Few trailers this summer yanked the chain of moviegoers as much as the Busby Berkeley-ish extravaganza for Beverly Hills Chihuahua
, opening Friday. There was just something about headdress-wearing pups dancing around an Aztec temple.
Not to worry. This is Disney, home of Goofy and Pluto. You could fill a kennel with all its movie-star bowsers through the years. There's even another canine caper, the animated Bolt
, out Nov. 21.
Why so many doggy tales? "Walt Disney was a dog lover, and he was his audience," says Disney expert Leonard Maltin. "He didn't need focus groups. Since he liked dogs, other people must, too."
This new tail-wagger about the pampered pocket-size Chloe (voice of Drew Barrymore), who gets lost on a trip to Mexico, has all four paws planted in Disney tradition. Imagine Lady and the Tramp
meets Homeward Bound
south of the border with pooch-empowering messages.
Director Raja Gosnell is used to people confessing that they enjoyed the film more than they expected. "The trailer did its job, it got them talking," he says. But Gosnell knew his movie, whose dog-talk technology makes the menagerie in Babe
look like mere mumblers, was a different animal. "The script was great. It is respectful to Latin culture. We always had positive reactions at screenings."
Papi, the trailer's main attraction, was originally a much smaller part, says comic George Lopez, who speaks for the working-class Chihuahua. But after he recorded the scene when a desperate Papi is turned down by lady love Chloe even though he tells her he will "lick inside your ears," the filmmakers fell for his romantic come-ons and enlarged his role. "I just called upon all my years of rejection," Lopez says. "I just kept seeing all the girls."
There are a few edgy touches that distinguish this PG outing. For one, Chloe is put into a dogfight. "We tried to be sensitive," Gosnell says. Then there is Sebastian, Chloe's fey pug pal spoken by Michael Urie, who plays the fey Marc on TV's Ugly Betty.
Is he a gay woofer? "He's not gay," the director insists. "He's effete."