It boasts no huge names. It lacks the cool-kid pedigree of Pixar. Hell, its lead isn't even a purebred. But Beverly Hills Chihuahua is shaping up to be the surprise hit of the fall. Why?
No offense to costar Jamie Lee Curtis, but it's the dogs. Disney's new live-action film about a pampered 90210 pooch (voiced by Drew Barrymore) who gets lost in Mexico will likely be the latest in a long line of flicks routinely ignored by critics and media, but embraced by moviegoers especially those with kids. Think Alvin and the Chipmunks. The Game Plan. Even Wild Hogs.
The Chihuahua obsession began back in May, when a teaser attached to The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian made kids squeal with glee. Shortly thereafter, awareness skyrocketed. Says a marketing executive from a rival studio: ''I'm jealous, and I wish we had it.''
Insiders are predicting a $25 million bow on Oct. 3, but others are thinking bigger. ''Shark Tale opened on this date back in 2004 to $47 million,'' says the exec. ''Maybe this could get there.'' That's a tall order, but George Lopez, who voices the other main canine character, has a sizable Latino fan base that's expected to come out strong. ''This could go well beyond a Disney audience,'' says Chihuahua producer John Jacobs. The studio isn't talking publicly about sequels, but it will likely do so if the public feels some puppy love.