The Top Cat theme tune is undoubtedly the most memorable aspect of Hanna-Barbera’s classic TV cartoon series, more so than the actual alley antics of con artist moggy Top Cat (TC) and his oddball pals. While it’s obviously nostalgic to see the cool character brought to life on the big screen in somewhat dubious ‘3D’, director Alberto Mar’s story does little to please older fans further beyond the initial thrill of seeing the gang – TC, Benny, Fancy-Fancy, Choo-Choo, Spook and Brain – reunited with Officer Dibble. Thankfully, there are plenty of animated feline personalities for the younger generation to relate to – and subsequently, pick a favourite from.
In the movie, the cats are up to their old tricks, including tormenting Officer Dibble. But after Dibble is overlooked for the new police chief role, and the dastardly, self-loving, technology-obsessed mogul Lou Strickland gets the plum job instead, TC and co find their plans temporarily derailed. TC then gets thrown into a doggy jail for allegedly stealing from orphans, leaving his pals without their natural leader and in total disarray. As tyrant Strickland tries cleaning up the city with his robotic army, with a little female feline help from TC’s love interest – and Strickland’s ex PA – Trixie, the gang goes about setting wrongs to right.
One thing fans will appreciate is the original drawn quality to the animated characters that has been recreated here. There is also the striking similarity to the original voices of the lead characters, predominantly provided by Jason Harris who gives his all to a lacklustre script by voicing TC, Griswald, Strickland, Choo Choo, Brain and Big Gus. The Spanish to English dub has paid attention to how the characters look and sound to instantly appeal – it’s just a shame some parts are out of sync. The 2012 movie lacks the spirited vitality of the original too, and TC and friends simply look out of place in a modern-day, technology-filled world of mobiles etc. Although these aspects are designed to update for and register with the new generation, it just feels totally alien for loyal fans.
However, sticking out like a sore paw from the start are the same 2D-drawn figures placed against a more traditional CG 3D background that just doesn’t mesh well – much like watching a paper finger puppet show set within its own 3D theatre. It’s made worse for the eyeballs adjusting by the layered effect of the sharper outlines of the characters against the blurrier surrounding 3D space. Admittedly, doing the animation any other way would mean a completely different looking TC. As a lot of the action is from left to right, or just static, it does raise the question of how necessary the whole 3D offering is, just for the sake of being ‘in 3D’.
Top Cat returns with a purr rather than a MEOW, sorely let down by its odd technicalities and lack of engaging script. The kids at the screening really wanted to get involved in the kitty adventure, as there are some half-decent personalities to root for – based on some excitable reactions. TC and gang may be temporarily flavour of the hour, but without much to sink their claws into in this story, could soon be resigned to the alley dustbins in favour of more viewable, modern-day animation of late.