The Truth About Cats and Dogs
1996, PG-13, 96 min. Directed by Michael Lehmann. Starring Janeane Garofalo, Uma Thurman, Ben Chaplin, Jamie Foxx, James Mccaffrey, Richard Coca, Stanley Desantis.
REVIEWED By Alison Macor, Fri., April 26, 1996
An intriguing title is about the only thing The Truth About Cats and Dogs has going for it. Let's start with some facts. Director Michael Lehmann's first feature was Heathers. But one of his more recent projects was Hudson Hawke. Do I sense a downward trend here? Janeane Garofalo stars as Dr. Abby Barnes, a competent, witty, and warm veterinarian who hosts a call-in radio program called “The Truth About Cats and Dogs.” She's just short of perfect, however, because her life lacks a man. Even her cat is female. The film suggests that Abby lacks a man because Abby lacks the kind of looks that belong to her new friend Noelle (Thurman), a stunning and slightly daffy model who lives in the same apartment building as Abby. When Abby takes a call from photographer Brian (Chaplin, last seen in The Remains of the Day) who is frantic to communicate with Hank, a canine client on roller skates, her disarmingly sensible advice inspires him to visit Abby at the station to say thank-you in person. Enter Cyrano de Bergerac. Self-conscious of her looks, Abby begs Noelle to “be” her, and the rest, as they say, is historically predictable. Executive producer and screenwriter Audrey Wells' script portrays most of the men as repulsively one-dimensional; the women fare only slightly better as two-dimensional beings: smart and plain, or dumb and drop-dead gorgeous. With Noelle, Thurman demystifies her acting persona and plays screwball comedy with a little too much screwball. Garofalo does her best with her character, but she is funnier than this movie, the script for which would benefit from her own dry wit. Chaplin could give Hugh Grant a run for his money, what with his tousled charm and basset-hound brown eyes. As an added bonus, he doesn't stammer as much as Grant. Chaplin makes Brian seem the only desirable man in the film, particularly in a scene that just may become the Nineties equivalent of the deli scene in When Harry Met Sally… as Brian and Abby explore one another's personalities in a marathon phone conversation that ends in phone sex. Often a sucker for romantic comedies -- particularly in the springtime -- I laughed at very little in the film. Normally not a pet person, I found even Brian's dog Hank more engaging than many of the characters. Unfortunately, The Truth About Cats and Dogs is that the film is insulting to all species.