If nothing else, "The Truth About Cats & Dogs" may serve to introduce the moviegoing world to Janeane Garofalo, who has labored as the bright spot in movies that have not exactly shaken up the box office.
Garofalo was the wickedly witty best friend of Winona Ryder in "Reality Bites" and she played Randy Quaid's "blind date from hell" in "Bye Bye Love" - and both films became quite energized whenever she appeared on screen. (Check them out if you're in the mood for video comedy some night soon.)
Unfortunately, her first starring role is in "The Truth About Cats & Dogs," a weak variation on "Cyrano de Bergerac," with Garofalo playing the sharp-witted veterinarian/daytime talk-radio host of a popular program about pet care.
When she gets a call from a charming young photographer (Ben Chaplin), he becomes interested in her and asks if he can meet her in person. Naturally, the short, overweight Garofalo describes herself as a willowy blonde, and she must then enlist the aid of her neighbor, Uma Thurman, a ditsy model with no self-esteem.
Together, they deceive Chaplin, as Thurman pretends to be Garo-falo and Garofalo tags along as her producer. As you might guess, the deception becomes thicker as both women fall for Chaplin and must decide who he really loves - the intellect and personality that is articulated to him over the phone or the face and body of the beautiful woman he sees.
What may have been intended as door-slamming farce, however, is only intermittently funny, and there's a surprisingly cruel edge to the proceedings, as the good-natured Chaplin is manipulated by these women. (And the film's centerpiece sequence - an extended scene that has Garofalo and Chaplin having phone sex and then talking all night - is surprisingly explicit for a movie rated PG-13.)
There are some humorous moments (Thurman's readings for a news-anchor audition are quite good) and a couple of funny sight gags (as when Thurman turns the head of a bicyclist and literally stops traffic) to be found here, but first-time screenwriter Audrey Wells and director Michael Lehmann ("Heathers," "Hudson Hawk," "Airheads") deliver far too many clunkers along the way.
And that's too bad since the cast is quite appealing, and the self-effacing humor of Garofalo and Thurman's impersonation of an airhead make them a most enjoyable team.
"The Truth About Cats & Dogs" is rated PG-13 for sex, profanity and vulgarity.