Sunday 17 December 2017

Wily cat loses his winning charm

Paul Whitington

Top cat

(G, general release, 91 minutes)

Director: Alberto Mar Stars: Jason Harris, Ben Diskin, Chris Edgerly, Melissa Disney


Some of you, like me, may cherish fond memories of the vintage kids' cartoon Top Cat. Made in the early 60s and shown in repeats for decades after, the cartoon (which was named 'Boss Cat' here and in Britain to avoid possible litigation from pet food producers) was closely modelled on the Phil Silvers Show and the character of Sergeant Bilko.

TC was a wily and charming alley cat with a gang of adoring acolytes whose get-rich-quick schemes were foiled by his jovial nemesis, Officer Dibble.

The series was no great shakes in the animation department and only ran for 30 episodes, but had a winning charm that was mainly down to the brilliant voice work of actors like Marvin Kaplan and Allen Jenkins. Top Cat is still rerun on kids' TV channels but might otherwise be forgotten were it not for its continuing popularity in Latin America.

'Don Gato' still goes down a bomb south of the US border, and this Alberto Mar feature was made in Mexico and later redubbed for English-speaking audiences.

While Top Cat prepares to scam a visiting maharajah into giving him some diamonds, an obnoxious inventor called Strickland is planning to take over New York City and turn it into a police state.

TC falls in love, is sent to a dog's jail and cracks wise for 90 minutes in a film that somehow manages to divest the original characters of all their former charm.

The animation is ghastly, the alley cats have no fizz, and if the script sparkled in the original Spanish, it has definitely lost something in translation.

Turning a rather slight 60s cartoon into a feature film that would survive in today's ultra-competitive animation market was always going to be a long shot, but this Top Cat revival fails miserably.

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