Despite the most promisingly awful trailer in, perhaps, history, Walt Disney Pictures' Beverly Hills Chihuahua is most certainly not an all-singing all-dancing musical revue full of hideous CGI dogs. Instead, it's a crypto-racist do-over of The Incredible Journey. Full of hideous CGI dogs.

I do not hesitate to admit that, at the age of 26, I am somewhat too much of a grown-up to fit the film's target audience, and that my opinion is therefore of only marginal utility. If I complain about the film's significant problems of representation (both economic and racial), its fetid visual effects, its monumentally tired plot arc, I'm quite aware that I'm missing the point, so to speak, which is that the film is meant to delight children who will only notice the talking dogs. I might also suggest that the world would be a lot healthier overall if the creators of children's entertainment didn't hold their audience in such contempt, and actually put some effort into making kids' movies and TV shows that were actually smart. The Wizard of Oz and Disney's own Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Pinocchio, just to grab a handful of titles, are actively good movies, tremendously pleasing examples of the best of the studio system in the waning days of the pre-war Golden Age. Something terrible has happened in the last seven decades, and I don't know what it is. But I digress.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua certainly tells no lies in its title: the first ten minutes or so introduces us to the titular Chloe (voiced by Drew Barrymore), the precious, pampered object of all the worldly affections of Vivian (Jamie Lee Curtis, breaking a four-year retirement on account of what I must assume are incriminating photos of her vestigial penis, although even that wouldn't justify it in my mind), a jet-setting fashion maven. Chloe is treated to all the luxuries that a fantastically wealthy single woman without children or apparent friends could possibly give to an eight-pound dog, from seaweed wraps to imported clothes, and she basks in the glory of being the favorite of the doggy upper-crust.

But since 90 minutes of watching a dog wearing enough diamonds to feed a working class family for six months would be even more outrageously pornographic than ten minutes already are (and the film's remarkably unfortunate timing, opening in These Troubled Times pushes the "buy lots of costly gewgaws for your dog!" theme from harmlessly weird and quirky to goddamned insane), Chloe must be separate from her wealth and comfort, and made to learn important lessons about what really matters in life, and this is where Viv's niece Rachel comes in (played by Piper Perabo, who unlike Curtis, really doesn't deserve any better than this). On the second day of dogsitting, Rachel brings Chloe for a boozy trip to Tijuana; offended by the ratty hotel, the dog slips out and gets herself utterly lost on a trip that will take her from one end of Mexico to the other, evading a vicious dogfight operator (José María Yazpik) and his evil Doberman, El Diablo (voiced by Edward James Olmos), with the help of noble ex-police German shepherd Delgado (Andy Garcia), meeting such colorful characters along the way as stray dog Chucho (Luis Guzmán), the thieving rat Manuel (Cheech Marin) and his iguana sidekick Chico (Paul Rodriguez). Ultimately, Chloe's journey takes her to the state of Chihuahua itself, where in an Aztec ruin she meets the mighty army of her people and is taught the true meaning of Chihuahuahood from their charismatic leader, Monte (voiced by Plácido "yes, that Plácido Domingo" Domingo). At the same time, Rachel, the charismatic landscaper Sebastian (Michael Urie), and his Chihuahua Papi (George Lopez) are hunting throughout Mexico to find Chloe before Vivian returns from Italy.

You look at a cast like that, and if you're anything at all like me, your first thought is, "my God, this is just a Who's Who of self-loathing Latino actors whose stock in trade is perpetuating stereotypes of Hispanics as lazy, greedy, gluttonous, or ignorant. Also, for some reason, a Spaniard who is the world's most famous tenor." And while not all of the actors are equally guilty of a career-long adventure in anti-Latino caricature (Olmos, especially, must have lost a bet or something), the film as a whole is a pretty dire affair. Considering that the ultimate message seems to be one of tolerance for those who aren't lily white and obscenely rich, the film positively wallows in racist frames for most of its running time.

But I'm not qualified to go on about such things, being lily white myself (though not, alas, obscenely or even tastefully rich), and my only duty as I see it is to comment on Beverly Hills Chihuahua's failings as a film. Directed by Raja Gosnell, a top-class producer of generic family-friendly pablum (and veteran of The Onion's essential 2007 list, "10 Directors You Didn't Know You Hated"), the film is at least swift, but it lacks something in the way of charm or fun. Remember watching Babe for the first time, and how the weirdness of watching farm animals talk via imperfect special effects faded away as you got swept up in the story? That doesn't happen in Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Ten minutes from the end, I still felt how I did ten minutes from the beginning, that those floppy little CGI mouths with those horrible little CGI teeth were nothing but an effect. Largely, I think this is because there's no particular story to get swept up in; it is tremendously episodic in the worst way possible. And besides this, it's tremendously routine, in a way that an adventure film about talking Chihuahuas should not be. Other than the delightfully absurd notion of a Chihuahua reconquista, there's just nothing imaginative about the movie in the way of the best children's movies. Chihuahua gets lost. Chihuahua is rescued. That's the sum total of this miserably crippled bit of moviemaking. As crappy as those live-action Disney pictures from the '60s and '70s could so often be, I'm actually rather ashamed of myself for comparing this slog to something as relatively fleet and magical as The Incredible Journey.