DVD Release Date:  March 3, 2009
Theatrical Release Date:  October 3, 2008
Rating:  PG (for some mild thematic elements)
Genre:  Comedy
Run Time:  91 min.
Director:  Raja Gosnell
Actors:  Piper Perabo, Jamie Lee Curtis, Manolo Cardona and the voices of Drew Barrymore, Andy Garcia, Paul Rodriguez, George Lopez, Cheech Marin, Edward James Olmos, Luis Guzman

If you haven’t already seen the commercials for Beverly Hills Chihuahua, here’s the one thing you need to know about the film:  It takes the premise of the Look Who’s Talking movies, in which the thoughts of cute babies were given voice by well-known actors, and shifts it from infants to animals.

In this case, the dogs talk to each other, and instead of the voice of Bruce Willis, we get the voice of Drew Barrymore and several Hispanic comedians. The film is largely inoffensive in terms of its humor—unless you’re offended by jokes that don’t make you laugh, of which there are plenty in Beverly Hills Chihuahua.

The title character, Chloe (voiced by Drew Barrymore), is a pampered pet whose owner, Aunt Viv (Jamie Lee Curtis), outfits her with booties and jewels. When Viv is called out of town, she entrusts her niece, Rachel (Piper Perabo), with care of Chloe—her “greatest treasure,” she says—who’s more interested in sunbathing and in trying to communicate with Viv’s landscaper, Sam (Manolo Cardona).

The film isn’t interested in human romance or human characters nearly so much as it is in the dynamic between its canine stars. So the movie dispatches with Rachel and Viv as soon as it can, setting in motion a doggie-in-peril story when Chloe gets dog-napped and thrust into the world of dog fights in Mexico. There she befriends other caged canines, who reassure Chloe that, because her owner is rich, she’ll be spared the fighting and will be held for ransom. Instead, she’s thrown into a fight with a much larger opponent, but is rescued by Delgado (voice of Andy Garcia), who orchestrates a jailbreak for several of the dogs.

On the run from the leader of the dog-fighting ring, the dogs team up with other canines to help Chloe find her way back to her panicked owner. Rachel is searching desperately for Chloe, enlisting the help of the police in her search. At the station, she discovers that Sam has already contacted the law. He has a heart for lost animals, including the dog he once rescued from the pound. “He inspires me every day. What inspires you?” he asks of the self-centered Rachel.

That moment, and a later scene in which Chloe realizes she doesn’t need to wear booties in a place as clean as Beverly Hills, are as close as the movie gets to any kind of social message—although it has a few other lessons up its sleeve. In helping Chloe, Delgado will have to face some of his past insecurities and learn to overcome obstacles that have held him back. Rachel will slowly show some personal transformation by learning to focus on others, pairing the adults she meets with dogs who need a permanent home. The film also somewhat awkwardly inserts a subplot about Chloe learning of her heritage and discovering her true “bark.”

Otherwise, it’s a running series of one-liners from the dogs. “Talk to the paw” (dismissive). “We’re Mexi-can, not Mexi-can’t” (trying to rise to a challenge). “I’m gonna go all Mexican on him!” (another racial comment played for entertainment). “I’d be happy with one that’s not fixed” (speculation about a potential mate).

The lessons of the film are simple, and may be palatable to younger viewers who haven’t seen other films with the theme of “finding yourself.” Those who are looking for mainly inoffensive entertainment, and who don’t mind the weak attempts at humor, may enjoy Beverly Hills Chihuahua. But those looking for something better than a retread of themes from numerous better films are advised to stay away from this one. It’s not worth the price of a ticket, or even a rental. Wait for it to air on broadcast TV, and even then, watch snippets of it only during the commercial breaks of your favorite shows.