For all the recent success of Disney films, I am surprised that Beverly Hills Chihuahua is a peer. Though the film boasts a superstar cast—Jamie Lee Curtis and the voices of Drew Barrymore, George Lopez, and Andy Garcia—it misses the mark of typical Disney brilliance. Earlier in 2008, Disney-Pixar failed to receive enough accolades for WALL-E, and in my opinion, they received far too many for Beverly Hills Chihuahua.
Beverly Hills Chihuahua follows the pampered life of Chloe (voice of Drew Barrymore)—a Chihuahua owned by a famous fashion designer (Jamie Lee Curtis). Chloe’s typical day is scheduled with spa treatments, play dates, designer outfits, lavish food, and poolside lounging. When Chloe’s owner embarks on a week-long business trip through Europe she leaves her niece, Rachel (Piper Perabo), responsible for Chloe and her daily routine. Of course, like any irresponsible twenty-something with an endless bank account, Rachel tows the high maintenance pup along to a party trip in Mexico. While Rachel is out on the town, Chloe attempts to follow and falls into the wrong hands—those of Mexico’s meanest criminal. Now Chloe must learn the harsh realities of life outside of Beverly Hills, and Rachel must assume responsibility for her aunt’s beloved lapdog by starting a nationwide manhunt—I mean, doghunt.
Although Rachel and Chloe had been rude and had blown them off back in Beverly Hills, Aunt Viv’s landscaper Sam (Manolo Cardona) and his hole-digging, Chihuahua sidekick, Papi (voice of George Lopez), venture to Mexico to join the search team. Papi had expressed his unending love for Chloe, but she was too uppity to give him the time of day. Yet not even that prior rejection will prevent this motivated Chihuahua from finding his “Corazon.”
Unfortunately, I felt this movie missed the mark of themes such as finding oneself or the coming of age. Though it tried to develop these themes, the film fails to possess true redemption in the main characters: Chloe and Rachel. It seemingly implies an experience with the harsh realities of the cruel world without any emphasis upon personal transformation or assumed responsibility. One gets the feeling that their lives are no different at the end of the film than at the beginning, outside of their new love interests.
Though Beverly Hills Chihuahua possesses several scenes encouraging animal adoption and prosecution of those involved in dog fighting rings, these scenes are far from thematic or emphatic. The vanity of obsession with lapdogs—carrying them in designer purses, buying them jewelry or taking them to the day spa—undermine the subtle, yet more socially-important themes: animal adoption and the ethical treatment of animals become minor themes at best.
Even further, in a day and age where human starvation is a harsh reality, this movie did little to satirize the vanity associated with lapdog obsession. Though animal starvation and mistreatment is an atrocity, there are people in this world dying from the lack of basic needs. Most of these people could only wish for the quality of life that these pets in America receive. I could not overlook this message, especially in light of Christ’s call to love our neighbors as ourselves.
This swing-and-miss message only further separates Beverly Hills Chihuahua from its 2008 Disney counterpart—WALL-E. While the latter took on global warming and human responsibility in creation-care with class, Beverly Hills Chihuahua bites off more than it is willing to chew. For all the educational and spiritual value of WALL-E, Beverly Hills Chihuahua comes up short. The message and themes are seemingly watered-down versions of what they could have been.
Though my friend’s six-year old was enamored with this film I am afraid it did little to shape his worldview in a positive capacity, or to promote advocacy for such major issues as animal adoption, animal cruelty, and the vanity associated with America’s most pampered pups.