With Top Cat just recently celebrating the 50th anniversary of his television show’s premiere, it is an apt time for Hanna-Barbera to indulge in a little nostalgia for their feisty feline creation. Putting out bare bones slop like this, however, is not the way to do it. Inside of 90 minutes, director Alberto Mar nearly undoes any and all goodwill, managing to make us forget most of what is fun and lovable about the titular character amid a lame-brained script delivered in the most appalling 3D presentation imaginable.
It would be nice to say that the spunky characters and zany situations are what sticks out to the viewer in Top Cat: The Movie, but audiences will instead likely be left agape at the garish, laughably substandard 3D textures applied to what has always been a perfectly functional 2D outing. While Top Cat himself looks great, as do most of the other characters, everything else – specifically New York City – is rendered so flatly that the 3D uplift doesn’t just feel ineffective, it becomes an act of cynical effrontery.
Vehicles, buildings, lampposts and so on resemble pathetic stock models taken from a mid-90s PlayStation game, and incredulously, others don’t seem much more convincing than Pixar’s dated pre-Toy Story shorts. Clearly cobbled together on the cheap like recent animated 3D ventures Space Chimps 2: Zartog Strikes Back and Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil, there’s the distinct feeling that more money should have been spent on constructing a fun story than on 3D that is in this instance rather pointless. Here, an added dimension only helps drain the fun away, and leaves a more sour taste as a result.
The film is an extremely simple concoction designed with the very youngest children in mind, but that should not deny it the ability to be capable of quiet, dignified wit, like the recent Winnie the Pooh, for instance. Instead, the lovable simplicity of the Top Cat we knew has been supplanted with an invasion of modern technology that’s just as ugly as the ghastly animation; characters watch videos on their mobile phones, tickets are pre-purchased online, there are flat-screen TVs, and most embarrassingly, a reference to Windows Vista which, even for the purposes of the joke, has been an outdated OS for several years now.
Even discounting its feeble attempts to remain current, the plot itself is instantly forgettable, no more than a series of capers in which Top Cat and his chums try to score, while clumsy Officer Dibble serves as their foil. The tables turn when the despotic new Chief of Police turns New York into a strict, technocratic police state, and Dibble has to team up with Top Cat and his chums to save the day. Unfortunately, the silly situations and outlandish scams often do not even make much sense; at one point, there appears to be an attempt at social satire, but this is promptly abandoned mid-scene and never followed up on.
At 90 minutes in length, it is also far too long, and should have taken a page out of the Winnie the Pooh playbook. There’s more padding here than an NFL locker room, while at a lean 50 or 60 minutes, it might have been slightly more forgivable (if still pretty horrendous). Add to that some spatially confused animation and a climax that verges on nonsensical, and you have a film bound to baffle both undemanding children and their exasperated parents.
No child or parent deserves to be subjected to something so effortless and cynical. Top Cat: The Movie is a rarity; an almost completely mirthless, charmless animated film.
Top Cat: The Movie is in cinemas this Friday.