Friday, October 3, 2008

Beverly Hills Chihuahua - Disney Gamble on Cheezy or Good Kid fun

Andy Rooney, "60 Minute's" famed curmudgeon, once said that if dogs could talk it would take a lot of the fun out of owning one.

Rooney hasn't seen "Beverly Hills Chihuahua."

Disney's glitzy doggie lark may lack the classic, enduring charm of "Lady and the Tramp." But it does prove that mutts have luck - especially the outrageously spoiled, booty-wearing princess that stars in this canine caper.

Chloe, Disney's ├╝ber-pooch version of Paris Hilton, is a girl who's got it going on as "BHC" begins. Living a lifestyle that most humans would envy, the tiny, white-haired Chihuahua (voiced by Drew Barrymore) is lavished with diamonds, designer duds, puppy pedicures and doggie Pilates classes by her doting owner Vivian (Jamie Lee Curtis). The miniscule mutt is also adored from afar by Papi (George Lopez), a lowly stray who pals around Vivian's estate with her sexy Mexican landscaper.

Trouble in pooch paradise begins, however, once Chloe's well-heeled mamacita is called away on business. Entrusted to Vivian's flighty niece (Piper Perabo) and clueless sidekick (Ali Hillis), this diva's charmed life ends abruptly when the girls lose the pup on a Mexican road trip.

"Chloe ends up in a place that she deems totally inappropriate for a dog from Beverly Hills," says Hillis, who spoke with from Los Angeles.

Kidnapped by the masterminds behind an underground dog-fighting ring, Chloe is saved by a street-wise German Shepherd (Andy Garcia). With an emerging spunk that rivals even that of the "Yo quiero Taco Bell" Chihuahua, Chloe journeys home with her new friend, Papi and the motley mutts who join in on this Latin-flavoured recovery mission.

Hillis realizes her Disney dream

Early reviews have chastised Walt Disney Pictures and director Raja Gosnell for portraying Mexico as a dangerous place where conmen and crimnials line the streets. Kiddie viewers, however, won't notice the political incorrectness.

"I was revved to do a Disney movie," says Hillis, 29. A big dog fan, Hillis was sold by the project's message to audiences to rescue animals in distress.

"I love that this movie challenges people to consider if a dog is really right for their lives. It also makes audiences think about rescuing an animal instead of buying a new one," says Hillis. "One of my two dogs was rescued so that idea made this film very attractive to me."

Appearing in such film as "The Heartbreak Kid" (2007), "Must Love Dogs" (2005) and "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), Hillis made her Hollywood debut in 1999 on the hit TV series, "Felicity."

"It was Jason Alexander that convinced me to go to L.A.," says Hillis, who first set out to conquer the Broadway stage. After landing a job on the 1990's hit "Law & Order" and seeing her scenes end up the cutting room floor, Hillis decided to take the "Seinfeld" star's advice and give Hollywood a try.

"Jason convinced me that the cut wasn't my fault. It happens to everyone and it was a good lesson to learn," says Hillis, who soon found herself auditioning for "Felicity" creator J.J. Abrams for the role of Chloe.

"I told J.J. that 'Felicity' was the only show I went to my neighbours to watch. I didn't have a TV when I first moved to L.A. I think that nailed the deal," says Hillis. That break lead to other television appearances on "Baywatch" in 2001, "Boomtown" in 2002 and "JAG" in 2004.

Soon to appear in Disney's sci-fi flick "Space Buddies," which hits theatres in February of 2009, Hillis sees "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" for what it is. "This is a family film. It's meant to be a fun time for kids. I think we accomplished that," says Hillis.