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BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Piper Perabo, Jamie Lee Curtis, Nick Zano
Voices:  Drew Barrymore, Andy Garcia, George Lopez, Edward James Olmos, Paul Rodriguez, Cheech Marin, Placido Domingo
Director:  Raja Gosnell
Audio:  PCM 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Stereo
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio:  Walt Disney
Features:  See Review
Length:  91 Minutes
Release Date:  March 3, 2009

“We are tiny…but we are MIGHTY!”

Film ***

“Cuuuute.”  That was my wife’s response to Beverly Hills Chihuahua in a word, and the word was repeated often during our viewing.  She loves the little quivering dogs, as do many.  Me, I’ve never been much for the noisy little ankle biters, but there it is.

With this movie, Disney mined for cuteness, and struck a gusher.  This is a sweet, cuddly family film that I’m guessing just barely missed the G rating for a couple of scarier scenes.  It defies you not to smile, and smile I did…often.  And it even boldly calls itself the greatest Chihuahua movie of all time, though I’m guessing there are few out there who would argue for The 50 Foot Chihuahua From Outer Space.  But we’ll leave that debate for another time.

The story centers around Chloe (Barrymore), a pampered pet owned by the eccentric Aunt Viv (Curtis) in Beverly Hills.  But when Aunt Viv has to take a trip overseas, she leaves her precious pup in the hands of her niece, Rachel (Perabo).  And that poor 90210 reject has no clue or interest in how to take care of a spoiled dog.

Soon, Chloe is dognapped, taken to Mexico, and expected to participate in dogfights.  “I was born to shop, not to fight!” Chloe protests, but she soon makes an enemy and a friend.  The friend, a retired police dog named Delgado (Garcia), helps her to escape.  The enemy, a ruthless Doberman called El Diablo (Olmos), is determined to track them both down.

Meanwhile, Rachel is forced to team up with Aunt Viv’s landscaper Bryan (Zano), who has to guide the clueless Rachel through the circles of Mexican life.  And more importantly, Bryan’s own Chihuahua Papi (Lopez), who has loved Chloe from afar, is determined to find his amore and save her.

We humans have turned the Chihuahua into the purse-riding, pampered lap dog of today, but both Chloe and Delgado have a lesson to learn when they run into Montezuma (voiced wonderfully by Placido Domingo).  There, amongst the Aztec ruins, we find that Chihuahuas were once fierce protectors of their masters, even in battle.  But will the soft and spoiled Chloe find that magic bit of ancestry within herself before it’s too late?

Most of the comedy is the fish-out-of-water type, with Chloe, who wears a diamond collar and booties, having to learn what life is like on the other side of the tracks (and other side of the border, I suppose).  It’s the kind of humor we’ve seen plenty of times, but Disney’s style, bringing it from the mouths of some adorable pooches, is winning. 

They proved with Underdog how possible it is to convince us dogs can actually talk and think, and director Raja Gosnell, who helmed the Scooby Doo movies, knows a thing or two about getting a performance from a pup, real or otherwise.  Plus, you have to appreciate that when Chloe looks for a coyote to get herself back across the border…well, of course, it’s an actual coyote.

So no, it’s not particularly groundbreaking, but it IS effectively winning and charming.  And yes, cute.  So cute it would take a really mean heart not to warm up to this movie at least a little bit. 

Video ****

Ay, Chihuahua!  This is one spectacular looking high definition presentation, with plenty of warm, sunny shots in Beverly Hills and in Mexico to bring the vivid detail and colors to life.  You’ll really appreciate what Blu-ray has to offer when the Chihuahuas of Montezuma sing and dance in amazing numbers.  And Mexico looks especially beautiful, be it plush resort areas or barren desert canyons.  Superb!

Audio ****

Likewise, the uncompressed audio offers a rich, full, and dynamic listening experience that brings the zany antics to life.  There are chase scenes, musical numbers and more that open up the front and rear stages, and these balance nicely against the few quieter, more dialogue driven scenes.  Crossover signals are smoothly done, and spoken words are clean and clear against the beds of music and effects.

Features ****

Disney always makes sure their Blu-ray releases are worth a few extra dollars, and in addition to the superior audio and video quality, this disc offers many more bonus features than the sister DVD release.  All the DVD extras are here, including audio commentary from director Raja Gosnell, deleted scenes with Gosnell’s introductions, a hilarious animated short on the “Legend of the Chihuahua”, and a blooper reel (not quite as good as some; it’s mostly animals not doing what they’re supposed to).

Then, thanks to the storage capacity of Blu-ray, we get even more.  We get a couple of more deleted scenes, and two bonus featurettes.  One looks at the voices of the dogs, and features interviews with Barrymore, Garcia, Rodriguez and Lopez, as well as behind-the-scenes looks at the recording sessions, and the second focuses on the real dogs and how the trainers and actors worked with them to make their performances so good.   And the disc is also equipped with BD LIVE for internet capable players, allowing you access to chats, games and more.

Summary:

Beverly Hills Chihuahua is a fun family film with some dogs that will yip their way right into your heart.  Good voice casting and special effects make it all believable and worth your emotional investment.  And yes, doggone it, those little pooches are cuuuute.  It’s a sugar rush with no horrible crash afterwards…enjoy!

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