"These are the days of miracle and wonder" sang Paul Simon on the opening track of his 1986 album Graceland, and though he was talking about heart transplants and guerrilla warfare in Africa, his sentiment is truer today than ever before: we truly do live in an age of wonders. For who among us had not long since given up hope that 2001's animal spy movie Cats & Dogs would ever get the sequel it so richly deserved? And yet here, a long and wicked nine years later, a day that not even the most optimistic person would have expected to live to see has arrived, and as a people we can breathe a sigh of relief that the impossible come true! a word unhoped-for has been spoken! the greyness of our lives is filled with the love of a just and generous higher power, who listens to all our unspoken prayers, and grants them with a quiet smile - yes, Virginia, there is a Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore.

I cannot imagine that even a decade could be enough to dull the memories of the first film's clever re-imagining of the ages-old battle for dominance between dogs and housecats: what if they were are all members of warring international espionage organisations? What, indeed, and this sequel, from its title down, raises the bar: what if they were all spies who specifically and consistently parodied James Bond films from the 1960s? (And the Roger Moore films, because he is in this one. He plays a cat named Tab Lazenby. I'll give you a second to really think hard about that character name, because it's even stupider than you thought at first). It should, I presume, be obvious that the felicity of this idea should well trump the minor consideration that the film's target audience - really, the only audience that can be reliably assumed to be attracted to the fairly grotesque CGI representations of talking dogs and cats we see on display here - is going to largely be much too young to have any first-hand experience with the James Bond tropes being satirised (it trumps as well the seemingly objective truth that the children of an age to see this sequel probably weren't born, or were at any rate pre-verbal, when Cats & Dogs premiered). Wit requires no justification. Why, that kind of impoverished thinking could set you on the path towards wondering why, since there was no character named "Kitty Galore" in the first movie, does it make a damn drop of sense to inflate the importance of revenge (against whom?) in the movie's subtitle. Were you to think such a feeble, arid thought (and I accuse none of my beloved readers of that), you would be focusing on the logic trees at the expense of a great comic forest, in which the writers (Ron J. Friedman & Steve Bencich, whose collaborations include not one but two Disney features, if you needed any proof of their family movie bona fides) are so eager to let us in on their joke, that they make a point of telling us straight up that there's a character in the movie called Kitty Galore, which is a Bond joke. Because in one of the Bond movies, there's a character named Pussy Galore. "Pussy" is a synonym for "kitty", you see. Also for "vagina", which is not a germane usage in this context.

So the film begins with a little opening sequence in which we learn that Kitty Galore (voiced by Better Midler) is stealing electronics from remarkably over-the-top German caricatures, and then there follows a cover of Pink's "Get the Party Started", covered by none other than Ms James Bond Theme Singer herself, Shirley Bassey.* And from there we're off to the races: Kitty has a master plan to use a high-pitched whistle launched via satellite to drive all the dogs in the world insane (that cats have a broader range of hearing than dogs is left unmentioned, though it is clear to anyone that cares to think of such matters that Kitty simply plans to put an anti-insanity whistle in, at an even higher pitch than the dogs can hear), and it will take the dog world's finest agent, Butch (Nick Nolte) and his new partner, a cocksure San Francisco police dog named Diggs (James Marsden) to stop her, with a little help from a cat agent named Catherine (Christina Applegate) - DO YOU GET IT CAT AND CATHERINE START THE SAME WAY - and a stereotypical African-American pigeon named Seamus (Katt Williams). Also, there is a scene in which they all visit Mr. Tinkles (Sean Hayes), the villain from the first Cats & Dogs, which serves no real narrative purpose other than to draw a throughline between the two movies - for the abandonment of the rich and inviting Cats & Dogs mythology is clearly not viable, else we who have been waiting for nine years might have gone away angry - and to permit several Silence of the Lambs jokes, which do not appear to have any remotely sane reason for existing in this film at all, except that the filmmakers are not going to be bound by our rules or expectations; subversion and the unexpected are the very hallmarks of this film, this Revenge of Kitty Galore.

Subversion as well, in the visuals: not for director Brad Peyton any of this high-class CGI that so many lesser filmmakers might have settled for. He insists on displaying the artificiality of the images, so that we might better be aware of the fantasy world he has created (both the indulgence of the fantasy and a lacerating self-critique! what more can one long-dormant franchise offer); and too, he insists on using 3-D in the most over-stated, ugly way possible, finding nothing more spectacular to do than repeatedly fling characters straight at the camera in obnoxious slapstick jokes. If there's a more pointed criticism of the modern Hollywood obsession with gimcrackery and technological masturbation than C&D:TROKG's indulgence in the basest, most groveling use of the new technologies, I haven't seen it.

How forward-thinking of Warner Bros. to green-light this film, of uncertain brand recognition and no apparent creative insight, knowing that it would be such a service to us all: we who have religiously attended midnight screenings and know all the lines from the first film have a new world to explore, children will be exposed to dead-eyed action sequences and idiotic jokes (the better to prepare them for adulthood, where all joy and invention are dead and gone), adults will be too persistently roused by the constant noise to enjoy a nap in the theater, which in turn will make them more aware of their children's presence & thus better parents. Such a noble film! such a vital film! o film of glory, that ye take me back to the untroubled times of a younger day, that hallowed 2001 when we danced in the fields and sang of pleasant nothings, the sun setting the new wheat to golden flame, and at night as the firefly stars winked on one by one, you laid in my arms ans we imagined the future. Halcyon days; - a moment of the Divine on mortal ground! And to think that at last, there have another Cats & Dogs to show to all our children's childrens' children!

Christ, what a piece of fucking shit.

3/10