Releasing “Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3: Viva La Fiesta” directly to DVD and Blu-Ray is an act of compassion. Parents are free of the obligation of sitting through this movie in the theater. Instead, they can insert this disc into the player and disappear while the children eat it up.
Not that “BHC3″ is bad. It’s a cute movie. Typically, it is hard to go wrong when you have a movie about animals dealing with human issues. Make them live-action dogs or cats with human voices, and you can put together a workable movie that will delight children and minimize the groaning among adults.
Dana Starfield makes a screenwriting debut with “BHC3,” taking up the story of characters created by Jeffrey Bushell.
Rachel Ashe (Erin Cahill, who took over the role from Piper Perabo in “BHC2″) and boyfriend Sam Cortez (Marcus Coloma) both get jobs at the Langham Huntington Pasadena Hotel. Rachel is hired as a chef and Sam as the landscape architect. Naturally, they bring their extended family of dogs: Chloe and Pepi, now married, and their litter of five, along with Pedro the grinner (Ernie Hudson).
Chloe (voice of Odette Annabelle) is the only one fitting in at the hotel. Rachel is butting heads with an officious lead chef, Didier (an over-the-top Sebastian Roche) while Sam is straddled with a lazy assistant, Lester (Kyle Gass).
In the dog world, Pepi (George Lopez), has found a comfortable niche as a father to his five pups: Rosa (Kay Panabaker), Papi Jr. (Logan Grove), Pep (Emily Osment), Lala (Maddison Pettis) and Ali (Delany Jones). He is homeschooling his children but soon has that responsibility usurped when the pups enroll in the hotel’s doggy day school academy, run by the overly perky Jenny (Briana Lane) and the St. Bernard Oscar (voice of Jake Busey).
In addition, Rosa, the runt of the litter, feels left out and Pepi has to deal with boosting her sagging self-esteem. He decides to have a Quinceanera for Rosa, and enlists the help of bulldog Sebastian (Tom Kenny) to audition and book the proper music for the event.
Back at the hotel, the stressed out and pompous hotel manager Terrence Hollis (Cedric Yarbrough) has his hands full as the overbearing travel writer Amelia James (Frances Fisher) checks in to do a review of the hotel. She has a stuck up and spoiled dog named Charlotte (Lacey Chabert).
Pepi, with little to do, soon learns that Jenny and Oscar are up to something, but every attempt he makes to uncover incriminating evidence only gets him into more trouble.
There will be no surprises in this story. Pepi will redeem himself, the bad guys will be rooted out — marking the only appearance of Delgado the police dog, voiced by Miguel Ferrer — and Rosa will have an opportunity to show her formerly dormant fortitude.
Though mostly directed toward children, “BHC3″ does have some moments for the older crowd. In particular is the audition scene wherein dog groups parodying real acts are given a chance to perform: Black Labbeth, Houndgarden (dogs howling in a garden, apparently a big hit in Seattle), Bob Marley and Me, Lady Gaga and the Tramp and the Black Eyed Fleas.
Later, during the credits, members of Black Labbeth (in British accents) discuss other acts with such names as The Rex Pistols, Iggy Pup, Coldspay, Rage Against the Vacuum Cleaner and even get into the country western realm with Collie Parton (big fur).
With the holidays coming up, “Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3″ could be a nice little gift under the Christmas tree.