The Truth About Cats and Dogs

Synopsis: Charming and bittersweet, this modern-day romantic comedy starring Uma Thurman, Janeane Garofalo and Ben Chaplin explores the beguiling perils of mistaken identity.

Abby (Garofalo), a savvy, witty veterinarian who hosts her own radio talk show, is anything but confident when it comes to love. A petite brunette, she describes herself as tall and blonde when Brian (Chaplin), a caller who is smitten with her radio persona, asks her on a date. She then talks her tall, blonde neighbor Noelle (Thurman) into assuming her identity, setting off an escalating series of hilarious and romantic crises.
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The Truth About Cats and Dogs 6.5-7.0

It happens from time to time that I want to watch romantic comedies. In my estimation, they’re often pretty horrid (badly written, terrible acting, clichéd as hell, …etc), so I tend to go back to the ones that I know I like – and those that I think that I might have maybe possibly enjoyed somewhat at some point in my life, but I’m not sure anymore.

‘When Harry Met Sally’, ‘Notting Hill’, ‘Four Weddings and Funeral’, ‘While You Were Sleeping’ and ‘Rambo: First Blood, part II’ can all safely be lumped into that first category. ‘The Truth About Cats and Dogs’ falls into the latter.

It had been at least a dozen years since I’d seen this film. I was much younger then, and my take on cinema (or, as would be more appropriate in this case, “movies”) was a bit different. When I picked it up, I only remembered once liking it, but not being wholly enamoured with it. I also remembered that it was loosely based on Cyrano de Bergerac. But with smaller noses. And cats (oh, and dogs, too!)

It turns out that my feelings, despite years of honing my critical nature by watching superior films, have not changed: this is a decent, but hardly brilliant, romantic comedy. At times, it was sweet and the humour had moments of cleverness, and it was nice that the filmmakers didn’t turns the two friends into enemies over a guy – a cliché that other films often fall prey to and that this film even addresses explicitly. But it was still only “okay”, overall.

The cast was enjoyable enough. Janeane Garofolo was smart and endearing and this film made me wish that she had found more success in Hollywood; she deserves it more than many of the so-called “actresses” out there. Uma Thurman plays the blonde ditz type relatively well (and yet… she isn’t that great at it. How is that possible? It’s like Keanu Reeves being unable to play a surfer dude). Ben Chaplin is decent but the character is written to be such a moron that it’s a bit grating; it’s really difficult to justify how he remains so clueless in the face of the obvious.

What I found especially nice is that Garofolo wasn’t treated as the ‘ugly’ girl, next to Uma Thurman. The film hinges on the audience accepting that Thurman turns men into slobbering slaves, but other films would have made Garofolo into the unkempt girl that only needs a makeover or newfound Love for her to shine and be noticed. Not here. Garofolo is played strictly as the (arguably) least attractive of the two – and her love-life issues are mostly due to her own self-esteem. So I found this to be a nice touch, and the film gets an extra point for this.

‘The Truth About Cats and Dogs’ will never go down as being a great film nor will it be remembered as the perfect example of what a romantic comedy can be. But it does have some redeeming values and I think that it’s a story that could be rewritten and tweaked into something much stronger – at its core there are some amusing and lovely elements that were lost in what is but an average production.

And that’s the “truth” about ‘Cats and Dogs’.

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