Trailers for movies aimed at children rarely prompt the kind of stir created by the one for Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Unveiled in front of Prince Caspian, it promised a tacky explosion of anthropomorphized dogs rapping their way through a blinged-out L.A. when not exploring the cultural links of Chihuahuas to Aztec culture. It looked, in short, like a stomachache covered in tinsel. Still, films this unpromising send out vibes on a frequency that only bad movie lovers can hear. Unfortunately for masochists, they can probably skip this one. It's not good, but it's not the Gone With The Wind of terrible talking animal movies promised by the trailer's dire 90 seconds. (That title, by the way, still belongs to 1995's Gordy.)
Drew Barrymore provides the voice of Chloe, the pampered lapdog of fashion icon Jamie Lee Curtis. Left in the not-so-competent hands of Curtis' niece (star-of-tomorrow-circa-2000 Piper Perabo), Chloe finds herself lost in Mexico and kidnapped, in a possible nod to Amores Perros, by evil dogfighters. But before she can become a pint-sized bloodstain on the floor of a fighting pit (it is a kids' movie, after all), she escapes with the help of a German shepherd named Delgado (voiced by Andy Garcia), a former police dog with a dark secret. (Okay, it's not that dark: He can't smell.) While Perabo, Curtis' landscaper Michael Urie, and Urie's Chloe-smitten Chihuahua Papi (George Lopez) search for the lost pooch, Chloe and Delgado wander Mexico. There they find a rat-and-iguana con-animal team and a pack of Chihuahuas living in an Aztec ruin and adhering to the Chihuahua Pride teachings of a patriarch named Montezuma (voiced by Plácido Domingo, seriously).
This is not a movie for anyone who's aged past the "Oh! Cute!" phase of moviegoing. It's paced for little minds with short attention spans who aren't disturbed by live-action animals with not-so-convincing CGI mouths that let them talk to one another. (A side thought-exercise: If you were an animal who could understand what humans were saying but could not communicate your needs to them, wouldn't you quickly become tormented or depressed? Maybe that's Garfield's problem.) Anyone else should stay away. But for kids who like dogs and grown-ups who don't mind a movie filled with pro-adopt-a-shelter-dog messages, it could theoretically be worse.