I grew up reading Charlotte's Web and watching Mister Ed and the Francis (the Talking Mule, with Donald O'Connor) movies on TV, so I have a very warm spot in my heart for talking animals. They can inspire wondrous flights of fantasy, lift the spirits with good-natured humor, and lead to a deep and abiding respect for nature and the environment.
Of course, watching the Yogi Bear cartoons once made me think I could take on a black bear foraging for food at our family's camping site in Yellowstone National Park -- I was six years old and had to be physically restrained -- so I can see the down side as well. Still, dozens of animated films have made it abundantly clear that it's possible to lend human voices to the animal kingdom without dumbing the material down to idiocy and, when done right (Babe, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, Joe's Apartment), live-action talking animals also deserve to be a treasured part of our cinematic heritage.
But not these. Here are seven (mostly) live-action movies featuring talking animals that attack our sense of what makes a movie good.
7. Underdog (2007)
When Hollywood screws around with my cherished childhood memories, I strain to give them the benefit of the doubt. There's no excuse, though, for this abomination of a movie. I realize that Wally Cox's dweeby voice would be impossible for someone else to replicate, but Jason Lee? Really?! A huge chunk of the original cartoon's charm was the very simple (cheap) animation, which relied upon the writers to come up with witty things for the actors to say. None of that was transplanted to the live-action movie and I can't imagine any children looking back fondly upon this version of Underdog in the future.