Tuesday’s Overlooked: The Truth About Cats & Dogs (1996)

My selection for this week’s addition to Todd Mason’s Overlooked Films series takes a look at the 1996 romantic comedy, The Truth About Cats and Dogs, directed by Michael Lehmann (Heathers) and starring Janeane Garofalo, Uma Thurman and Ben Chaplin.

In this modern take on the tale of Cyrano de Bergerac, Garofalo is radio show host Dr. Abby Barnes, who when not offering her listeners veterinary advice, is quite the well-rounded, cultured woman – she reads great books and plays the violin. It is during one of these calls that a listener, Brian (Chaplin) becomes quite taken with her and decides to pursue her.  Not confident enough in her own appearance, she describes herself as her tall, dreamy and dare I say beautiful, neighbor Noelle (Thurman) – who let’s say is a little less about the world than her accomplished neighbor.

I will not ‘spoil’ too much of the plot except to say that (as you can probably imagine) one thing leads to another, leading to a quite interesting denouement …

What I like about this film is Janeane Garofalo’s performance. Her deadpan delivery may not work for all but it definitely works for me. And in a world where almost anything seemingly passes for a romantic comedy, this is a film that has enough substance to go along with all the extra trimmings I expect when I sit down and catch a rom-com.

Now that is not to say that this film is not without its flaws (it surely is). For one (at least in my opinion) it relies heavily on the premise that Garofalo is not attractive (which I think she is in the film) and that Thurman is the epitome of gorgeousness. Obviously these are both very subjective lines of reasoning that you either accept or dismiss; if you can, go ahead and enjoy!

(want further proof of how much I liked this film? in college I had the poster affixed to my dorm-room door!)


  1. This is an adorable film. Agree with you that it was Garofalo that made the film. She’s excellent here!

    Wish more romcoms these days were this much fun.
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  2. Patti Abbott says:

    A truly enjoyable film.

  3. Spot on Iba – only in Hollywood would the very fetching Garofalo somehow be considered physically unnatractive. It’s a very sweet and often very funny film though – I re-watch this one very happily and often, without any embarassment whatsoever.
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  4. Hey for once I have actually seen the movie in your ‘overlooked’ series! I owned the movie too, part of a dvd set I got from Target 🙂 I quite like this one, Ben Chaplin is so gorgeous, I wish he’s cast in more movies!
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  5. I really liked this movie when I saw it on cable a few years ago. I thought it was a pretty cool update of Cyrano de Bergerac…and Ruth I always wonder why Ben Chaplin doesn’t work more
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  6. Belatedly, another vote for Garofalo…in fact, as vastly more attractive than Thurman, particularly at this time in all of our lives, for me. About as inexplicable in the insistence as the recent attempt to convince us that Kristen Stewart is in any way more beautiful than Charlize Theron…another film which suffers from such obvious wrongheadedness at its core!
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    • As a short brunette, i like this comment 😉 I also want to say, I don’t get the hype around Kristen Stewart as an actress, can someone enlighten me, maybe suggest some viewing? Not snarking, I really feel I am missing something.
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      • I think a lot of hype is ginned up because studios want a marquee name to draw the crowds in. Why they selected her especially I do not know. Maybe they were hoping off the mega success of the Twilight series she would have a built in audience willing to see her in just about anything. As far as I can tell the problem with that line of reasoning is that I am not sure how sympathetic or connected fans felt with the Bella character.

  7. Yep, I’m with you on this one too. And Garofalo is great.
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  8. I liked this too, Iba. I also agree with your assessment of Garofalo’s looks. She is not only much more interesting looking than Uma, she is more interesting – period.

    But you know, let’s be real. Men are not necessarily looking for ‘interesting’. 🙂

    So yes, I did feel the slightest bit uneasy about the whole premise.

    Still, on the whole, it was a fun romantic film.
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