For some reason, Yo quiero Taco Bell.
Those savvy market research-readers at Disney have discovered that kids love Chihuahuas, especially talking ones. Thus, they decreed that "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" take one of the little bug-eyed rats on an "Incredible Journey," from her chic life in Beverly Hills to the dog fights of Mexico, with a side trip into the land of Chihuahua, where wild lap dogs yap and dance, never to tremble in fear of being stepped on again.
A Who's Who of Latin American voice talent, from George Lopez and Andy Garcia to Placido Domingo, lends this too-chatty, too-plot driven chew-toy from the director of "Scooby-Doo" just enough Spanglish flavor to go over. And if the truly hilarious song-and-dance numbers from the TV ads for this aren't here, there's always the DVD.
Drew Barrymore provides the winsome, spoiled voice of Chloe, the pampered pooch of a makeup mogul (Jamie Lee Curtis). She has her pick of outfits, which she wears to the pool, the doggie day-spa, out to dinner. She barely notices the landscaper's pup, Papi (George Lopez), who stops digging holes and rolling in filth long enough to swoon over Chloe, "mi corazon."
Chloe is put into the hands of cute but irresponsible dog-sitter Rachel (Piper Perabo), who drags her down to Baja, where Chloe's pricey collar and pedigree attract the attention of dog-nappers, who see her as grist for their illegal dog-fighting business. Chloe falls in with mutts, strays and a cruise ship rat (Cheech Marin), is rescued by Delgado, a battle-scarred German shepherd (Andy Garcia) and pursued by a Doberman (Edward James Olmos). Meanwhile, Rachel frantically hunts for the dog with the help of the hunky gardener ("I prefer landscaper") she has dismissed out of hand just because he's Mexican-American.
Director Raja Gosnell takes us on a trip through Disney's version of Mexico, seedy in places, but never too seedy. The dog-fighting stuff is not treated as something condoned. Most of the locals are helpful and dog-friendly.
Lopez gets most of the laughs, barking through Papi's enthusiasm for the search with vintage one-liners ("We're Mexi-CANS, not Mexi-can'ts!").
But the biggest giggles come with the entrance of the great tenor Senor Domingo, whose screen time is far too short to make the movie more than it is.
If "Chihuahua" is no "Babe" or "Charlotte's Web," at least it's in the "Alvin and the Chipmunks" ballpark. Just remember, nobody went to the pet store and grabbed a chipmunk on the way home after that one.
BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA
2 stars (Out of 4)
STARRING: Piper Perabo, Jamie Lee Curtis and the voices of Drew Barrymore, George Lopez and Andy Garcia
DIRECTOR: Raja Gosnell
RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes
RATING: PG for some mild thematic elements.
THE LOWDOWN: The misadventures of a Beverly Hills pooch inadvertently left on her own in Mexico.