Cats & Dogs [2001]

One of the most memorably offbeat romantic comedies of the 1990s begins when a talk-radio veterinarian named Abby (Janeane Garofalo) takes a call from Brian (Ben Chaplin), the owner of a roller-skating Great Dane. Brian is intrigued by Abby's voice and asks if she'll agree to meet him. Insecure about her looks and her nonexistent love life, Abby agrees, but describes herself as a tall blonde, then begs her attractive neighbor Noelle (played by Uma Thurman) to meet with Brian in her place. The ensuing case of switched identity is complicated when Noelle takes a liking to Brian who, of course, thinks she is Abby. This confusion gains comedic momentum when Abby safely plays herself on the radio and in a long, hilariously seductive phone call with Brian, but by now the situation has grown hopelessly complex, and Abby has to find a way to reveal herself without disappointing Brian. Many viewers rightly complained that the movie relies on the assumption that Abby is unattractive, even though Garofalo is more attractive and appealing here than she'd been in several movies before and since. Still, this contemporary variation on Cyrano de Bergerac is a lightweight, good-natured surprise that values the quirks and foibles that make lovelorn romantics (including their pets) uniquely appealing. --Jeff Shannon

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