Well this one was a surprise for me. This was one of my favorite movies as a kid and going into this review I expected to like it as much now as I did then, and I don’t.
At first I really didn’t understand why I didn’t like this film as much as I used to. The animation is good and I love certain details like the paint drops running down to create the opening scene after the credits. Although I do have to wonder who was supervising the animation during the dancing scene with Madame and George because Duchess is off model for that entire section with no explanation.
The characters here are likable and there’s great voice acting from everyone including Disney veterans Sterling Holloway, Eva Gabor, and Phil Harris. George the lawyer is wonderful and everything I want to be when I’m old. He is fun, funny, spry, and totally annoying to Edgar. He also delivers my favorite line in the film “Elevators are for old people!” He’s great.
As an adult I also get a lot more of the in jokes like the names of Toulouse, Napoleon, and Lafayette. I also got the wine joke when everyone is running off to save Duchess and the kittens which I never got as a kid. The slapstick with Edgar and the dogs is still funny. Finally the songs are catchy and memorable.
So why did I find the film blah over all? I think it’s because it’s kind of a slice of life picture mixed in with this adventure to get Duchess and her kids home and it kind of falls flat. There is no theme here or an arc for any of the characters. Thomas doesn’t struggle with loving Duchess and her having kids and being a house cat. That struggle is certainly cliché but at least it would have been some kind of struggle. Duchess is steadfast in her need to be there for Madame over her love for Thomas so outside of the one scene on the rooftop there’s no drama from that. The kittens have personalities, but they don’t really stand out that much or have any growth over the course of the film either; and there is a bunch of padding in here like the goose family that really doesn’t need to be there.
Also Edgar is such a one note villain and his plan comes right out of nowhere. Yes we see he is greedy, but he acted like a nice if a bit haggard guy that genuinely seemed to like Madame before so why is he suddenly only in it for the money? Can we get some backstory here or something? Also his abrupt plan proves he is dumb as a post. Edgar buddy you already appear to have free room and board. When Madame dies you can probably move into a bigger bedroom and use some of the inheritance for yourself to buy clothes and good food and explain that you need that stuff to keep in good health to provide a good life to the cats. Or if you want to go the dark route abandon them after she’s gone and no one will be looking for them and the story won’t end up on the front page of the paper!
So in conclusion it’s certainly not a bad film, but it’s not as engaging as it used to be because it’s very surface level storytelling. We don’t get deep characters with great motivations or layers. We don’t have a theme or goal of the story outside of the simple get the characters home and make Edgar go away. So there isn’t a lot of re-watch value for an older audience member. Kids can enjoy the songs and the comedy and I think that’s enough sometimes for younger viewers. It’s not a powerful or impactful piece of cinema for me, but for a fun bit of entertainment fluff I can think of worse films to spend an afternoon watching.