Top Cat: The Movie – Review

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC Top Cat: The Movie - Review

The names William Hanna and Joseph Barbera are huge in the animation world. Creating icons of animation since the 1950s, their characters became engrained in the childhoods of many and are still regularly featured on Cartoon Network for the next generation of children to become familiar with the beloved stars of yesteryear. It makes sense, then, to bring the most popular Hanna-Barbera creations to the silver screen every once in a while, particularly after the commercial success of 2010s Yogi bear. The only problem however, is to decide whether to breathe new life into these traditional characters; modernising them to align with modern audiences or whether to maintain a sense of nostalgia; presenting these characters in the same way that made them so famous in the first place. Unfortunately, Top Cat attempts to do both but succeeds in neither, creating a curious mish mash of conflicting ideas that doesn’t quite know whether to be a throwback to the glory days of Hanna-Barbera or a modernised take on a classic.

Beginning like the Top Cat cartoon of old, the movie opens with a traditional montage of TC doing what he does best; scamming his way through New York City with confident swagger as the mischievous yet loveable back street alley cat. As a heady wave nostalgia sweeps over courtesy of the memorable theme tune and classic animation style, the early signs are indeed positive. Unfortunately, as the music stops and the film gets going, any expectation that this big screen adaptation would do ol’ TC justice steadily begins to dwindle.

The movie sees Top Cat and his gang of misfit felines, Benny, Choo Choo, Fancy Fancy, Spook and Brain, face off against a new narcissistic police chief who isn’t too happy with TC’s shenanigans or Officer Dibble’s inability to control him. As the new chief, Strickland, aims to police the city with an army of robot minions, it’s up to Top Cat and the gang to help Officer Dibble take his rightful place as New York’s chief of police. The characters themselves are lovingly portrayed like they always have been. The design of everything, from the grimy alleyways to the gang themselves, appear pretty much exactly as we remember and are a respectful nod to William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. Aesthetically, then, the film really does hit the mark. Maintaining the visual charm of the original TV show, the 3D is subtle but effective, with traditionally crisp and colourful 2D illustrations popping out above the rendered 3D backgrounds. It is actually quite refreshing to see the instantly recognisable Hanna-Barbera style relatively untouched in a modern world where detailed CGI and mo-capped animation is the norm. Alas, as classic as the visual style of the movie is, everything else fails to maintain any sort of appeal. Admittedly, the story is far from groundbreaking, but as a film aimed solely at the children, it’s fair to expect such a bare bones hero versus villain tale complete with nonsensical hi-jinx and simple physical humour. There is however, a lack of appeal for the parents who will be forced to sit through 90 minutes of regurgitated jokes and annoying character voicing.



With studios like Pixar setting the standard for storytelling nowadays, the story Top Cat: The Movie tells and the jokes that litter it just don’t seem relevant anymore. A more telling factor for this notion is that in a screening filled with children juiced up on free cartons of Um Bongo, I didn’t hear one shred of laughter at any point. These kids were either the most well behaved bunch in all the land or the humour they were being force fed just isn’t funny to them. As a result, it just all felt a tad patronising. It was clear that a few jokes were lost in translation (the film is actually Mexican and did perform well in its native country), but a curious inclusion of an unexplained solar eclipse gag that made no sense and a villain that is downright annoying made it seem that the writers were scraping the very bottom of the comedy barrel in their attempt to revive TC as a comedic property. To help masquerade an inability to make Hanna-Barbera feel relevant, the film is bafflingly awash with an unnecessary and incessant inclusion of modern gadgetry that is just thrown in to say, “look, Top Cat can live in the 21st Century”. Overall it just seems a very half hearted and cheap attempt to modernise a classic. Shamefully name checking GPS Trackers, MP3 players and a constant reference to modern surveillance is just bizarre more than anything, especially since the setting, characters and even design is all so respectfully portrayed in an old-school 60s style.

Essentially the film is 90 minutes of jokes lacking any real humour, a littering of absurd anachronisms and an animated villain that is one of the worst I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a shame really that Top Cat and his gang are lost in this alternate 1960s limbo. TC and his gang deserve better. **

Top Cat: The Movie will be released nationwide on June the 1st.


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