Cats & Dogs (PG)<br></br>Dr Dolittle 2 (PG)<br></br>Rush Hour 2 (12)<br></br>Gohatto (15)

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The Independent Culture

Who says that cinema can't be educational? It wasn't until I saw Cats & Dogs (PG) that I appreciated how foolish it would be to ask a dog to defuse a bomb. Dogs are colour blind, so if you tell one to cut the red wire, you're barking up the wrong tree. Cats & Dogs misses none of the comic possibilities that the subject of canine/ feline combat might offer. The idea is that the eponymous animals are far more technologically advanced than we are – they just don't want us to know it. Like the heroes of Toy Story, they play dumb when a human's in the room, but when our backs are turned, cats are plotting to take over the world, while dogs are striving to protect their two-legged friends. And now, the pooches are about to get the upper paw, because Jeff Goldblum is refining a serum that will cure all dog allergies. A squad of ninja kitties is parachuted in to stop him, and it's down to the family puppy to save the day.

This anarchic adventure is brought to life by a combination of puppets, computer animation and trained animals that leaves last week's Dr Dolittle 2 (PG) in the litter tray. It's realistic enough to give the slapstick violence an extra dimension: for once, when a dog runs smack into a screen door or a cat is catapulted through a kitchen window, the creature in question doesn't look like a cheap cuddly toy. But there's enough anthropomorphism to ensure that each mutt and moggy is an expressive individual. Stealing the show is the cats' leader, a megalomaniac Persian who just happens to resemble Blofeld's pampered pet. He's like Austin Powers' Dr Evil, except furrier and funnier.

The few humans who turn up in the film are comprehensively upstaged. Goldblum may have his name above the credits, but his jittery scientist act is getting tiresome, and the saccharine moralising about how fathers should spend more time with their sons is as welcome as it would be in a Tom and Jerry cartoon. For the most part, though, Cats & Dogs is – like the comparable Spy Kids – fast, frenetic fun. Why is it that spoof blockbusters aimed at children are so much more inventive and exciting than the straight-faced fare that's supposed to thrill adults, too? Put Cats & Dogs up against Tomb Raider or Pearl Harbor and eight out of 10 viewers will prefer the film with whiskers.

Rush Hour 2 (12) is a buddy-buddy cop movie with enough stunts and punch-ups to go down well with a bucket of popcorn on a Saturday night. It's much like the first Rush Hour, for that matter, except that it features Zhang Ziyi, the young heroine of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Speaking of which, the distributors of Gohatto (15) must be hoping they've got another Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon on their hands. Directed by Nagisa Oshima (Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence), Gohatto ("Taboo") depicts the dying days of a 19th-century samurai barracks. Sadly, while Ang Lee's film had people skipping over rooftops, Oshima's is plodding and earthbound in every sense.

n.barber@independent.co.uk

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