“I wanted to make Beverly Hills Chihuahua because I thought it had a really positive message, like how we judge people before we know them, and how we judge cultures before we’ve lived in them,” says producer David Hoberman of Mandeville Films. And since it is predicted that Latinos will in a couple of decades be the majority of folks who call themselves Americans, Mr. Hoberman makes a good judgment. The faces of America are changing and so films need to reflect our diversity.
The movie in question, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, concerns Chloe, a pampered pouch that gets lost south of the border and learns some life lessons while she tries to get home. After telling my fellow critics I was off to L.A. for its press junket I was met with scoffs and assumptions that I had lost a bet. I wondered myself if I could find something of substance in a film with the fluffy title Beverly Hills Chihuahua that would persuade editors to pay me for my critical assessment. If you’re reading this, well I guess those editors bought my pitch.
Make no mistake, it is fluff. Fluffy fluff. It is, however, the kind of fluff that entertains and teaches an often overlooked audience – the wee ones. Writers Analisa LaBianco and Jeff Bushell have penned a script that registers with little kids trying to cope with the bigness of the world. What’s more, the screenwriters do so while showcasing dogs of all breeds. In other words, their film embraces all races and shows the wonder of different ethnicities and cultures. Sounds pretty good to me.
Ms. LaBianco says, “The theme is that we are all more than what we appear to be. There’s something universal to the story. In therapy, doctors use puppets to talk to kids, ‘Here’s your stuffed animal, so tell him what’s wrong.’ I think the reason kids are responding so well to screenings, is because they identify with the little dog. They’re little too.”
Adds Mr. Bushell, “When you’re a kid, things are ominous and scary. That’s part of Chloe’s journey. She doesn’t feel like she has any power. And then she learns from these mystical wild Chihuahuas that she actually has this big bark and can be a presence. And that for kids is hugely relatable. Because they are smaller.”
Actors Drew Barrymore, Andy Garcia, Piper Perabo and Jamie Lee Curtis were drawn to the project because it was loaded with assertive teachings such as finding your voice (learning to make yourself heard), caring for others, and sacrificing your wants for the needs of others.
Manolo Cardona, who plays the male human lead, loves the film’s Disney classic theme. “The trainer found Papi at the pound and literally saved him from being put down the following day. And now he’s the star of the movie. And he lives on a ranch. It shows that anything can happen, if you believe.”
And George Lopez, who plays Papi, a Chihuahua from the other side of the tracks and the adorer of our canine heroine, was thrilled to be associated with a film that presented positive images of Latin life. “In any culture, the further generation’s get away from their heritage, the less people want to know about their grandparents’ stories and even the language. I have a daughter who is 12 and she doesn’t speak Spanish and I don’t know how we let that happen. But we’re going to try to correct it. She loved the movie and I think in talking to her we have a reference point about the importance to remain culturally aware. You don’t have to walk around with a flag, but knowing where you came from is important,” says Mr. Lopez.
“It’s a great Disney movie because of the themes of tolerance, self-worth, and finding who you really are inside,” producer Hoberman concludes. Or as Papi asserts, “We’re Mexican, not Mexican’t.”
Read Phil's complete review of Beverly Hills Chihuahua HERE.