Beverly Hills Chihuahua-A Ruff Retrospective

Photo Credit: Walt Disney Pictures
June 27th, 2012

When Disney released the first of the "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" films back in 2008, kids cheered while parents were a bit apprehensive. The kids looked forward to the exploits of a pampered pooch working her way through calamity after calamity. Parents wondered if they were going to enjoy Shrek-like dual-toned comedy or whether they'd be subjected to blandly appropriate G-rated fare. Both camps ended up pleased.

The first "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" stars Drew Barrymore as the voice of Chloe, the spoiled pooch who's living the high life as the pampered object of her wealthy and generous owner's (Jaime Lee Curtis) unlimited affection and largesse. Papi, voiced with delicious fervor by George Lopez, is a Chihuahua from the other side of the tracks who is hopelessly devoted to Chloe. True to nature, Chloe rebuffs his attempts at canine love. He responds by mocking her inability to speak Spanish, but he secretly yearns for her. When Chloe's owner has to leave for a sudden out-of-town trip, she leaves her in the care of her self-absorbed niece Rachel, played by Piper Perabo. Rachel reluctantly takes Chloe with her when on a trip to Mexico, where it takes her all of five minutes to lose the dog. Chloe is immediately targeted by dog nappers who intend to steal her diamond necklace. The movie focuses on the lessons that Chloe learns about selfishness versus selflessness while a band of adopted doggie friends works hard to get her home. Somewhere along the way, Rachel gains a conscience and hunts for Chloe along with Papi's owner Sam, played by the oh-so-handsome Manolo Cardona. The cast of supporting pups is voiced by pure acting greats, including Andy Garcia, who plays a loyal, street-smart German shepherd who helps Chloe escape, all while yearning for his days as an important police dog. The movie ends on a predictable but happy note, with both Chloe and Rachel learning hard lessons about humility and love.

"Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2" was released in 2011 and went straight to DVD. George Lopez was the only original cast member to return for the series' second outing. This film opens with the wedding of Papi and Chloe. Pretty soon, the house is filled with their pups. Everything is moving along smoothly, or as smoothly as a house full of dogs can move, until the dogs realize that Sam's family home will be lost to foreclosure unless the family can come up with enough money to pay the arrears on the mortgage. It doesn't really matter to kids watching the movie how dogs can come understand concepts like preforeclosure. All that matters to them is that the dogs will figure it out, and they do. In a plot that involves winning and then losing money in a dog show and a daring bank robbery, the entire family of dogs figures out a way to save the day. The movie ends with Rachel and Sam getting married.

"Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3: Viva la Fiesta!" will be released in the fall of 2012 as a straight-to-DVD release. Rosa, the youngest of Chloe and Papi's pups and the runt of the litter, is feeling out of place and unimportant after the family moves into a posh hotel. This is in spite of being surrounded by the most indulgent of luxuries, like gourmet dog food and luxury dog spas. Other dogs make fun of Rosa and mock her attempts to shine. Papi, still voiced by George Lopez, makes it his mission to help his little girl discover how incredibly important she really is.

There will be those who will question how important it was to even have a third installment of this film franchise. They'll wonder aloud if there's even an audience for this type of fare. The answer is a resounding "yes." Every year a new generation of kids is introduced to the exploits of this pack of canines. They squirm in apprehension when the doggies face danger, and they squeal with joy when the dogs save the day. The goal of every Disney movie is to make kids laugh and have hope. So, while parents may miss some of the smart humor of some of the other highly rated Disney animated films, their kids are getting a new dose of Disney comfort food with every release. Most parents will agree that the Chihuahua movies have the power to engage their kids and hold their interest for an hour and a half. Throw in a little bit of learning, and it's all good.