2 Stars - Shallow
Though this entertaining film about dogs by Raja Gosnell is marketed to children, it is shallow in the many of the values it presents and has a rating of PG. This means that parents need to provide their children with guidance in deciding whether or not to view this film due to some humor and content that is not appropriate for children. However, the special effects are engaging as we enter the canine world and see the classism and racism of adults personified in their pets.
The canine ensemble consists of a prissy little white Chihuahua named Chloe (voice by Drew Barrymore), a confident macho brown Chihuahua named Papi (voice by George Lopez) and a beleaguered German Shepherd named Delgado (voice by Andy Garcia). The human ensemble, all of whom play supporting roles, are Chloe’s indulgent owner Aunt Viv (Jamie Lee Curtis) who dresses her in cashmere and diamonds, her irresponsible niece Rachel (Piper Perabo) who is supposed to be dog-sitting Chloe when she loses her in Mexico, and the handsome landscaper Sam (Manola Cardona) who had rescued Papi from the pound and gave him a home.
The central theme of the story is found in Chloe’s adventure of self discovery, which as a by-product also changes Rachel’s life. It begins when Aunt Viv has to leave her precious pet in the care of her irresponsible niece. When Rachel is invited by two friends to travel to Tijuana, she demonstrates complete neglect of her responsibility for her aunt’s precious Chihuahua and Chloe is kidnapped by criminals who operate in the illegal world of dog-fights. Taking her deep within Mexico, she is befriended by Delgado whose disgraced past has defeated him. But when Chloe needs his help, he rediscovers his lost abilities to help.
The hero of our film is Papi whose heart belongs to Chloe, though in Beverly Hills, he is not in her class and is not considered by her as a suitable suitor. But when Papi discovers that Chloe has been dog-napped, Papi never questions that his small size could keep him from being able to rescue her and he sets out to bring her home motivated by his undying love and courageous spirit.
Laced with a simple message that each one of us is valuable and has inherent gifts we must each discover, Chloe and Delgado end up in the care of the Chihuahua tribe where she is told of her true worth. Rather than coming from her clothes and diamonds, Chloe is told that her worth comes from being who she really is with her own unique bark.
A secondary message, as Chloe and Delgado travel with their little pack of orphaned dogs, is for each of them to find a loving home in which they can fulfill a needed place. This is even seen in Delgado’s life where, in a restorative manner, he is given back his dignity and pride.
“Beverly Hills Chihuahua” is a simple tale that lacks the depth often associated with a Disney film. In spite of its shortcomings, it is a film about the importance of friendship and love in a world where those we love can fall into danger and need our help. Having the courage and commitment to help them is a message for dogs and humans alike.
When Chloe ignores Papi’s eloquent invitation for a relationship, she does so simply because he is of a “working class.” How much do you believe classism is a factor in relationships today?
The effect of Chloe and Rachel discovering who they are opens them both to romance. Has this been true for you in your own life? How?
The restoration of Delgado’s abilities also allows him to be returned to active duty. Have you ever known a person who experienced the loss of an ability that hampered their life? What helped them?