Or to destroy mankind, if you're the titular villainess. Kitty Galore (a campy-voiced Midler) is a wrinkly, hairless cat with a harebrained scheme to rule the world by hijacking a satellite and unleashing a high-pitched frequency that will drive dogs mad and make them turn on their owners. To thwart her plans, an uneasy alliance between MEOWS, the feline spy org, and DOG, its canine counterpart, is formed. (If these are real acronyms, I missed 'em.) Catherine (Applegate) is the head cat. Butch (Nolte) and Diggs (Marsden) are the two shepherds - Anatolian and German - assigned to the case. But Diggs has a bad case of low self-esteem. As Cats & Dogs: and so on opens, he's been cut from the San Francisco Police Department for botching a hostage rescue. His human partner, played by Chris O'Donnell (yes, the one-time Robin opposite George Clooney's Batman), reluctantly sends Diggs to the kennel. And so, for Diggs, the movie is about redemption.
What Hollywood sequel isn't?
And then there are Seamus, the yappy pigeon (comedian Katt Williams) and Scrumptious (Elizabeth Daily), a verbose mouse held captive by Galore. In Cats & Dogs: ya-da-ya-da, interspecies interaction is through the roof!
With its giant computer-equipped control centers, motorcycles, secret weapon dog collars, and pet carrier tanks, Cats & Dogs boasts hardware and gadgetry that would serve Agent 007 well - if he was a Jack Russell, and he was doing the slapped-together shtick of a Spy Kids knockoff.
If there are moments that aspire to the smart satire of the Austin Powers franchise, they're fleeting. It's hard to read nuance and irony in the mug of a beagle, or a fluffy white kitty, no matter how hard the trained pets, puppeteers, and CG animators try.
Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/ onmovies/