that it’s better to work together. They founded the Furry Animals Rivalry Termination (if you read the acronym, you get the level of humor), a secret organization that watches over the peace between the pets.
Unlike the two previous films, humans play a bigger role in the story. ‘Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite’ is incidentally also about the owners of the two important animals. Max is a teenager who has a big shot at the State Championship Tennis. He lives with his demanding and ambitious mother (the type who takes over from the coach on the sidelines) and his dog Roger (named after Roger Federer) in the same apartment complex as Zoe. Zoe lives with her father, who had a big hit years ago but now struggles to make ends meet. Zoe has a cat, Gwen (after Gwen Stefani), who, along with Roger, is a secret agent for FART, something the people in the story don’t know about, of course.
The story only gets off to a good start when FART’s headquarters is hacked. The goal of the hacker is that cats and dogs will once again become enemies of each other. At first, suspicion turns to Kitty Galore and Mr. Tinkles (the Hannibal Lecter cat from part 2), but soon the motives turn out to be wrong. It’s up to Gwen and Roger to find out who the culprit is and then prevent this megalomaniac plan. Meanwhile, Max and Zoe also get to know each other better and notice that it’s better to banish loneliness and boredom by interacting with others than hiding behind their cell phones.
Were there big names to be seen and heard in the first two ‘Cats & Dogs’ films (part 1 featured Jeff Goldblum, Elizabeth Perkins and the voices of Tobey Maguire, Alec Baldwin and Susan Sarandon; part 2 featured Nick Nolte, James Marsden, Roger Moore and Bette Midler along), in part 3 the makers pull from another barrel, with the best known names Melissa Rauch (“The Big Bang Theory”) and Max Greenfield (“New Girl”). Still, even the best voice cast could not have saved this film. The story is so bland and the jokes are of such a dubious level that even the well-meant message (put your cell phone aside for once) doesn’t get through. And that while it is quite pushed down your throat. If you love talking animals in movies, even the Disney-Buddies movies are a better alternative than this wasted.