There are some truly wonderful movies about talking animals. Frank Miller’s Babe easily comes to mind as a prime example. But not every talking animal is lucky enough to work with the visionary director of Mad Mad: Fury Road. For some filmmakers, it’s far too tempting to stick to the cheap jokes and hire bored celebrities to provide voice-overs for the cutesy animals.
Often enough, that works. After all, there’s a fourth Alvin and the Chipmunks movie coming out this week. But some of the specimens in the great zoo of talking animal movies are even worse than that.
Here are Screen Rant’s 11 Worst Movies Starring Talking Animals.
11. Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007)
Tagline: Get your squeak on!
When their home, a tree, is cut down, a trio of chipmunks – Alvin (Justin Long), Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler) and Theodore (Jesse McCartney) – is forced to move to Los Angeles. There they meet a struggling composer named David (Jason Lee) and help him with their surprising talent for music. After the singing chipmunks become a global sensation – as they indeed are in our own world – an unscrupulous music executive (David Cross) tries to exploit them for profit. Will he succeed? Of course not! This is a children’s movie!
Alvin and the Chipmunks began in 1958 as a novelty record by Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. Over the last five decades, they released several albums and appeared in two animated TV shows. The first Alvin and the Chipmunks movie was released in 2007 by 20th Century Fox. Since then, three sequels followed: Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked and the upcoming Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip. It seems that the people just can’t get enough of the singing rodents and chipmunk-related puns.
10. Garfield: The Movie (2004)
Tagline: It’s all about me-ow!
Garfield premiered in 2004, with the titular grumpy cat voiced by everyone’s favorite sad-faced clown Bill Murray. In the movie, Garfield’s owner Jon (Breckin Meyer) accidentally adopts a stray dog named Odie while clumsily flirting with a veterinarian Liz (Jennifer Love Hewitt). Garfield hates Odie and tries to get rid of him but, over time, learns such un-Garfieldian qualities as love and selflessness. Two years later, adventures continued in Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties. In the sequel, Garfield travels to Great Britain where he gets mistaken for the aristocratic cat Prince XII (Tim Curry). This is understandable as, despite all of the talking animals in these two movies, Garfield and Prince XII are only two fully CGI-animated animals in the world.
Released in June of 2004 by 20th Century Fox, Garfield was the first live-action adaptation of Jim Davis’ long running comic strip. Despite receiving bad reviews, the movie was a smash-hit and a sequel followed in June of 2006. In an interview, Bill Murray claimed he signed on the first Garfield movie thinking that one of Coen brothers was working on it. That doesn’t really explain why he participated in the second one, but no one can blame the man for earning a paycheck.
9. Underdog (2007)
Tagline: One Nation, Under Dog.
It’s not often we get to see an origin story of a canine superhero (voiced by Jason Lee). While imprisoned in a lab of the mad scientist (Peter Dinklage) and his henchman (Patrick Warburton), an ordinary beagle accidentally gains superpowers. He escapes and hides at the family home of Dan Unger (Jim Belushi) and his son Jack (Alex Neuberger), who names him Shoeshine. But with great power comes great responsibility, so Shoeshine soon dons the superhero costume and becomes – Underdog!
Underdog was loosely based upon an animated TV series that was really popular half a century ago. Director Frederik Du Chau previously made a film about a talking zebra called Racing Stripes, thus proving he’s a true talking-animal movie professional. Underdog was released in August of 2007 by Walt Disney Pictures and reviews were bad, but the movie earned respectable $65 million (the budget was $24 million).
8. Marmaduke (2010)
Tagline: Live Large
Marmaduke (Owen Wilson) is a Great Dane living comfortably in the American Midwest. But when his owner Phil (Lee Pace) accepts a new job in California, the whole family has to move. Once there, Marmaduke meets a bunch of talking animals voiced by Hollywood celebrities such as Emma Stone and Sam Elliot. Soon enough, our canine hero struggles to win the heart of a Collie named Jezebel (Fergie) from her thuggish boyfriend Bosco (Kiefer Sutherland). In Marmaduke, CGI effects of animals talking land right in the so-called uncanny valley: they are too realistic to be cute or funny but just surreal enough to unsettle the grownup viewer. Kids won’t mind though. Probably.
Marmaduke is a live-action adaptation of a comic strip by Brad Anderson that’s been published for almost half a century now. Released by 20th Century Fox in June of 2010, Marmaduke made some profit but not enough to warrant a sequel.
7. Zookeeper (2011)
Tagline: Don’t talk to the animals… unless they talk to you first!
Forget about talking animals: this movie’s romance is far more improbable. The chubby and kind-hearted Griffin (Kevin James) somehow dates the beautiful and shallow Stephanie (Leslie Bibb). When he proposes to her, she snobbishly dumps him just because he’s a zookeeper, making one wonder how these two got together in the first place. Five years later, Griffin is still moping about this, but because the animals really like him, they decide to teach Griffin how to win Stephanie back, thus proving they lack the basic understanding of a healthy human relationship. Pratfalls ensue until Griffin realizes that his veterinarian gal pal uncannily resembles Rosario Dawson and happens to like him back.
Produced by Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison company, Zookeeper was released in July of 2011 by Columbia. It featured voices of numerous Hollywood celebrities such as Cher, Jon Favreau, Nick Nolte, Adam Sandler and Sylvester Stallone. Critically panned, Zookeeper was nevertheless a box office success.
6. Karate Dog (2004)
Tagline: A new breed of action hero.
If you ever wanted to see a kung fu fight between a CGI dog and an Academy Award-winning actor Jon Voight, Karate Dog is your movie. Peter Fowler (Simon Rex) is a police detective charged with solving a murder in Chinatown. His only witness is the victim’s dog, Cho Cho. But Cho Cho is no ordinary pooch. He’s trained in martial arts and talks like famous comedian Chevy Chase. Together, they fight the evil schemes of a villainous Hamilton Cage (aforementioned Jon Voight). Cho Cho also helps Peter to romance a beautiful police officer (Jaime Pressly).
Released in May of 2004, Karate Dog was made by Bob Clark – the versatile director of early proto-slasher Black Christmas as well as the teen comedy Porky’s. But his most popular movie by far is the holiday classic A Christmas Story, based upon short stories written by Jean Shepard. Sadly, Karate Dog was Clark’s last movie before his death in 2007.
5. Joe’s Apartment (1996)
Tagline: Sex Bugs Rock ‘n Roll.
Looking for a cheap apartment, Joe (Jerry O’Connell) moves into a derelict building infested with cockroaches. To his surprise, he discovers that roaches can think, talk and sing – albeit in annoying high-pitched voices. Being a natural slob, Joe is their perfect roommate. While looking for a job, he falls in love with beautiful Lily (Megan Ward), whose mean old senator dad plans to demolish Joe’s building. In a now familiar subplot, Joe’s repulsive buddies also try to help him win a woman of his dreams.
Released in July of 1996, Joe’s Apartment was billed as the first feature film produced by MTV. Directed by John Payson, it was based upon his earlier short film Joe’s Apt. Somehow, a movie featuring singing and dancing house pests failed to grab the audience. Joe’s Apartment went out with a whimper, earning only a third of its $13 million budget.
4. Tommy And The Cool Mule (2009)
Tagline: Not your average TALKING mule!
Tommy Braxxton (Grant Barker) has many problems: he’s bullied in school, his dad got killed in the war and he has a huge crush on the prettiest girl in class. To top it all off, evil land-owner Dodge Daviss (a cowboy hat-wearing Kevin Sorbo) wants to buy his family’s land. But help is on the way in the form of the rap legend Ice-T… as the voice of a flatulent mule called Jackie-A. Sass-talking and rapping, this veritable cool mule serves as Tommy’s mount in a climactic horse race in which he tries to win a prize and raise enough money to save his home. By this point it’s a bit embarrassing, but it really needs to be pointed out that Tommy and the Cool Mule also includes a subplot where the animal offers the human hero strangely assured tips about dating women.
3. Hot to Trot (1988)
Tagline: When I talk, you’re going to laugh yourself hoarse.
Only in the 1980s could Hollywood make a comedy about lovably incompetent investment broker. After his mother dies, Fred (actor and director Bobcat Goldthwait) inherits her half of an investment firm as well as a horse named Don. Fred’s stepdad (Dabney Coleman) tries to buy him out of the firm, but then, suddenly, Don starts offering Fred stock exchange tips in the voice of the legendary comedian John Candy. Soon enough, Fred is rolling in cash. By this point it should be obvious there’s also a subplot where Fred’s equine pal helps him woo firm’s secretary (Academy Award-nominee Virginia Madsen). Will Fred find love and happiness in his firm? How many horse-related sex jokes will the movie make?
Made and distributed by Warner Bros, Hot to Trot premiered in August of 1988. The movie was a monumental failure: it was panned by critics, bombed at the box office and even lost at Golden Raspberry Awards. It doesn’t get more humiliating than that!
2. A Talking Cat?!? (2013)
Tagline: none, but the movie’s title kinda works as a tagline, too.
Susan (Kristine DeBell) is a single mother trying to balance taking care of her children and managing her catering business. Phil (Johnny Whitaker) is a single father who sold his computer firm to have more time for his estranged son. Enter Duffy – a magical cat that helps people. Unfortunately, Duffy can only talk to people once. Which starts to make sense once you witness the laughable special effects simulating the cat’s speech. Duffy is voiced by an Academy Award-winning actor Eric Roberts. With titles such as Blood Red, Royal Kill and Hitman’s Run in his filmography, Roberts is the perfect casting choice for the voice of a cuddly, fluffy kitty.
A Talking Cat?!? was released direct-to-DVD in February of 2013. Other titles by the movie’s director David DeCoteau include A Talking Pony!?!, My Stepbrother Is a Vampire!?!, Beach Babes from Beyond and Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama.
1. Howard the Duck (1986)
Tagline: You will believe that a duck can talk.
Howard (Chip Zien) is an ordinary duck… at least on a planet entirely populated by anthropomorphic ducks. One day, he mysteriously finds himself on our planet. Using his smarts and a mastery of martial arts, Howard builds himself a new life here all the while looking for a way home. Howard the Duck is the only movie on this list that actually cuts out the middleman and has its animal protagonist directly romance a woman, thus making overt the weird subtext of interspecies romance that seems to pop up in these movies.
Howard the Duck was a science fiction comedy based upon surreal Marvel comic created by Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik. Released in August of 1986 by Universal Pictures, it crashed at the box office and became known as one of the worst movies ever made. One of the movie’s producers was George Lucas. In retrospect, Howard the Duck should have been a warning-sign to all Star Wars fans. Instead, they continued believing in Lucas until it was much too late.
What are your least favorite movies about talking animals? Share them with us in the comments below!