October 05, 2008

Aztec animals in Chihuahua

Beverly Hills ChihuahuaCarried around in the latest Louis Vuitton dog purse and sporting a diamond-encrusted Harry Winston collar, Chloe the titular BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA (voiced by Drew Barrymore) is an ultra-pampered lap dog. When her owner, filthy-rich cosmetics maven Viv (Jamie Lee Curtis), goes on a business trip to Italy, she leaves Chloe in the care of her irresponsible young niece Rachel (Piper Perabo). During a "girls' weekend" trek to Mexico, Chloe leaves Rachel's hotel and is immediately dognapped into the seedy world of dog fighting. With the help of former police dog Delgado (Andy Garcia) Chloe escapes and attempts to return to Beverly Hills.

Featuring a voice cast of mostly Latino stars--from George Lopez as Chloe's courageous suitor Papi to Edward James Olmos as a mean attack dog named El Diablo--Beverly Hills Chihuahua starts out feeling like a canine-focused episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and then morphs into a homeward-bound odyssey. As Chloe and Delgado try to cross the border and form an odd-couple friendship, he reclaims some of his former glory as a K-9 officer and she discovers her true "bark."

This talking-animal comedy even offers a perfectly timed lesson in Mexican dog heritage. Cornered by mountain lions, Delgado and Chloe are saved by a band of "tiny but mighty" Chihuahuas, whose leader, Monte (Placido Domingo), explains that the ancient breed used to be the chosen companions of the great Aztecs. They're not meant to be frivolously dressed lap dogs named FiFi but small warriors with a powerful bark. Ultimately, like Chloe, the movie looks like fluff but has a surprising amount of substance and style. Viva La Raza (of Chihuahuas, anyway)!
Comment:  Monte is short for Montezuma, presumably.

One review called Monte's band of Chihuahuas a "lost tribe." It's not clear if they're supposed to be still-Aztec dogs in hiding or descendants of Aztec dogs who happen to live in ruins.

Of course, the ruins below look Maya, not Aztec. And we've seen and read about other problems in Beverly Hills Chihuahua.

Of particular interest is the Indiana Jones-style poster. One, the similarities suggest the movie producers want you to think of the Indiana Jones movies. And as we've seen, Indiana Jones stands for spearchucking Indian savages.

Two, the poster tells you the stereotypes it's conveying: Latinos as half warrior and half lover. Both hot-blooded; neither requiring intelligence or culture. Pure passion, the province of animals that only fight and mate when they're not eating or sleeping.

In other words, your typical beast-like savage.

For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

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