John Debney has written some highly entertaining scores for comedy, or family, films. His music for Hocus Pocus, Little Giants and Liar Liar offer some of the composers' best music in the genre. However, his score for Cats & Dogs, although with some good material, fails to impress. Mostly because it's so incredibly schizophrenic and chaotic. When it comes to sound and style, this is typical Debney comedy music. Brassy, bouncy and lively and diverse. It's actually a little too diverse and leaning a little too much on slapstic and mickey-mousing. Musical ideas planted are never allowed to grow. What starts out as an excellent theme or motif are all too soon interrupted by totally different material. And sometimes a totally different genre of music. All making it hard to really concentrate on the music for a longer period of time. Over all it makes for an exciting listen, but one can't help to feel a little shizoprenic and frustrated.
Groovy "making plans" music with tongue in cheek references to Mission: Impossible and James Bond can be found in a large number of cues ("Main Title", "Meet Mr. Tinkles/The Formula" among others). Coupled with extensive use of electronics this gives the score a very high tech sound at times, which often feels very appropriate, and also quite attractive.
The highlights are the more gentle cues, such as the charming "The Neighborhood", which offers some happy, feel good, small town Americana music. I have always been a big fan of that kind of scoring. There is also some slower, more relaxed music in "Lou the Dreamer", introducing a gentle and attractive theme for Lou, the films' main character, but that's pretty much it. The reason, of course, being the nature of the film. This is a type of film that rarely allows the composer to focus on soft, melodic writing and coherent musical ideas, since every action on screen "have" to be accentuated by the music. It's also music that often works better in the film, than on CD, since so much of the music and its unexpected twists and turns just doesn't make sense on its own.