Call the humane society, Cats & Dogs: Paws Unite (2020) needs to be put to sleep.

An un-retrieved stick’s throw away from the likeable original and even the inferior sequel, this cheap and cheerless threequel borders on animal abuse and certainly qualifies as audience cruelty. That this ended up in theatres while other titles were shunted straight to streaming suggests that far from trying to save cinema, Warner Brothers were determined to finish the job “Tenet” had started.

Gwen the Cat and Roger the Dog are secret agents who covertly protect and save the world, under the auspices of the Furry Animal Rivalry Termination or FART (I shit you not) but when FART is taken down, it’s down to our furry friends to save the day and track down the dastardly villain who is determined to pit cats and dogs against each other once again.

Unlike the previous movies, this isn’t aimed at a family audience so much as it’s lobbed in the direction of those too young to know any better and the hacky, clumsy writing suggests it may have been written by that age group too. Of course, it’s meant to be a light-hearted bit of fun, but this time out the writers have chosen to really emphasise how super-racist the animal characters are. I mean, anthropomorphising animals is all very well but this borders on misanthropomorphisation. What played out as friendly rivalry in the other movies lands more like lazy racial slurs in this one.

Aside from the writing, there are so many terribly executed visual puns that rely on obvious footage manipulation, dreadful puppetry and the occasional shoddy CGI as well as an egregious overuse of YouTube animal clips to pad the running time and provide a backdrop for the exposition.

If you want to know how low this sequel sinks in its search for any kind of laugh, the antagonists who take on FART dub themselves the Pets with Out of the Ordinary Pedigree or POOP for short. There is, of course, a sub plot concerning the human owners of the animal pets, mostly in order to save money on expensive animal performers and effects but it does result in them becoming trapped in an elevator to deliver a clumsy anti-teens-on-phones after school special message and also introduces a need-to-pee dilemma giving us a scatological trifecta of puerile toilet humour. FART, POOP, pee. Oh my.

Lazy, trite, and concluding with a talky, poorly executed and largely actionless finale, this is the kind of movie that should never have found its way into cinemas at the best of times, let alone now when their very existence hangs in the balance.