This week’s half-term family film release is Top Cat 3D. Today, Hanna-Barbera’s cartoon Top Cat is something of a cult phenomenon. Back in the 1960s, 30 episodes of the alley cats’ antics were produced and these have been repeated on the small screen ever since. This latest Top Cat venture was made in Mexico, where Top Cat is a huge hit, and dubbed into English for this release.
The first ten minutes of Top Cat is promising. There’s a retro ‘dog chases cat’ scene that ends up on a building site, with the characters traveling up and down scaffolding and through cement. All of this is accompanied by an excellent big band Top Cat theme tune. The next sequence, featuring a ruby laden maharaja, is equally old-school. The antics of Top Cat’s gang are also partnered with old fashioned sound effects such as screeching tyres as the cats’ running comes to a halt. In these early scenes, it’s almost refreshing to see something on the big screen that is so ‘back to basics’.
Unfortunately, nostalgia swiftly wears off when the main story is introduced. It centres on the evil Strickland who, despite being incredibly ugly, believes he is handsome – a recurring joke that tires quickly. As the new Police Chief, Strickland effectively becomes a dictator of New York City, replacing all Police with technology, robots and CCTV. In the meantime, Top Cat is set up for a crime he didn’t commit and sent to dog jail. The main problem is, there’s simply not enough material here to sustain the film for over an hour. The same jokes are recycled over and over again. In hindsight, Top Cat would have worked best as a series of linked shorts, as it’s early scenes suggested.
The best of Top Cat relies on TC’s trademark intelligence and plays on the fact that it’s an old-school cartoon updated for the modern day, with gags about mobile phones and computers. Sadly, this is not enough to carry the film. The 3D effect is unusual – the characters remain two dimensional, with the 3D being used to show distance and depth between them. At times this looks new and original, at others it looks cheap and inaccurate.
Strickland’s view that ‘technology solves everything’ certainly doesn’t ring true here. Bringing Top Cat into the 3D world has far from improved it, instead what the film needs is a stronger script with more jokes and more action. For parents, Top Cat could have provided the opportunity to share their nostalgia with the kids, instead Top Cat is a boring disappointment that fails to reflect the brilliance of the original.
For more information, please see Top Cat’s official website