Cats and Dogs have been at odds with one another for centuries—ever since humans first started taking them in as pets and the question arose as to which made the superior pet. Ten years ago, the animals formed the Furry Animals Rivalry Termination pact. The goal of F.A.R.T. was to put an end to the constantly escalating and elaborate canine and feline plots against one another before they started to interfere with the human world. And so, for the past ten years, relations between the two species have been quite peaceful. Roger the dog (Max Greenfield) and Gwen the cat (Melissa Rauch) live in the same Seattle apartment building, with their respective teenage owners. The building also houses the secret F.A.R.T. bunker and monitoring station where they work alongside fellow dog analyst Old Ed (Garry Chalk). Roger is a seasoned agent who once worked in the field, but after an incident that caused him to freeze in the line of duty, he’s happy to just be a risk assessment analyst, combing through hidden camera footage from behind the safety of a desk. Gwen, on the other hand, is a fresh young agent who is tired of being just a housecat and is eager to experience the outside world.
What originally starts off as any other day on the job quickly proves to be nothing but. Roger and Gwen are going through their daily routine when they discover that the F.A.R.T. monitoring system has been hacked by the self-proclaimed “most nefarious villain the world has ever seen”. This mysterious animal (George Lopez) informs them that he has taken over satellite and wireless towers everywhere, and will be broadcasting a frequency that only cats and dogs can hear, causing the animals to once again fight with one another, sending their once peaceful world back into chaos. Now it’s up to inexperienced field agents Roger and Gwen to save the day. They must recruit a team, figure out who this mysterious villain is, locate him, determine the reason for his actions, and put a stop to his evil plan before it’s too late.
Meanwhile, Roger and Gwen’s human families also have their own drama to deal with. Roger’s owner Max (Callum Seagram Airlie) is the star of his middle school tennis team. Max named his dog after tennis player Roger Federer. While Max started off enjoying tennis, his mother Susan (Kirsten Robek) has become a helicopter parent, monitoring his diet and coaching him from the sidelines, putting a lot of pressure on him to win, and taking the joy out of the game for him. Downstairs neighbor Zoe (Sarah Giles) goes to the same school as Max, but the two have never really spoken—both are usually buried in their phones whenever they share the elevator. Zoe named her cat after singer Gwen Stefani. Zoe’s father is a famous grunge musician, but he hasn’t written a hit song in 20 years, and now they are danger of being evicted from their apartment and possibly forced to move somewhere else that doesn’t allow pets. Zoe is an aspiring musical herself, and is working on a new song for her father, but is too shy to share it.
Paws Unite is the third installment of the Cats & Dogs franchise, returning after a 10 year hiatus. I was never much of a fan of the first two films, but I did find this third one quite enjoyable. Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite! bounces back and forth between two somewhat separate stories, the first being Roger and Gwen trying to save the world and the villain executing his nefarious plot, and the second being the familial drama with Max and his mother and Zoe and her father. There is very little crossover between these two storylines, and it almost feels like two completely separate movies mashed together.
For the human storylines, the film does a nice job of exploring two somewhat different family situations. It’s never really stated what says what happened to Zoe’s mother or Max’s father, though there are photos of Max’s father in a military uniform. Both children are now facing different issues in their single parent homes. While to others Max may seem like he has it all, his tennis training and diet have become all-consuming, and he’s not allowed to just go out and have fun with his friends. Zoe’s father, on the other hand, had been hiding his financial problems from his daughter so that she wouldn’t worry or feel like she needed to get a job to help out—he just wants her to enjoy being a kid while she still is one.
The animals storyline is where a lot of the fun and humor comes in. It definitely feels more geared towards younger viewers a lot of the time, especially at the beginning where there are many jokes surrounding the F.A.R.T. name—the villain also has his own Pets with Out-of-the Ordinary Pedigree organization—or P.O.O.P. for short—which elicits many similar jokes. Then we see the animals out in the field doing their investigations, interacting with other animals, driving vehicles, etc. The spy action with the animals gets campy and over-the-top at times, but in a really fun way. This is not a movie that is meant to be taken seriously, and if you just have fun with it, it’s quite enjoyable. When the animals talk to one another, there is cgi added to make their mouths move, which doesn’t look terrible, but it’s noticeable (like in The Call of the Wild). When the animal’s are typing on the keyboard or interacting with one another, there are some obvious fake animal arms and close-ups—such as early on when Gwen and Roger pick up and eat some high-tech beef jerky to help combat the effects of the the villain’s special broadcast. However, all of this added to the fun and campiness of the film for me. The animal voice cast is also quite entertaining, with Max Greenfield playing Roger a lot like his Schmidt character from New Girl, Melissa Rauch playing Gwen as wild as Bernadette from The Big Bang Theory, but with a family-friendly vocabulary, and George Lopez chewing the scenery as the over-the-top villain with a ridiculous plan and maniacal laugh.
Overall, the film is quite fun, and I think this is a film that the whole family can enjoy together. (There is only one questionable joke made early on by Max’s mother, where she mentions how Max’s heart rate increases when he’s alone in the bathroom, but this will likely go over the heads of younger viewers.)
Warner Bros’ Blu-ray release looks and sounds great. The picture is crisp and clean, with lots of detail in both the human and the animal scenes. The audio track provides clear dialogue, and brings the action to life in your living room, providing a nicely immersive viewing experience. Both the Blu-ray and DVD include the same selection of bonus material—a 5-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, 3 minutes of animal footage with comical thought balloons, and a gag reel (the same footage that appears over the end credits of the film). The discs come packed in a standard HD keepcase with each disc on either side, with a cardboard slipcover, and an insert containing the digital copy redemption instructions, as well as another code to answer a survey about the film.
- 1080p / Widescreen 1.78:1
- Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, Danish Dolby Digital 5.1, Finnish Dolby Digital 5.1, Norwegian Dolby Digital 5.1, Swedish Dolby Digital 5.1
- Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish
- 480i / Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
- Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
- Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
- HD Digital Copy redeemable via Vudu or Movies Anywhere
Digital (Redemption Deadline 9/30/2021):
All of the Bonus features are included on both the Blu-ray & DVD discs.
- Animal Charades: Making Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite! (5:18)
The cast and filmmakers talk about the challenges and joys of working with all of the various animal actors, and the tricks to training the animals to do what they want. Includes behind-the-scenes footgae, and interviews with producer Andrew Lazar, director/executive producer Sean McNamara, animal trainers Larry Payne, Diana Gautier-Eyben, Tracy Gardhouse & Lori Boyle, animal handler Brad McDonald, and stars Callum Seagrum Airlie (“Max”), John Murphy (“Ollie”) & Sarah Giles (“Zoe”).
- Cast Reveals All: Deep Animal Thoughts (3:19)
The animal cast share their thoughts about life or whatever is on their minds via thought bubbles.
- Gag Reel (1:38)
The same behind-the-scenes footage of the animals and actors (set to “Still Got The Funk” by Matthew Goodman and Matthew Bento) that plays on the side during the end credits is presented here full screen.
- Trailers (3:11)
Trailers for Scooby-Doo!: Return to Zombie Island and LEGO DC Shazam!: Magic and Monsters play back-to-back.
Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite! was a surprisingly fun and entertaining new chapter in the Cats & Dogs franchise. While it primarily felt like two different moves mashed together, I found both halves of the film to be enjoyable. It features a talented, recognizable voice cast, and can be a bit campy and over-the-top at times, but that adds to the fun, making it a film that the whole family can enjoy. The Blu-ray picture and sound presentation is well done, but the bonus material is a bit meager and disappointing.