Review: The Truth About Cats and Dogs
Blu-ray & DVD: The Truth About Cats and Dogs (1996)
A floppy-haired British love interest? A hilarious case of mistaken Identity? A cast of financially stable idiots making comedically stupid decisions for an hour and a half to one of the most puke-worthy soundtracks you’ll ever hear? This certainly is a 90s romantic comedy.
The Truth About Cats and Dogs is the story of radio pet therapist and anxiety ridden recluse, Abby (Janeane Garofalo). One day she gets a call from British photographer, Brian (Ben Chaplin), who almost instantly becomes entranced by her and asks her on a date. In a panic, Abby gives a false description of herself over the phone, a description of her glamour model next door neighbour, Noelle (Uma Thurman). As chance would have it, Noelle is the “Abby” that Brian originally meets, mistaking the real Abby for her assistant, Donna. What ensues is a rather formulaic, but charming in its own ways, 97 minutes of every 1990s-2000s romantic comedy you’ve ever seen.
After seeing the first 10 minutes of the film or even glancing at the movie poster you can probably guess how most of this film is going to go. It doesn’t do much to separate itself from other romcoms of the time. A typical “will they, won’t they?” narrative answered as simply as “Of course they fucking will” by any intelligent audience member. Usually a film with a plot as tedious as this would be an absolute chore to sit through but I’m surprised to say I actually quite enjoyed this one, despite some glaring, glaring flaws.
I think the main draw of this film was primarily the leading performance of Garofalo. Her performance leaves the character of Abby drenched in this lovable and believable charm that is impossible to not fall in love with. She feels like a real person with relatable anxieties about the world and her situation while being a strong and nuanced character. The supporting two of Thurman and Chaplin are also pretty strong in their performances, Thurman portraying an earnest but ditzy model without crossing into any misogynistic ground. I just wish there were a little more closure to her story or more of an arc to her character.
Here in lies the problem with the supporting cast. They are nothing more than pillars to hold up Abby’s character and their own arcs are left undeveloped and dead in the water. What about the potential in exploring Noelle’s abusive relationship we see a couple of times through the film? What about building Brian’s relationship with his assistant (Jamie Foxx) into more than just the two passing context to each other? I enjoyed what was presented for the most part, sure. But I can’t help thinking in hindsight that this could’ve been a far more interesting film had it not missed so many great opportunities.
The film’s script is a mixed bag in this regard as well. Dialogue is sharp and characters are well realised personality wise. I could just never get behind the constant stupidity of these characters which is sadly the driving force for a lot of this plot. It was the biggest turn off for me to see accessible characters I was enjoying make so many ill-advised decisions in such quick succession. Obviously, there would be no film without error (I studied scriptwriting 101 too, potential angry The Truth About Cats and Dogs fanboys, should you exist), but having intelligent, strong and relatable characters act this idiotic becomes quite frankly tedious and frustrating.
Despite its flaws however, I actually quite enjoyed this film, as frustrating as it may have been at times. Its believable dialogue (despite some very cheesy lines) and well realised lead acted as enough of a reason to stick with the film through all of its cringeworthy stupidity. Not exactly a must watch, but there are definitely worse ways to spend 90 minutes.
Stupid yet surprisingly not entirely mind-numbing, The Truth About Cats and Dogs is a cheesy product of the 90s and a harmless, fun watch.
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Review by Joel from a disc kindly supplied by Fabulous Films.