The Truth About Cats & Dogs (1996)
User ReviewsReview this title
If the movie has one weakness, it's the fact that Garafalo is cast as an ugly duckling. No way, folks; this woman is beautiful. Depending on whether one prefers petite brunettes or tall blondes, you may think she's even cuter than co-star Uma Thurman.
Both Garafalo and Thurman are splendid, and play off each other well in their awkward friendship/romantic rivalry situation. Thurman's ditsy wanna-be actress is very sympathetic; Garafalo's intellectual but emotionally guarded Dr. Abby at times is heartbreaking. Ben Chaplin as Brian, the object of their affections, turns in a good performance of his own. One scene where two of these actors interact with eyes only--no dialogue for at least 30 sec.--is extremely powerful.
Funny bits pop up at strategic moments. The banter between Abby and Brian is like a one-liner ping-pong match; their spontaneous wit is fun to ride along with (almost like a Neil Simon play). Brian's dog is one of the best animals in a flick that I've seen in a while, he did comedy as well as his human counterparts.
A good movie worth spending an evening on, especially as a date flick.
"You know how someone's appearance can change the longer you know them? How a really attractive person, if you don't like them, can become more and more ugly; whereas someone you might not have even have noticed... that you wouldn't look at more than once, if you love them, can become the most beautiful thing you've ever seen. All you want to do is be near them."
Admittedly, it all hangs on a rather thin premise; that Brian(Ben Chaplin) is unable to tell the voices of Abby(Janeane Garofalo) and Noelle(Uma Thurman) apart. But romantic comedies have had more outrageous concepts before, and no one complained about how realistic they were(like RUNAWAY BRIDE; does anyone believe that one?). And by switching genders, it's able to talk about how women are forced to conform to an impossible ideal of beauty. And yet, at the same time, the message comes through comedy, so you're not being hit over the head.
Also, the performers are quite engaging. It goes without saying Janeane Garofalo is terrific in her first lead role. She's funny, as could be expected, but as she's had to fight the impossible ideal of beauty much of her career, you can sense something personal for her, and she brings that out without getting mawkish. Uma Thurman sends up the "dumb blonde" role without condescending to her. Plus, we like Noelle for the same reason we like Christian in the original; she's actually smarter about love than Abby is(when she says of Brian, "Plus, he's got this one, tiny little fault. He loves you."). Chaplin of course has the object of desire role, which is tough to play, but he brings humor and intelligence to it. And, of course, the dog is great.
The film is a very simple romantic comedy with Janeane Garofalo playing an ugly woman who uses her neighbour Uma Thurman to date Ben Chaplin because she thinks Ben Chaplin won't like her because she's ugly. The film is just bad for so many reasons. The plot is unbelievably predictable from the overtly slapstick bits to the serious mushy bits: ugh just that montage where all three of them are having fun and then the photograph bit. Those two scenes made me cringe! Janeane's character is sickeningly arrogant (and guessing from her role as stand-up "comedienne" and arch-feminist is in real life too). She claims that the film is "anti-feminist" when in fact it's just realistic. Men more often than not go for looks over personality. It's interesting to note her hypocrisy too. She'd been a feminist and "comedienne" for years before taking this role and then suddenly decides afterwards that the film was bad. I imagine she hated the idea and script of this film before it was released but she made sure she kept that quiet so she could get paid for this travesty of a film. I mean come on! She acted in it for Heaven's sake! What this film was really was anti-men if anything. It portrays men as stupid animals whose brains are in their groins with the men doing stupid things to attract the attention of Uma Thurman's character Noelle.
There are other bad things about this film too like Ben Chaplin's character being the British man every American girl finds cute and Jamie Foxx being the token black best friend of Chaplin and of course Foxx had to try and mimic his accent a few times for good measure. Is that the best the script writers could come up with? Blimey they've never done that before except with every Hugh Grant and Dudley Moore film ever made. There's also a truly awful phone sex scene which is just grotesque and proves how cheap the film is. The other comments on here all say how Janeane Garofalo isn't ugly but is actually beautiful. Erm was I watching the same film as they were? She's certainly no looker and the only good thing about this film was that she was rightly cast as the ugly one. Although having said that, I fail to see the appeal of Uma Thurman as well: she's lanky and gaunt looking.
I guarantee three things about this film if you've never watched it:
You will know what the ending will be;
You will find the phone sex scene painfully embarrassing and;
You will be bored after ten minutes.
Watch at your own peril.
He broods about it for awhile before deciding that he really loves the plain Jane for her brains and whatever pearls of wisdom she expressed when they first met. It's really a stretch to think that Chaplin would settle for the unattractive gal after smooching it up with Thurman at every opportunity.
Despite the weak premise, it's played with style and wit and emerges, overall, as a pleasant escapist kind of comedy. Unfortunately, it's not convincing enough in sending the message it tries to make.
Most charming aspect of the film is the performance of BEN CHAPLIN as the bewitched and befuddled guy.
Wow, is this movie sickening or what? It clearly demonstrates how "family films" had gone down the dumper by 1996. Here, the whole story is a lie: a plain woman lying her way to having a romance.
The most memorable line is Uma Thurman's character casually telling her plain friend (Janeane Garafolo), "Oh, I'd f--k ya!" To the reviewers who said this movie was profanity-free, umm, I think the f-word is considered "profanity."
Even family-friendly critic Michael Medved descirbed this as "good family entertainment. " Sorry, Mike, but you messed up on this one. The "truth" is that the film was an insult to anyone's intelligence.
Cyrano is ugly, big-time ugly. So ugly that his own mother had no love for him, and no woman has been willing to love him.
The female host of the radio show that gives this movie its name, "The Truth about Cats and Dogs," Abbey, is not ugly in any way. She may not be a striking beauty, but then, neither is Uma Thurman/Noelle, the neighbor she passes off as herself to the caller who wants to meet her. One is short, the other tall. One is brunette, the other blonde. One a little on the plump side - but only a little; the other skinny. Abbey is not ugly while Noelle is strikingly beautiful. Abbey has one kind of beauty, Noelle another.
Cyrano de Bergerac is about a truly ugly man who wins the heart of Roxanne by the extraordinary beauty of his language, a non-physical type of beauty. He very definitely does not have just "another kind" of physical beauty. He very definitely has NO physical attractiveness whatsoever.
Abbey, on the other hand, has bought into a socially-conditioned idea of what men find attractive - tall, thin, blonde - but it's really all in her mind, since her friend Noelle isn't all that attractive, and Abbey herself is certainly not unattractive. We don't really get a chance to see if Brian really started by buying into the same social convention, since he was told by Abbey over the phone that she was tall, blonde, thin, etc. We never see him attracted to tall, blonde, thin dumbbells whom he knows to be dumbbells.
When Brian tries to explain what he finds attractive in the woman he has spoken to over the phone, he basically says: "She's nice." Abbey gives no indications of a remarkable, poetic command of language either on her radio show or over the phone. Noelle on occasion - but only on occasion, and not very convincingly - comes off as dumb. Brian says that he likes intelligence, but he gives no indication of being intelligent himself, nor of having been attracted to anyone else for her intelligence. So we never really understand why he becomes attracted to Abbey. She's pleasant, but then so is Noelle.
The three leads are all pleasant, but the movie doesn't really seem to know what point it wants to make. If it's "a handsome guy can fall in love with a woman even if she isn't beautiful, as long as she has a striking character," this movie doesn't make that point clearly or convincingly. Abbey just isn't sufficiently not-beautiful, or sufficiently striking in terms of her character, for us to buy that argument. Nor, unlike Roxanne in Cyrano de Bergerac, is Brian ever presented as really interested in qualities other than physical beauty, so that his final attraction to Abbey comes off as convincing.
The film eventually comes to cover three predominant characters, the one with whom we start being a local disc-jockey in a warm; welcoming movie version of Los Angeles named Abby Barnes (Garofalo), a disc-jockey whose show specialises in veterinarian problems and animal issues. Seemingly lonely, living by herself in an apartment with her pet cat, and sexless for three years, she excels at her job more often than not made easier by the subdued level of callers whom ring in with the slightest of problems that she's usually capable of fixing without breaking a sweat. Abby's neighbour at her apartment complex is the ditzy, flimsy Noelle (Thurman); essentially a bit of a write-off of a human being, a model with some serious marital issues of her own in that she appears able to have most men without possessing the ability to maintain any kind of lasting bond with them. A woman, who upon hearing Abby has abstained from sexual encounters for all of three years, appears somewhat disturbed at such a happening.
Enter Brian (Chaplin), a young English photographer working in L.A. whose call to Abby's show spawns all manner of events; a man in love with Abby's demeanour and intelligence but with Noelle's looks when he comes on down to the studio; the lab rat around which the study of male perception of the opposite gender, or how a woman's looks can blind a man to some seemingly obvious truths, plays out. For the most part, Chaplin essentially does the Hugh Grant act: the dozy but charming British male, who's a bit bleary eyed, but we don't mind 'cause that's all part of his charm, as he fumbles through these exchanges with women, usually foreign, in a happy and jolly manner in a desirable enough locale. Curiously, with Brian arrives an air of misogyny; distorting sequences with an African American supporting character who's a work colleague of his carrying with them notions of ill-thinking and nastiness, so much so that we question as to whether Brian would even work with a man of an African American ilk given his rather raging narrow mindedness. The item of persona swapping which later plays out between the women appears in contrast to that of Brian's own in-presence/not-in-presence attitudes in regards to the female characters when he certainly acts in a less appealing way.
Young Brian is put through the proverbial wringer when Noelle and Abby decide to enforce that switch: idiotic and po-faced, but strikingly beautiful, Noelle now the expert veterinarian with Abby relegated to that of, well, a nobody living next door with her cat. The concept of this comedy outlined, that Chaplin loves Noelle's exterior but Abby's interior, and that everybody's pretending Noelle has both, kicks off all manner of both 'hilarious' hijinks and shenanigans, such is how the pitch would have gone in the producer's office. The film has fun with Abby's own liberation from her supposedly repressed confines linked to that of both exposure to the male gender and (lack of) sexual episodes, when she is granted access to Brian – access, of which, is only ever over the phone, in a manner often nothing more than moderately smirk-inducing but is rarely anything worse than slightly uninteresting. The lead is granted an escape from the celebrificated voice-over role as the radio vet, but is only allowed to do so under the guise of being a stunningly attractive blonde model whose face is fit for billboards; a notion supposedly highlighting that of the shallow nature of both contemporary men and, for the most, part contemporary culture.
Where, you might say, screwball comedies of old centred around degrees of gender swap or gender transfusion, The Truth About Cats & Dogs, like a young moggy with its ball of string, loosely toys with this idea via the guise of a personality switch; the piece ultimately a middling effort which falls short of the line but isn't without premeditated charm which comes about purely because it throws its politics up into the air and all of it neatly falls back down again. If we're all brutally honest, the premise begins as a joke but comes to near enough render the film itself a joke; a film which spends its time toying with its gimmick via an array of goofy scenes before seeing things out into its final third with melancholic character content and an obligatory reveal. It isn't without that indifferent charm, but it certainly isn't with an awful lot more.
A shy photographer (Brian or Eric or something) calls in to the show having trouble with a large dog he's mounted on roller skates for a shoot. Oh, he's so cuuuute!!! Our heroine is in a tizzy. They make a date, but too insecure to face him herself, Abby sends her neighbor, Uma Thurman. How this plan is supposed to work to Abby's advantage, I can't say. Time after time Abby and Uma pass up opportunities to straighten out the confusion. It's a good thing too, because that gives them time to learn a valuable lesson about looks and love, which is: Nice guys don't care about looks. Uh huh.
But audiences do, saith the producers. Thus we have the famously fabulous Thurman cast against girl-next-door Garofalo, who is no slouch in the looks department. So, as Abby, she is frumped up from the start in dowdy, fat-girl clothes and flat hair. It's the oldest trick in pictures. As the credits slowly approach, Abby magically acquires better clothes, a more flattering hairstyle, and a makeup job that gives her lush lips and discernible cheekbones. I guess looks still count for something.
Luckily, a 5'10" blonde lives down the hall from Abby. Her name is Noelle and she is in a bad relationship. One night when Abby confronts this bad relationship in the hall, he is rude to her so Noelle is nice enough to apologize and shows up at the radio station Abby works at, even though these women don't even know each other, much less where the other works. More improbabilities are forthcoming, as Brian shows up at the radio station at that exact moment and Noelle has to pose as Abby, or we would have less of a movie than we already do.
The three of them hang out together one night. Brian is more and more attracted to Noelle (who is now Abby) and the real Abby (who is now Donna) is disappointed, of course. But Brian and (ha, ha) 'Donna' have a lengthy phone conversation one night (the movies way of excusing the glaring difference in the characters voices is ridiculous) and really connect, which makes Brian's inevitable love for (ha, ha) 'Abby' all the more hurtful for Donna.
To the movie's credit, 'Abby' is a good friend to 'Donna' and tries to repair the rift between them constantly, but her phone calls are all ignored. The women are at least sensible enough not to fight over the guy, at least in a Jerry Springer kind of way.
Naturally it all ends well for the lovers, but the character of Noelle is not treated with tons of respect. Its almost as though she exists so that the lovers will have something to overcome, an obstacle more than an actual person. You never find out what happens to Noelle, who was nice enough to respect her friend by not sleeping with the man she knew she was in love with. I understand the movie was not about her in the first place, but she still deserves better than the movie is willing to give her.
I don't like movies where a silly, immature misunderstanding is the only thing holding the plot (such as it is) together. Its nice to see Janeane play a character, but she's treated like an ogre, and that's not just when its in comparison to Uma Thurman. Ben Chaplin is charming, but not overwhelmingly so.
Okay to see once, will not hold up to multiple viewings. 5/10.
Abby is a vet who hosts a radio show called the Truth about Cats and Dogs where she helps people who have problems with their pets. Noah (Uma Thurman) is a model whose boyfriend is also her agent and lives down the hall from Abbey. Abbey is short with brown hair and Noah is a six foot tall blonde. Abbey is intelligent, Noah is not. One day Abbey helps a young English photographer tame a dog over the phone and the photographer wants to thank her, but Abbey, who is very conscious about her appearance, describes herself as Noah. Thus a deceit begins where this man's perfect woman is in fact two.
Overall this movie was entertaining. The phone sex scene, in my opinion, was disgusting and I will not justify it. Even my friend, who has a rather warped sense of humour, thought it was disgusting. I guess the whole concept of love is when two people are together, and not separated by a telephone. I hate telephones as there is a huge gap between us and one that a true personal relationship cannot cross.
The movie was funny, and thus it seems that the Americans are getting a better sense of humour, but in general, it was typically Hollywood. Still, when one thinks about it, a romantic comedy should have a happy ending. All of Shakespeare's comedies had happy endings where as the tragedies, like Edward Scissorhands, did not. I enjoyed it, but wouldn't label it as brilliant.
I found a comment on here by another IMDb user who mentioned they thought garofolo's character being cast as the "ugly" one while actually being so much prettier then Thurman's was intentional. I had never thought of that but if that was the case it was certainly interesting. I also think whether it was intentional or unintentional it certainly makes a statement about just what the standards are in society and what happens to women who don't think they fit these standards. As mentioned before this was a very thought provoking movie.
This movie in a way is very true to life in a number of ways. I have known beautiful women who were so hooked into a certain stereotype of what they thought they were supposed to be, that they honestly had no idea how beautiful they were(like Garafaoelo's character). I have seen many women like Thurman's Noelle, beautiful, but judged so exclusively on their looks, because they do fit the stereotype, they never stop getting attention and become dependent on it. Then of coarse there are the very very skinny women who are still convinced they are seriously in need of weight loss when they aren't. The characters in Cats and Dogs were really believable and the story unfortunately only to real.
I think all young girls(and maybe all females in general) need to see this movie, it maybe billed as a comedy but it's really introspective and very well done. Although it IS a comedy to some extent the movie also carries a quiet but important message that most, if not all females could relate to.
That a woman like Garofolo could be considered unattractive or could consider herself that way is truly sad. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and the movie makes that point very eloquently.
It also does have some very comedic moments. I think Uma Thurman was hilarious, I've mostly seen her in dramas and have to say she does comedy VERY well, I'd love to see her in more comedic oriented roles, she's just a great actress!
And this is an excellent movie-see it if you haven't.
Now, would this movie work if the "ugly duckling" was really unattractive? When will Hollywood stop with this hypocrisy?
In my opinion, despite the message that it wants to convey, this movie is simply ridiculous.
I sat down to watch it in 2016, 20 years after it was released. And this was actually the first time that I have seen it, believe it or not.
And it turned out that "The Truth About Cats & Dogs" was a rather enjoyable movie, and one that did offer a bit more than your average run-of-the-mill romantic comedies.
The story is about low self-esteemed radio show host Abby who gives a caller named Brian some good advice on how to befriend a dog. And when Brian wants to repay her for her helpful advice, Abby turns to Noelle, a tall model living in her building, to stand in for her and pretend to be her.
Of course, there are elements of classic romantic comedy to "The Truth About Cats & Dogs", but it does have more than just that. I liked the aspect of the switched roles and pretending to be someone you are not, as it offered a different approach to the story.
And the cast in "The Truth About Cats & Dogs" was just phenomenal. Uma Thurman and Ben Chaplin were doing great jobs and were nicely cast. However, it was Jeneane Garofalo who stole the scene, without a doubt. With her amazing on-screen charisma and presence, she just carried the movie so well on her shoulders. She was an absolute delight to witness in this movie.
I was more than genuinely entertained by "The Truth About Cats & Dogs" and it turned out to be a much better movie than I had hoped. So if you haven't already seen his movie, and if you enjoy romantic comedies, then I can more than warmly recommend that you take the time to sit down and watch "The Truth About Cats & Dogs".
"The Truth About Cats & Dogs" scores a solid six out of ten stars rating from me.
I just find the whole storyline didn't give on its actors, I would've rather if they involved every lead role in together, not at the same time, but together. I think it's fair to give this one nomination because if this got any big award like an Oscar or Golden Globe, this would be absolutely wrong in the world of Film. Well they have brains this time, I'll give em credit for that one!
I would avoid this at all costs, keep away from this, folks!