10 Weirdest Live-Action Talking Animal Movies (Now That the Cringe-Worthy ‘Dolittle’ Is in Theaters)
When it comes to family films, there’s no weirder subgenre than that of the talking animal movie. Although talking animal movies date back to the early days of Hollywood, the subgenre has remained an industry staple ever since. While trends have come and gone throughout the decades, the ’90s were undoubtedly the golden era of the talking animal film. At the same time, it also yielded some of the weirdest oddities that one can imagine. With another of these oddities, Dolittle, finally seeing a cringe-worthy release, there’s no better time to look back on some of the weirdest talking animal movies to ever grace the screen.
Cover Photo: Universal Pictures
Definitely a good idea: Robert Downey Jr. Will Talk to the Animals in New Doctor Dolittle Movie
On paper, Babe seems like the type of movie that could never work. It’s a film that tells the story of an orphaned pig who is raised as livestock but wants to do the work of a sheepdog. It's produced and written by George Miller and stars a cranky James Cromwell. In other words, it’s a super weird idea for a movie. As it turns out, however, Babe is not only one of the sweetest talking animal movies ever made, but also the only one to snag a nomination for Best Picture.
‘Beverly Hills Chihuahua’
Although Beverly Hills Chihuahua was a big box office success when it first came out, the film is more of a direct-to-video movie that just happened to feature famous people and get a theatrical release. Ironically enough, both of the film’s sequels ended up being exactly that. Nevertheless, it’s hard to believe Disney released a movie about a rich, pampered Chihuahua who gets dognapped in Mexico and is forced to escape an evil Doberman with the help of a German shepherd. It’s essentially a movie about a Paris Hilton-esque character wrapped in the guise of outdated racial stereotypes.
‘Cat in the Hat’
Of all the talking animal movies that have ever seen the light of day, Cat in the Hat is by far the weirdest. In the wake of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Hollywood was eager to get another Dr. Seuss property off the ground. So what happens when you decide to adapt The Cat in the Hat with Mike Myers in full cat prosthetics and a first-time director and infamous production designer Bo Welch? The result is something that can only be described is an acid-trip fever dream that is wrapped up in the guise of being a children’s movie. Watch Cat in the Hat stoned and you won’t be disappointed.
In a world where superhero movies dominate the cinematic landscape, it’s kind of a miracle that something like G-Force even exists. The story follows a special team of guinea pigs (along with a mole, who is voiced by Nicolas Cage) that also happen to be secret agents. They are aided by advanced technology that allows them to communicate with humans. While G-Force may not be the best animated movie of all time, it’s a fascinating exercise in how Sam Rockwell can almost single-handedly save a movie with pure charm.
‘Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey’
Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey is perhaps the prototypical model for a successful talking animal movie. Cater the story to families and children, hire a bunch of famous people to voice the animals, and hire a first-time director to put it all together. It’s a familiar model that most talking animal movies share. And yet, Homeward Bound is so well executed that it’s hard not to deny the universal appeal of a movie that (at least on paper) should be immensely cheesy and rote.
As much as the previous entry serves as the prototypical talking animal movie, Joe’s Apartment is an atypical one. The debut movie from a little-known production company called MTV Films is easily the most disgusting movie on this list. For those who haven't seen it, Joe’s Apartment follows a group of talking cockroaches that live in a grimy, rent-controlled NYC apartment. Honestly speaking, any movie that uses the tagline “sex, bugs, and rock n’ roll” is probably sending a red flag. Regardless, Joe’s Apartment is the only talking animal movie that features a musical number with dancing cockroaches. Seriously.
‘Garfield: The Movie’
While Garfield: The Movie is less of an oddity in terms of its weirdness, it’s much more of an anomaly than anything else. Aside from being a notoriously bad film, it’s far more famous for somehow acquiring the legendary talents of Bill Murray to voice the titular character. According to legend, Murray only took the role because he thought that Joel Coen wrote the script. As it turns out, Joel Cohen, who is not one of the Coen brothers, wrote it. The rest is history – and absolute trash.
The Entire 'Air Bud/Buddies' Franchise
Although the first Air Bud came out all the way back in 1997, it has spawned perhaps the unlikeliest talking animal franchise of all time, including five movies in the original franchise, seven spinoff films, and two prequels. While the franchise is pretty much the living embodiment of direct-to-video mediocrity, the fact that there are so many entries makes it one of the weirdest. Who thought that a movie about a dog that plays basically every sport known to man would strike a chord with audiences?
In the realm of talking animal movies, 1998’s Paulie often gets forgotten. It’s not a great movie, or even really a good one for that matter. It’s mostly just average. However, it’s the only talking animal movie that essentially features a stand-up comedian in the titular role as a talking parrot. While this doesn’t make the movie any better, it does make the movie far less of a children’s movie than the premise would imply. In short, Paulie is the type of movie that is far more pleasing than it has any right to be.
Marmaduke isn’t as much of a weird oddity as much as it is just plain bad. Whoever thought it would be a good idea to get Owen Wilson to voice the titular Great Dane should probably be put in director jail. Oh, wait, never mind. Despite having respectable actors like Lee Pace and Judy Greer, there’s nothing about this movie that is redeemable. It's straight-up bad -- unless you love scatological humor. Then Marmaduke is totally for you.