Cuddly animal movies are review-proof by definition; they're meant to short- circuit reason and home in on the part of your brain that likes fuzzy things. But The Adventures of Milo and Otis isn't content to be cute. This ersatz, Japanese Incredible Journey reaches such a pitch of frenzied adorableness that vvewers over the age of three are likely either to back away gagging or melt into a warm puddle of baby-animal overdose.
Written and directed by Masanori Hata, a naturalist and author of children's books, the film follows Milo, a plucky kitten forever getting into trouble, and Otis, a mush-faced dog who takes on the responsibility of being Milo's protector. When Milo is swept downriver, Otis follows, and the two learn survival techniques and basic social graces while meeting other cute members of the animal kingdom.
A huge box-office hit in Japan, Milo and Otis has been revamped in two ways for its U.S. release. First, Dudley Moore has dubbed in a cloying, drunken- uncle narrative track. Second, and more important, scenes that were reportedly quite violent have been cut. The Japanese film industry has a reputation for animal abuse, and some of the things they've left in seem questionable (would you send a kitten over a waterfall in a box?), so you may not be inclined to give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt.
At least not for a movie this sticky. Milo and Otis is an okay babysitter for the very, very young, but for anyone who truly loves animals it seems pretty fishy. C-