Kids’ movies are like children’s literature — so deceptively simple anybody thinks he or she can manage one, but devilishly hard to pull off.
“Rescue Dogs” is a “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” knockoff — animals talking in voice-overs that their humans cannot hear. It’s about a rescue mutt who tries to find his owner a mate and save his owner’s business from a rapacious developer.
And while kudos are due for anybody who depends on trained animals to make their movie work, it’s tepid entertainment, even by the supposedly lower standards of kids’ films. You’ll see the worst fake beard since “Gettysburg” on one of the supporting cast members.
Paul Haapaniemi is Tracy, owner of a beachside breakfast burrito joint that his faithful companion Charger helps him run. Charger’s barks help the dog “plan” the menu (in the dog’s eyes), and the food is fab.
But the unseen Mr. Evil of E Vaul Corp. (Get it?), glimpsed in shadows stroking his disapproving hairless cat (Nightmare), wants the burrito shack property so he can build a golf course. His banker-minion (Andrew Ryan Harvey) is on the case, making offers, siccing the health inspector and a restaurant critic on Tracy.
Can this restaurant be saved? Will Tracy’s flaky “treasure hunter” brother (screenwriter Jordan Rawlins) be of any help?
Meanwhile, Charger has gotten Tracy confused for a dance teacher (a gag borrowed from “Friends”) just so he can meet a cute redhead (Courtney Daniels).
Everything from seals to sandpipers pipes up in the story. Dogs have British or Jamaican accents. The cat, of course, is evil.
“All cats aren’t evil. That’s just a stereotype.”
Only the redhead’s hamster, Hambone, a real gym rat, is funny. Hamsters in hamsterballs imitating Mr. T are a guaranteed laugh.
The acting is Disney Channel broad, the writing is about six drafts shy of having enough laughs. And any message about “who rescued who,” the rescued pet owners’ creed, is lost.
At least they follow the cardinal rule of kids’ entertainment — Do no harm. “Rescue Dogs” is as harmless as it is charmless.
MPAA Rating:PG for some rude humor
Cast: Paul Haapaniemi, Jordan Rawlins, Courtney Daniels
Running time: 1:23