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13 August 2010 @ 04:51 pm
Disney Movies: #27. Oliver & Company (1988)  
Entry #12 in the 'Watch all the Classic Disney (Animated) Movies' Challenge

Previous movies:
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
Peter Pan (1953)
One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
The Sword in the Stone (1963)
The Fox and the Hound (1981)
The Black Cauldron (1985)
The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
Mulan (1998)
Tarzan (1999)
Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
Brother Bear (2003)

I remember this movie being heavily promoted when I was a kid.  I think there may have been a trailer on the VHS of Beauty and the Beast or Aladdin.  In spite of the advertising, I've never seen Oliver & Company before.  Sorry, Disney Marketing Machine.

Oliver is a homeless kitten in modern day (now 1980s) New York City.  He teams up with a stray named Dodger to steal some hot dogs, but when the dog cheats him and runs away.  Oliver follows him, and meets several other dogs, all of whom belong to Fagin, a pickpocket in great debt to the dangerous Sykes.   Sykes gives Fagin three days to come up with the cash he is owed, and the next day all of the dogs set off in earnest to find something to help their master.  Oliver goes with them, but when their plan to hijack a limo goes awry Oliver is whisked away in the arms of a little girl named Jenny, who befriends him and wants to adopt him.  Oliver is now torn between two worlds; does he stay with the rich, comfortable life Jenny offers or return to the streets to be with his friends?

After we finished watching this movie, and I started bitching about how much I didn't like it, Seanie turned to me and said, "Do you only like the DIsney movies you saw as a kid?"  No!  I don't just like movies because of the nostalgia factor!  I just didn't see a lot of the crappier Disney films when I was growing up because Disney never bothered to release them on VHS.  My parents probably also acted as filters; if a movie wasn't being buzzed about they were highly unlikely to pick it up for me.  Would I have liked Oliver & Company if I'd seen it as a child?  Probably.  I did like the re-make of Homeward Bound and when I was *really* young, Milo & Otis.  But I won't touch either movie with a ten-foot pole now, and Oliver & Company fits right into that category.

Why don't I like it?  The story's predictable, for one.  It's loosely based on Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, but some of the characters (namely, Fagin) undergo such radical transformations I doubt their Dickensian counterpart would recognize them.  The story is very episodic, but the episodes are disjointed and the transitions sudden.   Oliver is cute, but some of the other animals are downright frightening (the poodle Georgette's smile is one of the scariest things Disney ever came up with) and others downright offensive (chihuahua Tito).  

The movie's as much a celebration of 1980s era New York City.  The classic skyline, including the World Trade Center, are carefully animated.  The ubiquitous ads scattered throughout were painstakingly kept in the background.  Billy Joel, Huey Lewis, and Bette Midler all provide vocals for screamingly 1980s soundtrack, but the songs aren't memorable save for the obnoxious little ear worm "Why Should I Worry".  Ugh.  I was never much of a Billy Joel fan to start with, but his albums are miles above the pedestrian work here.

The biggest problem, though, was simply that I was bored throughout most of the movie.  It wasn't funny, it wasn't exciting, it wasn't entertaining.   It's hard to believe Oliver & Company was so successful at the box office, and that the same team created The Little Mermaid one year later.  It has little to appeal to an adult audience, and the only reason I think kids will be captivated is because animated animals are always fun.

3/10 stars.

 
 
 
Mel Marshmelsmarsh on August 14th, 2010 06:01 pm (UTC)
Oliver & Company is actually one of my favourites. For kids, who have more than likely never seen Oliver Twist, it's a good introduction in my opinion. I think you are looking at these movies through an adult's eye and not looking at it from the point of view of a kid. When I saw Oliver! a few years later, I saw the similarities, but I still preferred Oliver & Company.

As far as musical numbers, I like "Streets of Gold" which I use as a mood-lifter as well as "Once upon a time in NYC." "Why should I worry?" was annoying in the 90s and it's annoying now. I also hated "Good Company."

I can't believe the same crew made this and the Little Mermaid. I hated the Little Mermaid with the fiery passion of a thousand burning sons.
Suzik00kaburra on August 14th, 2010 06:13 pm (UTC)
See, I LOVE the Little Mermaid with the fiery passion of a thousand burning suns.

Oh, and I'm totally looking at these through adult eyes. For sure. The best kids movies and books will also entertain adults; I think that's the sign of a real winner. I did admit that I probably would have liked Oliver & Company as a kid, but that doesn't make it a good movie. There's a lot of stuff I liked as a kid, and still enjoy nostalgically, but recognize that it isn't good. See She-Ra.