Feline Fun & Canine Chivalry
"The Truth About Cats & Dogs" is a fun, light-hearted, romantic, comedy which draws on the famous story of Cyrano de Bergerac but adds to it, its own twists. Although this storyline is somewhat predictable, and has been used in many other more commercially successful films such as "Roxanne", "The Truth About Cats & Dogs" still manages to entertain you through it's light hearted nature and it's brilliantly funny performances. What is very surprising about it is that for a romantic, comedy it is not overly sentimental, which I found a pleasant change compared to other rom-coms.
Abby Barnes (Janeane Garofalo - The Cable Guy) is a successful radio broadcaster; her daily show "The Truth About Cats & Dogs" helps hundreds of listeners with their pet problems, from over friendly cat's too depressed goldfish. When professional photographer Brian (Ben Chaplin - Murder by Numbers) phones up with a troublesome dog on roller skates, Abby duly talks him through how to calm the free wheeling dog down and out of gratitude for her good advice; Brian invites her out for drinks. Self-conscious about her appearance and being only just over 5 foot, she agrees to go out but gives Brian the description of her neighbour Noelle (Uma Thurman - Beautiful Girls) a tall, slim model. When Abby explains to Noelle about the deception, she agrees to go along with the plan to help her friend out. Brian has no idea that he is being deceived and after long romantic conversations with the witty Abby on the phone and going out on dates with the beautiful Noelle, he believes he has found the perfect woman. But things start to go wrong when Noelle starts to fall for Brian and the two women start co compete for his attention.
The focus of "The Truth About Cats & Dogs" is Abby Barnes the self-conscious pet expert who believes her looks and lack of height won't appeal to her date. In my opinion, she comes over as a far more attractive person than that of Noelle the model who becomes her face for the dates. A lot of the humour in this film comes from her witty repartee with her unsuspecting date, Brian. On top of this, there are some extremely visually funny scenes, starting off with Brian trying to pacify a Great Dane on roller skates. Plus the hilarious scene where Noelle, pretending to be a pet expert, has to perform a rather strange procedure on a tortoise to get it to pop its head out of its shell.
Remembering that this film is a comedy and so the boundaries of believability are always going to be pushed. The only criticism I can have is how on earth does Brian not realize that the tall, sexy Noelle is in fact not Abby. I know within the film they come up with a lame excuse for the difference in the voices, but surely he would question why the beautiful woman he dates can't string an intellectual conversation together, but can talk quite diligently for ages on the phone. This just pushed the boundaries of believability too far, even for such a good comedy.
The lead role of Abby Barnes, the radio pet specialist, is masterfully played by Janeane Garofalo and a lot of the enjoyment in this film comes from her performance. The numerous witty one-liners that she delivers are excellent, and you can't help but laugh at her dry put downs. As Noelle, the good looking neighbour is Uma Thurman) and although she doesn't have many funny lines, her performance as a model and wannabe news reader is brilliant. Her performance typifies the stereotypical model who is not very clever and doesn't eat anything, as demonstrated in her line:
"I don't eat anything so I can look good on the outside, but on the inside, there's nothing."
As Brian, the man caught unwittingly in the middle of the deception, is Ben Chaplin, who comes over as handsome, tender and charming. Too be honest there isn't much too the character of Brian, except that he is very likeable and a bit shy around women. Undoubtedly Chaplin's best scene is the one where he has a 7 hour conversation with Abby over the phone, which culminates in them having phone sex. Of course the supporting cast all play important roles in keeping the film moving none more than Brian's best friend Ed played by Jamie Foxx who advises him on his relationship.
"The Truth About Cats & Dogs" is directed by Michael Lehmann who has also directed "Hudson Hawk", "Heathers" and "40 Days and 40 Nights". Personally I feel that this is his best directional outing, as he has let the story take centre stage and the performances and comedy just add too it, rather than detract. Although the soundtrack is not overly special, it is full of the easy listening romantic fodder that you would expect from any decent romantic, comedy.
What this all boils down to is that "The Truth About Cats & Dogs" is one of those films, that although is starting to feel dated, still manages to keep you entertained and leaves you with a feel good feeling at the end. A favourite amongst couples on its original cinematic release, I would still say it would appeal to the same demographic now. On that note I would recommend this to anyone who wants a nice film too watch with a loved one, or to anyone who is an old romantic at heart.