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Paws Review

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Zac is a 14-year-old ingrate who thinks his new stepfather is a loser (he is), and the family's newly adopted Jack Russell is a thieving pest (he isn't)…

★★★★★

By the time Babe removed his snout from the trough, he'd snaffled $240 million, a trick worth repeating. Here - another Australian film - it's a talking dog, but there the similarities end. Babe was set in rural anyplace, anytime; Paws is bang up to date and urban-specific.

Zac (Cavaleri) is a 14-year-old ingrate who thinks his new stepfather (Joe Petruzzi) is a loser (he is), and the family's newly adopted Jack Russell is a thieving pest (he isn't). Named P.C. by his previous owner - benign computer programmer Alex (Norman Kaye), who has since been killed in a road accident - the dog is a genius: within an afternoon, he's logged into Zac's computer and inputted the entire dictionary into a voice-decoder programme. (Best not question believability at this tender stage.) Barking into a mic and "speaking" through the machine, it transpires that the floppy in P.C.'s doggy backpack contains clues to the whereabouts of Alex's hidden fortune. Zac and his prissy new neighbour Samantha (Francois) must crack the code and find the money before Cruella De Vil type Anja (Sandy Gore) cooks them in a pot. Or something.

A piece of Children's Film Foundation-indebted fluff, sure, but it's enlivened by Billy Connolly - P.C. selects the voice with a post-modern "I've always wanted to sound like Billy Connolly!" - his bluff, brazen tones lend the pooch an insolent, adult personality. Such rude talk will delight a young audience, but it quickly drains Paws of its fairy-tale magic.

It's a fast-paced, knowing, sunny wee ride in which adults are dim and neurotic and animals know best, and Forrest, who plays P.C., is a Bonio-munching star. But the whole implausible, convenient computer schtick, though zeitgeist-appropriate, drags it down.

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