As Disney loves to do, it is rereleasing to the big screen, an animated movie it has yet to release on video, OLIVER & COMPANY (1988). Why they decided to hold this one back for another theatrical run before it makes its inevitable transition to tape is beyond me. This is one of the weakest Disney movies in years.
The plot is that a thieving, street smart animal gang is led by a human named Fagan (Dom DeLuise). Fagan is given three days by a cigar smoking evil character called Mr. Sykes (Robert Loggia). Mr. Sykes's rhetoric is full of killing people and cement body suits. The animal gang operates much like a street gang and when one of its members wants to leave, he is pressured to stay. Why these juvenile delinquents and their even worse masters are considered appropriate material for the 3-8 set that is most likely to see this movie is a conundrum.
The animals in the gang are led by a mutt named Dodger (Billy Joel). In the gang is an intellectual bulldog called Francis (Roscoe Lee Browne) who likes to watch Shakespeare on a stolen TV, a highly ethnic mouse called Tito (Cheech Marin), and several others. One day an orphaned and adorable kitty called Oliver (Joey Lawrence) follows Dodger home and is adopted into his den of thieves. Dodger eventually will allow that, "hey, you're okay for a cat," but at first considers him a pest.
Mr. Sykes gives the gang 3 days to steal a large sum of money or he will murder Fagan. In a frightening scene, he closes the electric car window on Fagan's neck which realistically begins to strangle him to death. His Dobermans, Roscoe (Taurean Blacque) and DeSoto (Carl Weintraub), snare at all of them and look like they will rip their throats up at any moment. This is a little kids' show?
While the gang is attempting to steal the radio from rich little Jenny's (Natalie Gregory) limo, Oliver is found and taken home by Jenny. Her overly pampered poodle with a massive ego, Georgette (Bette Midler), is not amused and wants Oliver out of her house. Georgette's motto is, "Perfect isn't easy, but it's me."
There are two good characters in the show, Jenny and Oliver, but most are mediocre. The ones of Fagan and Mr. Sykes are inappropriate for young kid's movies. The film would have been stronger if both of these characters had been written out and the gang had led totally by Dodger. Moreover, Fagan is so poorly written as to be an embarrassment.
The script has few ideas and is bad need of a rewrite. The paucity of ideas is addressed by introducing unnecessarily frightening images. Do we really have to have a scene of a small girl tied to a chair by a sinister older man while Dobermans snarl at her and look like they will maim her shortly?
The drawings are colorful and pretty, especially in the night sequences. Overall, however, they saved money way too often by making scenes where almost nothing moves, and they excessively pan the cameras to create the feel of action. The music (J. A. C. Redford) itself is full of a heavy beat that will keep the kids moving with it, but the songs are imminently forgettable.
OLIVER & COMPANY runs a quick 1:12. It is rated G, but I would be very careful with kids under 5 lest they be significantly scared. My son Jeffrey (almost 7) liked the movie as he almost always does, but his Dad was not impressed. I do not recommend it, but I generously award it * 1/2 because I don't want to be too tough on any film with a cute kitty.
This review is without a doubt the WORST review on the movie ever! This guy obviously doesn't seem to get the idea that animated movies never were meant for kids. Throughout the whole review, he keeps stating how scary it is! Oliver & Company was targeted at a teen to adult audience in the first place. Plus, he sais Tito was a mouse! Guess he never saw a Chihuahua before.