Cats & Dogs: Paws Unite (G, 94 minutes)
Just because a film is aimed at kids doesn't mean it should be slapdash or lazy. Disney for years made high quality animated films that appealed to children and adults and some of its live-action fare was also well regarded. In recent decades other studios have cottoned on and also produced high-quality movies ostensibly for kids, but having wider appeal. Sincere or sassy, heartfelt or humorous, you'll be well aware of many and you and/or your kids will have favourites.
Then we have movies like this one. Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite - which apparently went straight to video in the US - is such a generic, unmemorable kiddie flick that I can't even remember if I have seen either or both of its predecessors.
Not that it matters, because an animated prologue provides a recap. The longtime competition between cats and dogs for human affections ended in the Great Truce and now order is kept by an organisation called Furry Animal's Rivalry Termination. Yes, FART - and there are plenty of FART jokes, as well as jokes relating to other bodily functions, because of course kids love that kind of thing. If only they'd been clever jokes.
Roger (voiced by Max Greenfield), a dog, and Gwen (Melissa Rapauch), a cat, live in the same apartment building and work together as FART agents, using a hidden computer system to monitor their area.
One day, trouble comes in the form of a mysterious saboteur who turns off all the high-tech gadgetry and causes cats and dogs to fight again like, well, you know.
Our heroes must venture outside with a small team to work out what's happening and put a stop to it.
This is a CGI/live action hybrid and the talking creatures who sometimes do things animals just can't do still inhabit the uncanny valley.
While the FART (wince) adventures are going on, there are storylines involving the main pets' "humans", two single-parented teenagers with problems. Roger's Max (Callum Seagram Airlie) is pushed by his mother to excel at tennis to such an extent he's not enjoying it any more and Gwen's Zoe (Sarah Giles) and her struggling musician father face eviction. The kids barely know each other but our animal heroes decide they need to become friends and engineer this by stalling the elevator while both are in it.
There's an occasional - very occasional - decent joke or situation, but not enough to redeem the film
The young actors are appealing enough but the material they have is thin. There's some heavyhanded and repetitive moralising here about putting down your mobile phone and interacting with people (and pets). If kids - and adults - have to learn that from a movie like this, it's a matter of grave concern.
There also seems to be a message that there are other choices besides cats and dogs for pets. Fair enough, but critters such as cobras and spiders don't exactly have mass appeal as pets, especially as they are depicted here.
A painfully unfunny running gag tells us that "Fish don't count!" Why not? Apparently they just don't. Take that, ichthyophiles!
Watching Cats & Dogs 3 alone in a Dendy cinema space meant I couldn't tell if kids might enjoy the film more than I did. Not that it matters: this is lazy stuff.
There's an occasional - very occasional - decent joke or situation, but not enough to redeem the film.
Earlier instalments had stars (vocally or in person) like Alec Baldwin and Bette Midler: this time, all we have are a few TV actors and comedian George Lopez (who doesn't seem to have a big following in Australia).
There are better options for kids' holiday amusement. You might, for example, take the film's advice and go to a park (while, of course, observing appropriate social distancing).