|Film review: Top Cat: The Movie (3D)|
|Written by Ivan Radford|
|Monday, 28 May 2012 07:37|
Director: Alberto Mar
You've got to hand it to Mexico. They really love Top Cat. As in, they REALLY love Top Cat. Over the years, they have elevated Hanna Barbera's foxy feline to the status of full-on folk hero. Redubbed, reworked and retooled, Don Gato was possibly more popular south of the border than in his home country.
Perhaps it was natural, then, for Warner Bros. to get Mexican studio Anima to create a feature film update of the TV series. But the results are far from tip top.
Fans of the show may be put off by the movie’s visual style, which looks like a low-budget flash animation. There’s a reason for that: it’s a low-budget flash animation. But Anima’s creations are surprisingly colourful. Even the 3-D backgrounds sort of work behind the cutouts of the main characters.
The problem is that things are different. Top Cat’s (Harris) friends still get to call him T.C. but when they do, it sounds… weird. There’s no getting round it. Harris does a decent enough job mimicking Arnold Stang’s impersonation of the legendary Phil Silvers, but Bill Lobely’s Officer Dibble and Chris Edgerly’s Benny are way off. If Disney can get away with wrong-sounding Muppets, Warner Bros. have no excuse.
But it gets worse. That’s not that only thing they’ve changed. Yes, the cats’ alley is still there, complete with police phone, but now there are mobiles too, plus holograms and giant robots. I know what you’re thinking: surely any film with giant robots can’t be bad? My nephew’s lack of laughter for 90 minutes suggests otherwise.
Oh, there are lots of near-laughs, semi-smiles, sort-of-smirks, but nothing that's actually funny. When New York’s Chief of Police retires, Dibble thinks he’s a shoe-in for the job. Instead, the city is taken over by his evil (and ugly) nephew, Lou Strickland, who erodes all civil liberties with his high-tech policing.
“Dibble is a clown,” sneers Strickland. “Well, he has his flaws…” comes the reply. “No, I’ve literally turned him into my clown!” he retorts, before we cut to a shot of Dibble balloon modeling at a kids’ party. Technically, that's a good gag from writers Kevin Seccia and Timothy McKeon, but it falls flat on its face.
Let's not even mention the bit where they make a joke about Windows Vista.
Mexico’s production had the advantage of bringing back T.C.’s original voice artist Jorge Arvizu, while his brother Rubén re-wrote Seccia and McKeon’s script to make it relevant for the home crowd. And judging by the amount of money it made at the box office, he did a good job. Or Mexicans really like jokes about Windows Vista.
The result is a dreadful movie, but a curious landmark for cinema: not only the first family film to climax with bum rape (yes, really), but also Mexico's highest-ever box office opening. Plus it's a rare instance when a foreign dub of a US TV series works better than the American version.
How do you say “most effectual” in Spanish? Hopefully it rhymes with crap.