The Truth About Cats & Dogs

The Truth About Cats & Dogs is a 1996 American romantic comedy film directed by Michael Lehmann, starring Janeane Garofalo, Uma Thurman, Ben Chaplin and Jamie Foxx, and written by Audrey Wells. The original music score was composed by Howard Shore. Upon its release, the film garnered favorable reviews, with many critics describing its theme(s) as a modern reinterpretation of the Cyrano de Bergerac story.

The Truth About Cats & Dogs
A poster with Garofalo and Thurman's faces smiling in the sky above Chaplin as he is pulled along by a dog wearing roller skates on a leash
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMichael Lehmann
Produced byCari-Esta Albert
Written byAudrey Wells
Music byHoward Shore
CinematographyRobert Brinkmann
Edited byStephen Semel
Noon Attack
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • April 26, 1996 (1996-04-26)
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$34,073,143 (US)


Abby Barnes (Janeane Garofalo) is a veterinarian and host of a radio show called The Truth About Cats and Dogs. Photographer Brian (Ben Chaplin) calls into her show for advice, and unexpectedly sends her a gift and calls her at work to ask her out; she agrees to meet. Her insecurity about her appearance leads her to lie to him over the phone and describe herself with the physical features of her neighbor Noelle (Uma Thurman). She stands him up. After intervening in an argument between Noelle and her abusive boyfriend Roy (James McCaffrey), the two women become friends. Brian shows up unexpectedly at Abby's work at the same time as Noelle, and Abby convinces her to pretend she is Abby.

Abby adopts the persona of Donna, friend to Noelle (posing as Abby) and the two begin spending time with Brian together. They invent a story that Abby uses a different voice on the radio than in real life. He is physically attracted to Noelle, but notices that "Abby" has a distinctly different (and decidedly less intellectual) personality in person than on the radio and phone. When he calls the real Abby to ask her out again, he asks her to use her "real voice" and the two spend nearly twelve hours on the phone getting to know one another.

The two women decide to tell Brian the truth by way of Noelle showing up at his home while Abby is live on the radio, but when Noelle arrives, she is entranced by the many kind things he says about her personality and intelligence (even though he is actually talking about Abby.) She fails to tell him the truth, which nearly causes a rift between the women, but ultimately Noelle realizes that flattery about someone else may feel good in the moment but isn't authentic. She takes a two week modeling gig out of town in order to put space between herself and Brian.

Noelle returns and tells Brian to make a list of the things he loves about Abby, and to meet at the real Abby's apartment that night. He does, and reads the list to the real Abby. The first few things on the list are about Noelle's appearance, but then the list evolves into more important things about Abby that Brian has truly fallen in love with. He professes his love through the bathroom door thinking the "real Abby" is bathing inside, but gets no response. He then notices flyers for a charity event Abby is attending, complete with her photo, and realizes the truth.

Abby later approaches Brian at his bar, apologizing for her deceit and explains what really happened. Although initially dismissive, he eventually meets with Abby again and admits he has fallen for her and was only attracted to Noelle because of their deception. He suggests they start again, and Abby happily agrees.



Many film reviewers found a similarity to the 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand, with Abby as the talented but "ugly" Cyrano, Noelle as Christian and Brian as Roxane.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7]

Uma Thurman said about the ugly-versus-beautiful theme, "We probably keep going back to that idea because there's a whole industry that needs to sell a lot of products that wants us to think that the outside is the important part. There's a war going on. The inside's not as commercial as the outside. People are so affected by how they're received in the world, and some or all of our first experiences are based on how we're externally judged. The conflict between the inner and the outer is a constant battle everybody experiences on lots of levels."[8]


The film received positive reviews from critics. It has an 85% "fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes from 47 reviews. The site's consensus states: "Sharp, witty, and charming, The Truth About Cats & Dogs features a standout performance from Janeane Garofalo."[9]

The reviewer for The State Journal-Register (of Springfield, Illinois) wrote that the film...

is a modern-day fantasy, to be sure -- a movie based almost entirely on one long, not particularly credible misunderstanding. But don't think too hard, or you'll underestimate this fragile little movie's bite, which is... The stubby, feisty and, of course, not at all unattractive Garofalo and gangly, not-as-dumb-as-she-seems Thurman make for very appealing odd fellows as they inhabit the sunny Santa Monica landscapes and chic apartment settings... Cats & Dogs gets a little goofy, but stays within its limits. For actress Garofalo, who confidently spits out words like 'misogynist' and 'biosphere,' it should be nothing short of a launching pad. When the skeptical, challenging Abby confronts one of those laminated, condescending, jargon-spouting cosmetics saleswomen, we see a star in the making. Holly Hunter, watch your back. And short, smart and just-regular-looking girls everywhere, rejoice.[10]

The Boston Herald reviewer named the film "the romantic comedy of the season."[11] The Fresno Bee called it "an offbeat charmer."[12] The Hartford Courant said, "This movie asks all kinds of questions about the defenses people put up and what they really have hiding inside."[13] Many reviewers criticized the idea that Garofalo's character was expected to be viewed as unattractive, finding it unrealistic due to the actress's natural beauty.[10][14][15]

Although the film was a decent commercial success, in later years Garofalo was not proud of the film, saying...

I think it's soft and corny, and the soundtrack makes you want to puke, and everybody's dressed in Banana Republic clothing. The original script and the original intent was very different than what it wound up being when it became a studio commercial film. It was originally supposed to be a small-budget independent film where there would be much more complexity to all the characters, and Abby and the guy don't wind up together at the end."[16]

Several years after the film's release, Garofalo became an actual radio talk show host — something she'd maintained for years in interviews that she wanted to do[citation needed] — when she co-hosted The Majority Report on Air America Radio.

Box officeEdit

The film recouped its budget.[17] It grossed about $34,073,143 in the United States by 11 August 1996, and a bit more overseas.[18]


The Truth About Cats & Dogs
Soundtrack album by
Various Artists
ReleasedApril 2, 1996
ProducerHoward Shore
Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic      [19]

The Truth About Cats & Dogs is the soundtrack from the 1996 film The Truth About Cats & Dogs, released by A&M Records in 1996. The album features a variety of music such as rock, R&B, and pop.

Track listingEdit

  1. "For Once in My Life" – Dionne Farris
  2. "Caramel" – Suzanne Vega
  3. "The Bed's Too Big Without You" – Sting
  4. "Angel Mine" – Cowboy Junkies
  5. "This Road" – Squeeze
  6. "Give It Everything" – Al Green
  7. "I Can't Imagine" – Aaron Neville
  8. "Run-Around" – Blues Traveler
  9. "Well I Lied" – Robert Cray Band
  10. "Where Do I Begin" – Jill Sobule
  11. "You Do Something to Me" – Paul Weller
  12. "World Keeps Spinning" – Brand New Heavies
  13. "Bad Idea" – Ben Folds Five
  14. "Cats & Dogs" – Howard Shore

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Guthmann, Edward (September 13, 1996). "Garofalo's a Find in Cats & Dogs". San Francisco Chronicle. p. D18.
  2. ^ Cornell, Christopher (September 13, 1996). "THE TRUTH Will Set Cyrano Free". Lexington Herald-Leader.
  3. ^ Toppman, Lawrence (April 26, 1996). "Cats and Dogs is CYRANO Light (and Bright)". The Charlotte Observer. Charlotte, North Carolina: The McClatchy Company. p. 4E.
  4. ^ Connelly, David (April 26, 1996). "Cats and Dogs reverses genders in Cyrano classic". Mobile Register. Mobile, Alabama. p. E1.
  5. ^ Peterson, Deborah (April 26, 1996). "A Sassy, Sexy Switch On the dynamite". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. p. 3E.
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (April 26, 1996). "This Version of Cyrano Has Humor As Well As Sweetness". Press-Telegram. Long Beach, California. p. W6.
  7. ^ Abedon, Emily (April 25, 1996). "Cats and Dogs takes a bite of Cyrano". The Post and Courier. Charleston, South Carolina: Evening Post Publishing Company. p. E6.
  8. ^ Kopp, Craig (April 25, 1996). "M-m-m-m-m- - Uma - She's in a new movie with a moral". The Cincinnati Post. p. Metro 12.
  9. ^ Rotten Tomatoes
  10. ^ a b Povse, Paul (May 2, 1996). "IN TRUTH, IT'S MAINLY THE PLAIN JANE WHO REIGNS". The State Journal-Register. Springfield, Illinois: Walt Lafferty.
  11. ^ Verniere, James (April 26, 1996). "Cats and Dogs unleashes a new star". Boston Herald. p. Scene 3.
  12. ^ "Best Bet". The Fresno Bee. Fresno, California: The McClatchy Company. September 13, 1996. p. G1.
  13. ^ "THE TRUTH ABOUT MEN, WOMEN, PETS". Hartford Courant. Hartford, Connecticut. September 8, 1996. p. G10.
  14. ^ Beale, Lewis (April 25, 1996). "Not-So-Plain Janeane Garofalo THE TRUTH Is, This Standup Kinda Woman Is Looking Good In New Film". New York Daily News. Manhattan: Mortimer Zuckerman. p. 55.
  15. ^ Pearlman, Cindy (May 2, 1996). "The Truth About JANEANE GAROFALO - It Hasn't Been Quite a Dog's Life So Far, But The Actress-Comedian Is Ready To Shed Her Chubby-Chum Image For Better Movie Roles". Sun-Sentinel. Fort Lauderdale, Florida: Tribune Company. p. E1.
  16. ^ Robinson, Tasha (2003-12-24). "Janeane Garofalo". The A.V. Club.
  17. ^ "'The Craft' Has the Knack for Scaring Up an Audience". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-03.
  18. ^ "Box office / business for The Truth About Cats & Dogs". International Movie Database. Retrieved February 10, 2013.
  19. ^ The Truth About Cats & Dogs at AllMusic

External linksEdit