Directed by Lev L. Spiro
Written by Dana Starfield
You are a dog person. You don’t just own dogs; you fetishize them. When the holidays come around, you make sure to get your pups brand-new sweaters, hats, and gloves for each of their paws. You own canine paraphernalia, from coffee-table books displaying various breeds in ultra-cute positions to figurines. You have day-to-day and monthly calendars for dogs, possibly one set for work and one for home. You have dog-related bumper stickers on your car, such as “I’d Rather Be Playing Fetch.” Also, preferably, you have children who are just as obsessed with canines as you are. As such, you are the ideal audience for Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3: Viva La Fiesta, the direct-to-DVD threequel to the popular 2008 Disney family film.
At its best, Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3 is a bland trifle, existing almost entirely to placate your young ones after a long day at school. If you’re a parent, relative, or babysitter looking for a 90-minute break from childcare, yes, you could do far, far worse than this movie. (There are, however, a couple of strange, tossed-off gags, such as when the lead Chihuahua asks another dog if a female of the species is fixed, that strain inappropriateness.) But the film, directed by Lev L. Spiro and written by Dana Starfield, doesn’t at any point intend on being memorable or witty for the whole family. It’s simply content putting dogs in various costumes, hoping we’ll laugh or even snicker.
Papi (George Lopez) and his family of dogs and two humans get to live the high life, once their owners Rachel and Sam get live-in jobs at a swanky Beverly Hills hotel. After everyone is situated, Papi becomes overprotective of one of his daughters, the runty Rosa (Kay Panabaker), and decides to throw her a traditional quinceanera to make her feel special. There are also plenty of underdone, familiar-seeming subplots revolving around a dog-school teacher trying to grab power, a high-class/low-class romance, and, of course, auditioning dog bands.
Almost all of the humor in this movie centers on you thinking dogs dressed like humans is funny. (Occasionally, thanks to performers like Cedric Yarborough or Kyle Gass, there are glimpses of something genuinely comedic.) If you smile at the notion of dogs wearing stereotypical Jamaican caps and dreadlocks in a band called Bob Marley and Me, well, you shall find laughs within. Puns are this film’s level of wit; such jokes, by themselves, aren’t automatically unfunny, but the puns in this movie are mostly unforgivable, unless you find the idea of “Stray-Date” and “Pee-mail” side-splittingly hilarious. The story and characters are mostly superfluous, second fiddle to dogs playing piano, dogs in a swimming pool, dogs decorating a garden, and oh, by the way, dogs.
Finally, as this is a direct-to-DVD/Blu-ray film, it’s worth pointing out that the features are exceedingly few and far between. In fact, the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, which also includes a digital copy, includes only two features. One is a music video for the song “Living Your Dreams,” sung by Raini Rodriguez. The other is called “Hangin’ With Papi,” an on-set video with the dog who plays Papi in the film. So, it’s safe to say that should you buy the film, your dedication to the extensive Beverly Hills Chihuahua mythology must be extreme. (Or, again, you’re in the mood for a 90-minute break from dealing with kids, which is far more likely.)
Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3: Viva La Fiesta is a bright, sometimes loud, manic experience. It’s a film that is comfortable transitioning from a sequence where a dog is able to play a detailed piece of classical music in front of a crowd at a restaurant, to a montage of the most groan-inducing musical puns to a father-daughter scene that’s meant to be touching and heartfelt. It is, in short, extraordinarily silly and juvenile. The film may well appeal to little kids and to the most extreme of dog lovers. But others may just be left stunned, unsure of how to respond to this goofy little movie.
— Josh Spiegel