The Aristocats Movie Review
Released in 1970 and directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, The Aristocats is the 20th Disney animated film that successfully killed the Golden Age of Disney Animation and unfortunately started the Dark Age.
The story is what is the biggest problem I have with this film. It is never as fun or as clever or as well crafted as other Disney movies that came before it. Well, it is involving and it has that effervescent nature to it, but once again, it never rises above its so-so script. I like the beginning as it perfectly introduces you to both feline as well as human characters and it creates the conflict wonderfully. However, from then on, it just becomes a too prolonged adventure and although ‘101 Dalmatians’ has a similar structure, the action and adventure elements in that classic are infinitely better realized.
I like the ending, it is very sweet and satisfying, but it is seen countless times as well, being especially reminiscent to the finale of ‘Lady and the Tramp‘. What is probably the biggest problem storywise is the endless incorporation of detours, mostly comedic in tone. You have not one, but two scenes with Edgar being chased by dogs and you have the geese as well as the incredibly prolonged musical sequence with the cat gang. It is never good for a story to have that many detours as it just pinpoints to how thin the script was in the first place. But on the bright side, most movies could never get away with that much side plot points, but The Aristocats at times does, which is thanks to great characters and mostly good and charming humor.
Speaking of the characters, they are the highlights of this flick. They really are. You have Thomas O’Malley who steals every scene he is in with his terrific charisma, style and humor. He definitely brought a lot of humor and energy to the table. And he is wonderfully voiced by Phil Harris who of course voiced Baloo in ‘The Jungle Book‘ and those two are quite similar in some respects, although Baloo is much better of course and Thomas can often get too cocky for my taste. The other cats are good, but fail in comparison to Thomas. Duchess is a typical rich cat, but she is still very well portrayed and a strong female character and mother figure. The kittens are amusing and their relationship between each other and especially their respect for Thomas is very well done. And the cat gang is pretty interesting and quite unique, certainly being the musical standout here.
Now, the human characters. Madame Adelaide is very good for the little screen time she got and her scene where she learns her cats are gone is really sad. Georges is her lawyer and an old friend. He is one of the standouts of the supporting characters as he is so funny and delightful. And the relationship between the two is so good to watch. But now we come to Edgar. No matter how wonderfully developed most of the characters are, this one isn’t and he ruined the movie for sure. He is so lazily written and imagined that it was frustrating for me to follow him. His every action is so indescribably stupid that it really was unfortunate to witness. He got beaten twice by the dogs and although that was supposed to be a comedy, it was downright ridiculous to have the same scenario repeated again. He is definitely one of the worst villains ever in the Disney canon. Speaking of those two dogs, they are great comic reliefs and, although somewhat repetitive and even annoying early on, they get better as the movie progresses and they ended the movie on a high note with their signature joke. And the geese are excellent, they made me laugh a couple of times which is why I would call their characters well done comic reliefs.
The animation is nothing to write home about and this is where the studio started doing lazy animation. It is lacking in attention to detail which was present in droves before and it is never particularly artistic nor particularly memorable. Yes, the character design is solid and the colors are pleasing, but this is still a kind of animated work that fails to get stuck in your head, never providing a single iconic image or shot.
I think that, along with the characters, the soundtrack helped The Aristocats a lot. It is never as good as in their earlier classics, but it is still one of the very best when the Dark Age is concerned. Scales and Arpeggios is short and too childish, but Thomas O’Malley Cat is absolutely superb as it is charmingly childlike and wonderfully catchy and sweet. It also beautifully introduces you to this character and is sung very well by Phil Harris. I also like the title song played in the beginning and I would even call it an underrated song as it is so effervescent and it is a great touch to have such a French song open the movie that revolves in Paris. That is what Disney did best before – connecting the music with the story and locations, and I wish they would go back to it as they keep forgetting it for more than a decade now. But there is naturally only one song most remember from this flick – Ev’rybody Wants To Be a Cat. And that’s for all the good reasons as it is incredibly catchy, superbly realized and accompanied with terrific dance and action on screen and it is quite authentic as it is one of the rare jazz songs for Disney, thus breaking the formula a bit which was very refreshing.
The directing is okay, but it is weird to know that Wolfgang Reitherman did ‘The Jungle Book‘ before it as it is so much better than this. The voice cast is on the other hand one of the highlights at it is so well done. The tone is too comedic in my opinion, but that humor is thankfully quite good and even stupendous. And the emotional investment is not that present unfortunately.
The Aristocats has excellent characters that are mostly really likable and well developed, the music is also a standout as it is catchy and even authentic and the humor is very good and even stupendous as it has its fair share of funny moments, but the animation is nothing too remarkable, the villain is awful and the story is quite weak and too episodic in nature with too many detours. This is such a step down from Disney after a string of classics in the sixties and this is the movie that started their Dark Age, but it is still a solid piece of entertainment that is rather charming in nature and quite amusing.
My Rating – 3,5