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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Disneyear: Oliver and Company (1988)

Based very loosely on the Charles Dickens tale of Oliver Twist, Oliver and Company was the last film made during Disney's Dark Ages and the film that kind-of sort-of brought back the musical format. It opened with financial success, but critics attacked it like a  cat on a rat. Despite it's success at the box office, it never got a home video release until 1996. I really don't remember too much about except for a few things like that Billy Joel dog and one of those songs, but I'll get to that later. Let's see if we really are in good company with Oliver and Company.

In modern day New York City, a kitten is all alone with no family. That is until he meets a stray dog named Dodger (played by Billy Joel) and is later invited to join his gang of street dogs. They're all "owned" by a bum named Fagin (Dom Deluise) who gets himself in a bad deal with a loan shark named Sykes. Fagin has only three days to repay his dept or else. So he and the dogs go around finding things that could possibly be sold for money. On his first day, the kitten and a chihuahua (Cheech Marin) try to hijack a limousine, (just go with it...) but find out that a little girl named Penny is inside it with a limo driver. She adopts the kitten into her very nice home and names the kitten Oliver. She also has a poodle played by Bette Midler who gets quickly jealous and tries to get rid of him. When the gang gets Oliver back, they find that Oliver was happier there. Fagin finds him and figures that he can use Oliver as a "hostage" to get some reward money from Oliver's rich family. Penny finds Fagin in a pier and out of sympathy gives him back despite his desperation. However, Sykes is there too and kidnaps the girl for the money. The dogs, Fagin, and Oliver of course rescue her and part their ways afterwards.

You know... after The Great Mouse Detective and Who Framed Roger Rabbit back to back, Oliver and Company is pretty underwhelming. I don't remember too many characters, songs, or anything that fantastic about it. Even as a kid, I forgot that I even watched this film. The only part of my childhood that remembers this film are the toys that were made along with it. As an adult, it sort of feels like a marketing tool. Especially with the Billy Joel dog.

Ever have this growing up? I know I did!
Also, if you're like the original story of Oliver Twist, you're going to be pretty disappointed too. For one, it's set in 1980's New York instead of Charles Dickens' time. Oliver's not a boy, he's a kitten and Dodger's an adult dog which feels weird to me because the two are supposed to be the same age. And if you're going to tell the story of Oliver Twist, why not just tell the story of Oliver Twist? Why make in modern times? Why make them animals? Why movie, why!?! The villain is also not that great either. I remember nothing about him except how he dies.

But there's still a few things Oliver and Company has to offer and one is that damn, catchy song in the beginning. This is the only song that sticks with me even to this day. I can't get it out of my head! I guess the songwriters had this one hit and exploited it like mad! Cheech Marin has some really funny lines, and that sketchy style of animation has more of a home here. It matches the style of the backgrounds, which look like etchings of New York you see in an art store. From what I hear about New York, it also sort of catches the spirit of the city pretty dead-on.

However, Oliver and Company is surprisingly forgettable. It's just a mediocre film with average animation, mostly forgettable songs except for one, a predictable plot, and cute just to be cute. Not the worst, but nothing to really go crazy for either. I guess if you like cute animal movies, I guess this film would be right up your alley. But if you want a film with more depth, better characters, better songs, and a better plot, I suppose this one would be okay to gloss over. But don't worry. The next film I'm reviewing will grant that wish.


Pokey said...

Justin, I know that it was an obvious mistake, but the little girl's name is not Penny, it's Jenny.

Justin Smith said...

Oh wow. How did I mess that up? Thank you Pokey. I just laughed when I realized this.