The Truth About Cats And Dogs

on April 26, 1996 by Susan Lambert
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   The biggest problem with "The Truth about Cats and Dogs" is that Janeane Garofalo is supposed to be the "ugly girl." Garofalo is many things here: Brilliant. Funny. Witty. Adorable. But she is not, no way, ugly. Despite the fact that the movie is built on one of those horribly big, unforgivable Hollywood lies, it ends up excused because the first half of this movie is everything Garofalo is: Brilliant. Funny. Witty. Adorable.
   Director Michael Lehmann hasn't had it this good since his 1989 debut film, "Heathers." Garofalo stars as Abbey, a radio talk show pet doctor, who "meets cute" on the air with an adorably perfect photographer, Brian, played by British newcomer Ben Chaplin. Abbey chickens out on meeting him and gets her neighbor Noelle (Pulp Fiction's Uma Thurman) to pretend to be her. In this female spin on "Cyrano de Bergerac", chaos, mistaken love and friendship follows. Garofalo carries the film with her beguiling, self-deprecating way. She is a joy to behold, equally adept at comedy and pathos. Thurman is amazing, carving out yet another spin on "the beautiful girl" role--her row to hoe this year. She and Garofalo together create a fabulous comedy duo, bonding in that easy, breezy way that usually only guys get to do on screen.
   The script, by former radio disc jockey Audrey Wells, is wonderful, a sharp and clever update of the contrived classic. Still, the story's moral is constantly undercut by the beautiful and attractive stars who spout forth how unimportant it is to be beautiful and attractive. The less successful second half slides into a predictable, only vaguely satisfying end, that is particuarly unsettling because the filmmakers "spruce up" Abbey with a little make-over. Thankfully, the cast has so completely won over the audience by then that they can carry it home. Starring Uma Thurman, Janeane Garofalo and Ben Chaplin. Directed by Michael Lehmann. Written by Audrey Wells. Produced by Cari-Esta Albert. A Fox release. Romantic Comedy. Rated PG-13 for a sex-related scene and brief strong language. Running time: 100 min
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