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Oliver and Company Review

 

Oliver & Company (1988) Review

 

What do I know about the film?

 

Ah 1988. What a year. With a USA Presidential election, terrorist attacks sending panic throughout the world and the Olympics games taking place…What a time to be alive.

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And then of course I was born. Yes. Cokie Blume entered the world (and yes I know I have disclosed my real name on here and most of you know me personally anyway but let’s just pretend neither of those are facts and humour me) in early 1988 and with them was born an insatiable appetite for popstars masquerading as cartoon dogs. And lo, did Disney deliver.

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This is Billy Joel. As a dog. Billy Joel Dog.

But first, as with our previous 2 reviews, let us discuss what was happening over at Don Bluth Headquarters. Don Bluth’s posse was undeniably strong at this point. His new feature, The Land Before Time, had two of the biggest players in Hollywood history behind it with George ‘Star Wars’ Lucas and Steven ‘every film ever’ Spielberg as producers. With this kind of backing the dinosaur adventure Bluth created was epic in every sense and with a huge hit already under his belt he must have been feeling pretty cocky. Cocky enough to go up against Disney on the same opening weekend.

But Disney had a plan…Prolific voice actor Dom DeLuise appeared in very nearly every Bluth film, particularly in the 80’s…But Disney pilfered him from Land Before Time to appear in Oliver & Company. So let’s recap: Bluth had Spielberg and Lucas and Disney had DeLuise…

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Too close to call…

 

Critically The Land Before Time obliterated Oliver & Company with the overall consensus being that The Land Before Time was beautiful and thought provoking while Oliver & Company was a low effort merchandise generator. Ouch.

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What? Dogs just like McDonalds…You shut up…

Money wise it was a bit closer: Land Before Time won the battle of the opening weekends going straight to number 1 with Oliver languishing at number 4 but Oliver made more money in total domestically when all was said and done. That is if we don’t include the seemingly never ending sequels the Land Before Time generated.

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Does the Ice Age never arrive in this timeline? And they accused Oliver of being the money vacuum…

Disney even went as far as to rerelease Oliver in direct competition with a new Bluth film further down the line with the aim of once again outdoing him in the bank department. It was an out and out war and I fucking love it. Sure, it is less Hitler and Mussolini vs Churchill and Roosevelt, more the Sharks vs the Jetts in West Side Story. If Jeffrey Katzenberg and Don Bluth ever met in the street I am sure they just danced at each other. With Deluise sobbing in the middle…

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Can’t we all just love each other?

Overall I would give yet another point to Bluth, making it 3-0 at our latest count. But it’s not over yet folks. Disney were boosted by the domestic box office results and announced plans to release an annual animated feature for the foreseeable future therefore doing away with the long gaps in between films that had dragged 80’s Disney down. Good news then yes? Although you might suspect there will be a drop in quality with that kind of time pressure on them…

Right?

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I’m so fucking stoked…

It feels odd to be talking about the best of animated Disney, Spielberg produced movies and 1988 without mentioning the critical darling that is Who Framed Roger Rabbit? The cinematic masterpiece that arguably began the period known as-But let’s save all that for next time. Because this is about films produced by the Walt Disney Animation Studios only and not about the time I was four years old and I realised what sex appeal looks like without really understanding what that meant or why I felt funny:

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Literally impossible standards of beauty-Away with you!

So forget the small waisted animated women with amazing hair for a moment: We have a half baked Dickensian adaptation to watch!

 

Did I see it as a child?

 

Oh hell yes. I was obsessed with one of the songs in it and performed it constantly for a period of time. I remember I loved the way the dogs jumped from car to car and I used to act out the song in question at my local park jumping from different parts of the climbing frame while singing loudly doing my best to be cool. It kind of worked until the inevitable clang of me tumbling from the monkey bars.

I often acted out films and stories with other people in my class and it was suggested by someone on one occasion that we do Oliver & Company. By the way this wasn’t a recess thing: Our teacher would let us leave the classroom to rehearse and we would take up class time with the actual performances too. And they were not short. It is a wonder I learnted anything. Alas, alack, our production of Oliver & Company was not meant to be as Olivia Cameron and I got into a fierce argument over who would play Georgette and some things were said that couldn’t be taken back (Well she might have been prettier than me but she didn’t have my acting chops and everyone knew it…) and so we settled on a performance of Hocus Pocus instead and the idea was lost forever. Which was a damn shame. Although my work as Ice/Thackery Binx in what I am pretty sure was a 4 hour performance of Hocus Pocus (the kid playing Max didn’t know her lines) was superb.

 

Synopsis:

 

We open on a scratchy looking New York and a box of kittens that are being sold despite the fact nobody appears to be around to do the whole exchange of goods for cash thing but no matter, that’s the Big Apple innit? There are loads of taxis, tall buildings and boxes of cats as far as the eye can see. So all the kittens are camping it up in the hope of being chosen but naturally the passers by by pass the ginger cat Oliver in favour of the blue cats of the litter because holy shit it’s a blue cat:

 

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But the night grows cold and dark and soon Oliver is left alone with nothing but the waterlogged remains of the box and the disembodied voice of Huey Lewis for company-Huey Lewis assures him everything will be fine but Oliver is not convinced.

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After meeting Billy Joel Dog (His name is Dodger in the actual real life film but I will continue to call him Billy Joel Dog because I can) Oliver helps him with a sausage stealing caper that is deemed successful in spite of the fact the sausages are dragged through wet concrete and all over the sidewalks during a boisterous musical number.

 

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You know what? I’ll pass. Wasn’t hungry anyway.

But When Billy Joel Dog lives up to his actual name and dodges out of sharing, Oliver follows him back to his house and meets the gang of dogs he lives with and their owner Fagin who sends his pets out everyday to steal enough good stuff to pay off his extensive debts with a loan shark…

Ok…This is the part where adapting a story about humans into a story about dogs throws up some questions…This seems like a flawed business model to me. How does owning and caring for 5 dogs who are willing to roam the streets during the day = profit? Well apparently it doesn’t because the mafia boss in question Bill Sykes, here represented by a big jawed bald dude who smokes comically large cigars, makes it clear that Fagin only has 3 days to come through with the dough or else…

 

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And all that implies…

So Oliver, keen to fit in, agrees to turn to a life of crime but about 8 minutes into his first day he messes up and ends up stuck in a car with a small girl named Jenny who takes an instant liking to him and he to her.

So now he faces an agonising choice…Which family will he choose? The gang of dogs he has known for about 14 hours or the lovely little girl he has known for about 26 minutes?

Oh and will Fagin get his kneecaps broken by Sykes in the slightly more adult plot next door?

 

What Works:

 

They say you don’t know what you got till it’s gone. Seriously. Everybody says that. I think it is a human rule that you have to say it at least once a decade in some wistful context or you get evicted from Earth. But in this case the longing in my heart wasn’t awakened until what was taken from me was returned. While others may argue an alternative case, my feeling is that this is the first Disney musical since Robin Hood. That was a lot of films ago. And while every film since has had merit (And Black Cauldron was also there) and even a few songs, it wasn’t until I sat down to Oliver & Company that I truly appreciated how much I fucking love a Disney musical.

The soundtrack is impressively rangy in style too. Late 80’s pop, rock, blues, a big Broadway number, simple sweet piano, and, of course, the symphony of wonder that is the city of New York itself. Normally this would feel a bit forced but each song works with the artist it is given to and adds to the story successfully or, if not, pads it out in a suitably entertaining way. They brought in some heavy duty song writers to get the mix right ranging from the eternal Barry Manilow to piano man Billy Joel (did I mention Billy Joel is in this?) to the legendary lyrist Howard Ashman who will be back before this project is over. And the voices they were writing for? We are talking Ruth Pointer, Bette Fucking Midler, Huey Lewis and, of course, Billy Joel.

It was a joy to see the care that went into creating the soundtrack even if not all the songs are equally appreciated by me. ‘Once Upon a Time in New York City’ is a bit corny and ‘Streets of Gold’ is cut short just as it is getting going which is a shame. ‘Perfect Isn’t Easy’ is a great showcase for Bette Midler’s creation Georgette and ‘Good Company’ is one of the most effective relationship building songs Disney has ever done…But before we get to talking about those scenes we have to talk about Billy Joel Dog.

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The film doesn’t really exist until Billy Joel Dog shows up. He talks like every late 80’s/early 90’s cool guy (‘You’re not being fair! ‘Fares are for tourists kid!’ Ooh burn!) and struts all over New York like he owns it, jumping from car to car, being mean to a small cat, sexually harassing girl dogs, singing while his mouth is closed in one shot, conjuring previous Disney dogs through the power of cool alone, stopping traffic for a dog parade, and playing a moving piano and…This is all in a 3 minute song. It is ridiculously awesome.

And the song? I love it. Always have, always will. When I first got a portable music playing device it was the 3rd or 4th song that went on it. True story. Full disclosure: I’m an adult. But God save me, I love pretending to be a strutting dog in New York with a pair of stolen glasses, a string of ruined sausages and a dudetastic attitude that would make Sonic the Hedgehog, the Ninja Turtles and the Fonz all go ‘No. That’s too much sass now’ When I hear ‘Why Should I Worry?’ I forget that I hate everything. It is so cheesy. But I can’t not.

I am not sure if I even care much for the character of Dodger in the grand scheme of things. He is fairly clichéd (he is a bad boy who is actually caring and good, quelle surprise!) and not as interesting to me as the out for himself kid in the Carol Reed adaptation of Dickens’s classic tale. But Billy Joel is gung ho in his reading of the awful quips and ‘Why Should I Worry?’ is enjoyable enough that I don’t care what happens after it in all honesty.

But, in time honoured tradition, I will review the rest of the movie. Let’s take a break from the music and talk animation. It is a largely good looking film and, as with Great Mouse Detective, it gently hints to the more sophisticate visual story telling Disney would very soon be moving to if you know what to look for. Director, animator and artist George Scribner showcases some seriously cool camera shots that make what is a fairly basic story (cat moves house a few times, some shenanigans ensue) seem considerably more action packed.

I love the way New York is depicted in the opening and closing shots:

 

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The setting is used well as a background character. It isn’t all tall buildings and bright lights, it is kind of dirty and noisy with cabs as far as the eye can see and Oliver & Company portray this with pride.

 

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Some of my favourite scenes/shots? Ok! When Oliver falls off the piano during ‘Why Should I Worry?’ I always gasp. Everytime. Don’t worry, some tomatoes break his fall and he is fine and dandy. The perils of gravity are inconsistent in the Disney universe.

Ditto electricity in this film but we will get to that later…

When Jenny is performing ‘Good Company’ at the piano, Oliver is leaping all over and the camera spins round them in a way that just feels very natural and not at all showy but is still kind of impressive. It really feels like it paved the way for the dancing scene in Beauty and the Beast. I have never looked this up and just choose to believe it did. It is a lovely sequence anyway and I especially like that bit. Good Company has a pretty melody and the bonding of the two characters is very simply played in a way I find kind of moving. I didn’t go as far to cry or anything but I felt warm and fuzzy and temporarily thought I might want a cat.

Then there is Georgette, Jenny’s poodle, making her spotlit descent down the stairs at the end of her musical number, a moment that was so unexpectedly sophisticated visually speaking that my viewing partner announced: ‘It’s like something out of The West Wing…But with slutty dogs’ This remains one of my favourite soundbites of all time, not that I advocate shaming dogs for their promiscuity of course.

 

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Bitches be like…

Georgette, is played by the hammy Bette Midler to great effect. I can’t think of an equivalent character in the story of Oliver Twist but she isn’t totally without a purpose. Her role is to be a secondary antagonist and move the plot along by returning Oliver to Billy Joel Dog and friends because she hates having to share her stage/owner with him. She then transitions with fairly little fuss into being a goody but it doesn’t bother me that much because the film is better for having her in it, character inconsistencies be damned.

People like to give Aladdin credit for starting the boom of celebrities bringing their chops to animated movies but Midler turns in a solid comedy turn here. The material is somewhat weak at times but she sells it. I especially like the way she says the word ‘bark’ rather than actually barking.

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Disney are not exactly shy when it comes to including dead parents in their films but rather than offing Jenny’s parents so she can partake in animal antics without their inconvenient protection, Disney opt instead to make them neglectful as fuck which makes her instant bonding with Oliver and her devastation over his disappearance genuinely effective.

The Parents are not in the film and leave Jenny in the care of Winston who appears to be a butler of some sort. He assures Jenny in her first scene that he is confident her Parents will return from their trip in time for her birthday…but his face tells another story…He knows they will continue to let her down and Jenny is pretty despondent about the whole thing. In most kids films the parents would make it home in time for the third act but in this film? Nope. They don’t get back for her birthday despite saying on the phone to Winston that they were on their way after a quick stop off in Rome. Which is all well and good but they have still missed their young daughter’s birthday and not only that…Either Winston and Jenny don’t bother to mention the whole kidnapping ordeal Jenny goes through or her parents don’t consider this a good enough reason to come home as fast as humanly possible…Either way…Jesus.

Jenny’s enthusiasm for Oliver (The ‘Good Company’ montage suggests she is still singing the song about what great pals they are 3 days in to his arrival which speaks to her commitment if nothing else) is quite endearing and I think the actress Natalie Gregory and the animators did a great job making her vulnerable during the scenes where she is roaming the street with her piggy bank trying to get her cat back.

Interestingly the original plan was to bring back Penny from The Rescuers in this movie which…nope. I am so glad they didn’t make this Penny’s ending as that would have been too dark-She finally gets adopted after years of being overlooked/forced into child slavery and then they dump her with their butler while they go on the road leaving her to long for the days when all she had was vermin for company? Too mean Disney! I am not sure why they changed their mind…Was it that it would be too brutal to have Penny be kidnapped a second time? Also what happened to her pet cat from that movie? Were we to understand that he had died and that is why she is so keen to have a new one? And why can’t she hear animals talking in this film but she could in the Rescuers? Wouldn’t that mess with a kids head if one day you could chat away to mice and cats and then suddenly radio silence? Whatever the reason they redesigned the kid to give her a more hip look (are those stick on earrings? I hope they are stick on earrings.) and changed the name from Penny to Jenny (inspired) and I think she was better for it.

Speaking of the human characters, one thing that has changed for me over the years is my view on Fagin. As a kid I viewed him as an antagonist. I am not sure if it was the design or his initial plan when Oliver comes back to hold him for ransom but I sure as Hell found him creepy as a scrappy youngster. I don’t think I went as so far to boo when he came on screen but I had limited time for his bullshit. These days I find him a lot more sympathetic if a bit baffling. Sure he is kind of cowardly around Sykes and whines a lot about his circumstances but there is a fundamental decency that isn’t present in the source material (the anti semantic message from the book is thankfully absent unless there is some subtext I am missing) that create some great character moments. While I make fun of the whole getting your dogs to steal for you thing he does treat them as loving pets more than employees. After his unfortunate meeting with Sykes where he learns he only has 3 days to pay him back he is touched when his dogs show concern and he immediately softens and they all settle in while he reads aloud what appears to be some kind of dog porn they all enjoy.

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Fagin’s attempt to solve his problem via a pretty amusing ransom note (‘Dear very rich cat owner person…’) leads to a couple of moments of humanity that stood out to me on viewing the film as an adult. He might not stand up to Sykes but his practice speech before he stutters and panics through the real thing feels realistic because it is a familiar problem. His silent but angry response when Billy Joel Dog is attacked by Sykes’s own dogs suggests a back bone forming and it is pretty heart warming to watch his conscious get the better of him when his own life is on the line. As soon as he realises that Jenny is just a kid with shitty parents and there is no big pay off coming he reunites her with Oliver. Sure he fails to confess his part in her misery and is unable to keep her from being abducted by Sykes but he in many ways is just as vulnerable as her only he doesn’t have a butler looking after him. You get a sense he formed his ‘gang’ via street dogs because he doesn’t know how to interact with humans and while this is not the main focus of the story and might be me reading too much into it, I thought this was a nice touch.

Fagin is a guy with no education, money or prospects who eats dog biscuits and got in way over his head. It is hard not to feel sorry for him and Dom DeLuise does a good job of selling the different shades to such a sad character without making it too depressing.

I like that they made an effort to make the human characters more than background players. The A plot might be Oliver finding his way in the world but Jenny and Fagin are heavily involved in that narrative and interact with the animals in a way that you don’t often see in a film like this. They don’t get tossed to the side like the humans in 101 Dalmatians and Lady and the Tramp when the ‘real’ adventure begins…It is their story too and so they are rounded characters that are well animated and well performed.

I think it is telling that the scenes without the talking animals still work and still engaged me as a viewer. While logically a lot of what the humans do don’t make much sense, in the context of a cartoon where a dog can leap from the top of moving car to another moving car without getting splatted it is a nice touch to go beyond the cute factor of the animals and have the poor but warm and rich but lonely characters have personality.

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So Oliver gets sent packing by Georgette who facilitates his “rescue” by the gang but, unlike my synopsis suggested, there is no dilemma for Oliver and he insists he wants to be with Jenny leaving Dodger believably hurt. Fagin sees Oliver’s fancy collar and drops off a ransom note and meeting spot at the address on the tag leading to Jenny setting out in the dark to set the finale in motion. Sykes snatches the kid when he sees Fagin’s heart has grown three sizes and, even though I was hoping Winston was about to go all ‘Man on Fire’ on Sykes, the gang band together to get her back instead leading to possibly the most well regarded scene in the film.

While the actual rescue is pretty routine (there is even the classic fake pizza delivery bit, but God save me I love that) the subsequent chase scene through the graffiti coated subway system leading to the Brooklyn Bridge is pretty great. The film disposes of the villains in a solidly brutal fashion with Syke’s dogs getting electrocuted and Sykes himself getting struck by a train just as the others manage to inexplicably escape. It is over pretty quickly but it is a satisfying sequence if only for the classic ‘villain loses his cool’ moment as Sykes stops being a man and becomes a monster: Driving his fancy Cadillac scraping and screeching through the underground, destroying the gear stick, smashing through the window with his bare hand to grasp at the terrified kid on the hood of his car…I love it when previously slick villains start to lose their shit.

The film knows what its strongest asset is though: It ends on a reprise of Why Should I Worry? as Billy Joel Dog and the gang zip in and out the New York traffic singing loudly about how ace it is to be poor. This scene is the manifesto of the movie. A largely non threatening, family friendly version of New York inhabited by a rag tag gang of animals delivering an upbeat melody that stays in your head long after the credits stop rolling. And yes. Whether you like it or not, and I LOVE it, that song will stay in your head.

I wish the same could be said for every aspect of this film…However…

 

 

What Doesn’t Work:

 

This is one of the those films where the strong moments (clever shots, good tunes, cool chase scene) seem to be balanced out with elements that are hardly worth commenting on. Nothing bad exactly. But when there are moments in a film which hint that there is interesting talent working on it who want to make something good and worthwhile but then ¾ of the film is made up of lazy/safe/forgettable/filler it is all the more frustrating. It is like you can hear the producers looking at their watch and going: ‘I have dinner reservations at 7…can we not just have Cheech Marin’s character get electrocuted in a comedy way even though electricity will be dangerous later and do a funny line before passing out?’

Let’s start with the doggy gang. So, by my memory, we have Einstein who is stupid. I see what they did there. Francis who is like Frasier Crane but a dog. Rita who…is a girl. She has a couple of lines and a bit of a song. She appears to have a history with the baddy dogs, Roscoe and DeSoto, which is kind of cool…She is nearly interesting but doesn’t get enough screen time. And then there is Cheech Marin Dog aka Tito. Just…No. Not funny.

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The success of comic relief characters comes down to personal taste but Cheech Marin Dog didn’t really do it for me. He is not even as annoying as Black Cauldron’s Gurgi (in fairness I have been in traffic accidents funnier than Gurgi so that point barley counts) he just thoroughly failed to amuse me. I thought Bette Midler’s attempts to inject worth into lines like ‘I broke a nail!’ were fair and Billy Joel Dog had his moments almost entirley due to how ridiculous he was a concept: A cool dog with a neckerchief, bad puns and the voice and piano skills of Bily Joel will always be joyful. Sorry.

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But the film relies too much on Cheech’s fast talking wise cracks being funny and they just aren’t. A half hearted attempt at flirtatious banter between him and Georgette was especially grating as it is one of my least favourite tropes-You know, when the female character (usually female anyway) claims she can’t stand the male but he persists in the foolhardy belief that she will admit her true feeling soon and he is usually right because the same person who writes his arrogant, creepy behaviour also gets to write how the other character responds to it. At one point Cheech Marin Dog literally says: ‘I think she likes me!’ just after being slapped for kissing her. And I groaned so loudly that you probably heard me.

Do you get what I mean? If you are going to do the same stuff that every other film does, people are going to struggle to remember your movie but if you don’t bother to come up with something better then either A) You don’t care about the quality of your work or B) You assume your audience wants something familiar and unchallenging so you swap creativity for stuff they can’t distinguish from a billion other films they have seen or C) You don’t have the time or budget to correct what isn’t working. Make your choice A, B or C. The end result is the same either way though.

Anyway, the gang as a whole don’t get developed enough or spend enough time with Oliver to justify their claim that he is family to them. He is with them for less than a whole day so any attempt to make this convincing involves quite the shortcut. Oliver being brought back is necessary to the plot but his reaction to it is a weaksauce attempt at conflict that doesn’t really lead to anything except Dodger sulking for a few seconds. After all, the film ends with Oliver getting to stay with Jenny and he and Dodger say a brief and pretty heartless goodbye (‘You’re ok for a cat’) and off he goes, his life the same as before Oliver was in it. It would seem Jenny’s generosity only stretches to the cat and not the clearly ill probably homeless man who just gave her a single shoe for her birthday but anyways, it’s fiiiine because why should we worry etc.

Now in defence of the film (I can feel the hardcore O&C fans sharpening their…what do losers use as weapons? Never mind…) the events of Oliver Twist happen pretty fast too-I am pretty sure Oliver ends up getting caught the first day he goes out on the job in the book so perhaps it was less about lazy story telling and more about being true to the source material…But in the book when Oliver is forced back to the gang it is certainly not because he is considered family. The Oliver in the book is only ever a tool for other, more intelligent characters to take advantage of whereas here we have to buy that they care about him and we have to care about that…It is a stretch is all I am saying. They don’t do a bad job of fleshing out some of the characters but we don’t spend enough time with Fagin’s gang to feel emotionally wounded by Oliver’s decision to stay where the money is.

Oliver is pitched as the lead character although you could make a viable claim for Billy Joel Dog being the one you are invested in. But Oliver’s name is on the poster so let’s just all admit he is kind of boring. The film can’t decide if he capable or not and it just means he has qualities that all screenwriters give characters they don’t know what to do with: He is feisty but easily startled, naive but won’t be pushed around, he can hold his own but needs to be looked after…Oh my God guys just pick a lane! His story is rushed as Hell and goes by so quickly that it undermines the suffering he endures in the first song. If the film committed to the fear and uncertainty in that opening number, he would have learned a lot more but actually…what does he learn? How does he grow? What is the point to any of this? He got lucky, then luckier still. That’s it. He appears to be about to go on a crazy adventures to earn his happy ending but really he just gets passed around until it is time for the film to be over.

I wasn’t sure where to place Sykes in this review. I like his death (What? The fear in his eyes was good and he went BOOM when the train hit him… Please don’t analyse me too closely…) and I guess he is believably intimating. However I think he comes under the heading of one of the least interesting Disney villains for me and as with the Horned King I am baffled as to how many fans he has online. Sure it is kind of cool to have a character just doing his job and not being evil by birth or through magic or anything like that but he isn’t fleshed out past having a couple of hobbies (he builds models apparently) and, again, none of his lines go beyond clichés and his motivation can be summed up thusly:

 

While Disney have always adapted very, very loosely from their source material I do feel the characters in this film are not as memorable as other versions of Oliver I have seen in part because they are a lot softer in nature despite the harshness of their surroundings. I would be willing to bet a lot of people who watched this film as a child don’t remember much about the individual characterisations as adults and there is a reason for that. There are a lot of clichéd tropes, predictable punch lines and obvious character trajectories that are pretty rushed and mean the emotional beats don’t land as well as they might if the pacing/script came out a little better.

For example, Sykes getting hit by a train is a great moment of ‘holy shit-did they just go there???’ that is instantly undermined by the seriously overdone: ‘Oh no-Is the main character dead? Sure looks dead…Better not check let’s just cry-Oh wait he’s fine’ trope. It seriously does my head in: When they write it in do they imagine any person in the audience is on the edge of their seat waiting to see if Oliver died or not? Or is it just another thing to tick off from their checklist of stuff that must be included in the final act of an animated movie when the running time is a bit short?

Oliver’s happy ending doesn’t come from any major sacrifice. There is no Nancy character as far as I can make out. Ok, maybe I should stop comparing the film to the book/other Oliver movies but there is a reason I keep returning to that well: They use a lot of the same names and story beats as the Dickens novel but have abandoned so much of what made that story compelling which leaves me with the question: Why bother?

The idea of a doggy gang of criminals makes no fucking sense. I can understand a group of innocent kids being good cover for a crime gang but who isn’t noticing a Great Dane taking their wallet? No wonder Fagin was failing so hard at life.

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I just don’t get why they didn’t either make this an all talking animal story or a human only story or just abandon the whole Oliver Twist in New York with a Cat stuff all together. Perhaps if there had been less restrictions due to elements that had to be included to justify the adaptation they could have allowed themselves more freedom to be creative with how they told the story.

Dickens meets Disney could have been great. New York animals turning to crime meets Disney could have been great. What we got was entertaining enough and writing it off as a cash grab is certainly unfair. But there is a reason it has flown under the radar and is not considered part of the revitalisation of the brand: It takes more than a couple of tight songs to make a classic. Oliver may end the film with more friends than he started but he was never destined to be one of the popular kids.

That’s all still to come…

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‘You can’t sit with us!’

 

 

Conclusion:

 

 

It is a shame the final product is so middle of the road because some of the scenes (the subway chase, the Good Company segment) suggests there is a heartfelt and exciting story buried under the Cheech Marin shtick and the rush to get to the end. Overall it is demonstrably not one of the more memorable Disney films no matter what the rabid fan base shriek at you but it holds a special place for me due to the soundtrack alone.

 

 

Disney Nightmare Inducer Count: 4

Angry dogs chasing Oliver, Sad Billy Joel Dog noise, Dogs getting electrocuted and Sykes getting hit by a train…

Holy shit Sykes getting hit by a train is dark…Let’s take another look…

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Best Song:

 

While I actually think Good Company might be more deserving I have to give it to Why Should I Worry? I still think this might be one of my favourite Disney songs as it never fails to brighten my day.

 

Thanks Billy Joel Dog.

 

 

 

 

Next Time: Look at this film…Isn’t it neat? No Disney collection could be complete without The Little Mermaid (1989)

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