American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"The Truth About Cats & Dogs" is one of those warm-hearted, quick-footed comedies that's light as a feather, fueled by coincidence, and depends above all on the luminosity of its performers. Janeane Garofalo in this movie, like Sandra Bullock in "While You Were Sleeping," is so likable, so sympathetic, so revealing of her character's doubts and desires, that she carries us headlong into the story.
Garofalo plays Abby, a veterinarian who gives advice to pet owners over a talk radio station in Santa Monica, Calif. Her callers have the sorts of problems I suspect all pet owners secretly have. One is concerned about a cat, which won't stop licking its owner's face. Another has depressed fish. A third is trying to deal with a Great Dane on roller skates. The dog is a pretty good skater, but it has understandably grown disturbed, and won't let anyone near it.
This last caller is Brian (Ben Chaplin), and as he talks we see his Great Dane whizzing past on skates. It's the kind of surrealistic image that blindsides you; beyond language, beyond logic, it's intrinsically funny. As Abby dispenses advice about roller-skating dogs, Brian finds himself strangely attracted to her voice -- to its intelligence and tone, and to a quality that calls out to some need within him.
He asks Abby to meet him. "Why," she asks, "would I meet a listener I know nothing about except that he puts roller skates on his dog?" But there is something in his voice, maybe in his British accent, that appeals to a need in her, and God knows she's needy, since her social life is in disrepair. She agrees to meet him. He asks how he will recognize her. Abby is struck with an attack of insecurity; she doesn't think of herself as attractive, and so she describes a person who is her opposite: "I'm tall, and blond..."