The cartoon series `Top Cat' premiered in 1961, shortly after William Hanna and Joseph Barbera left MGM and created their own company. It was about a group of streetwise alley cats, led by the title character, that liked dreaming up schemes of swindling and putting one over on beat cop Officer Dibble. It was a good show, mostly because of the really clever lines of dialogue that the cats got to say, lines you would miss if you weren't paying enough attention. The only thing I dislike about the show is that I think it dragged because it took the whole half hour for one plot. The show's plots were often simplistic and not worthy of thirty minutes; instead, it would better have served fifteen for each plot. It was still good but, as one viewer put it, was `20 years before its time.' So why was this movie, `Top Cat and the Beverly Hills Cats,' made at all? Hop into your Wayback Machines and take a trip with me to 1987! The late seventies and early eighties saw a surge of specials and movies starring the famous Warner Brothers characters like Bugs and Daffy. Most of these were good and received a positive response. So leave it to Hanna-Barbera to not miss jumping on the bandwagon and hauling its dusty characters out of the closet. Scooby Doo would get three movies (the first good, the rest bad) before the decade was done. The Jetsons and the Flintstones would both get movies. Even Huckleberry Hound (whom I have always hated) would get one. And of course, there was overrated staple Yogi Bear and a conglomeration of characters that nobody really wanted to see together in a series of (lousy) movies. So even Top Cat got his own movie, which I thought was really great, since the characters have a lot of potential to entertain. Or so I was thinking until about ten minutes into this tragic misfire.
How it could have happened without someone stepping in and putting the brakes to it all I am not sure, but they had the makings of a good show. The most important order being that they brought back Arnold Stang, the original voice of Top Cat. For the rest of the characters, they either got the original vocalists or good imitators. Best of all, the dialogue is pretty swift, full of good wit and subtle one-liners that were on par with the old show. But then comes the plot . . . and what an abomination it is. After some classic lines and humorous moments in the alley, the plot kicks in when Benny saves an old baglady's life. Thing is, she is not a baglady but an eccentric millionaire in disguise, looking for her long-lost niece. A few days later, she dies, and Benny and the gang are called to the mansion in Beverly Hills to hear the reading of the will. In a really bad scene, we find out that the woman left the entire estate to her missing niece, but since she was not there, everything will go to Benny at midnight two days later. Should anything happen to Benny, everything goes to the woman's conniving butler Snerdly and his evil dog Rasputin. Cue the endless, endless, endless array of scenes where Snerdly tries to kill or kidnap Benny. It is all really painful, and you can see every gag coming a mile away. Oh, and there are a few musical interludes where the cats break into song and sing about the movie's plot, just in case the kids get confused. But there is also a really dumb subplot where Snerdly has somehow taken the missing niece away from her aunt and has her working at a car wash. All these scenes just go on and on until the alley cats accidentally stumble upon the niece and decide to do the right thing by getting her to the mansion by the time deadline. Not only is all this boring and unfunny, but it also has fallacies that shouldn't be here, even if it is a movie for kids. After all, the wit and appeal of Top Cat really is more for a aged audience. . . .
How did Snerdly get the niece away from the rich aunt? Why does the niece stay at the carwash on her own accord and where does she actually live?
The cats are very inconsistent, changing their minds as to Snerdly's intentions throughout. It's annoying. Any fool watching knows Snerdly is evil the first time he is on the screen with that evil and obvious look.
The rich woman knows Snerdly is up to no good. So why hasn't she fired him? Why include him as a provision in the will? For that matter, why don't the alley cats just send him packing right away?
What is with that weird moment when Snerdly takes off his glove and reveals an iron hand, which he uses to smash a hold in a wall?
(MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!) In the end, we find out the rich woman did not die, but is disguised as her own lawyer, which makes no sense. Snerdly says he saw her dead at the funeral, but the woman says that it was just someone she hired to take her place. Does that mean she hired a double of herself and BURIED her alive? (END OF MAJOR SPOILER)
Rocketing back to the present in our Wayback Machines, we find this has been the last time Top Cat has surfaced, save some great `Fender Bender 500' shorts played on the delightful show `Wake, Rattle & Roll' that starred R.J. Williams and Avery Schreiber. If you are a fan of the cartoon cat, watch this as a novelty item, but be forewarned it is pitiful after the first ten minutes. Which is pretty sad, since Top Cat deserves so much better than this. Zantara's score: 4 out of 10.
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