What could be more Disney than staring a film with an orphaned kitten nearly drowning in a cardboard box? He’s already bloody miserable as all his siblings have been taken and rehoused (no doubt leaving him to wonder if there’s some anti-ginger prejudice prevalent in New York City) and tomorrow he will discover that most humans are in fact bastards.
Yet despite this most depressingly familiar of introductions to the 1988 film ‘Oliver and Company’, something seems to be changing. After spending months trawling through the Disney Animation Studios back catalogue, experiencing varying states of enjoyment and torture (and because I’m not a Disney fan, mostly the latter), it wasn’t until the previous film ‘The Great Mouse Detective’, that I first started to detect a few hints of something that I would best describe as “modern”. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly why that is, but I suppose a sense of playfulness and awareness are making their way through the usual strait-laced, stiff upper lip of vintage Disney. I think it’s more a sign of the times in which the films were made, that lead them to be this way. Modern animations tend to be far more casual. Well they tend not to have lectures on Latin American subculture, long deviations discussing advanced animation techniques, entire films that don’t crack a single joke or a dude in full suit and bowtie explaining how the animation perfectly symbolises the 19th century classical music piece that accompanies it.
If ‘The Great Mouse Detective’ had indications of a modern approach to kid’s films, ‘Oliver and Company’ ups that considerably. Ok, the music isn’t exactly modern, but MC Hammer is still more contemporary than Big Band Swing music, and if truth be told, a style I have a soft spot for. That’s not to say that either of the films are classics, and that’s something most Disney fans and reviewers all agree with, but I’ve found them an easier watch than most that have come before. And bearing in mind that this film is an adaptation of a Dicken’s novel, it has far more plot detail than most films I’ve reviewed and that’s impressive.
Trying to review this film invokes memories of when I had to review ‘The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad’. When dealing with higher-brow literary classics, it doesn’t exactly offer many plot points that I feel compelled to rip the piss out of. Furthermore, due to the greater plot density, if I were to take my usual approach of a scene by scene deconstruction, I could be typing for days. But what I will say is that I definitely found ‘Oliver and Company’ a far easier watch than Ichabod and Mr Toad at least… Ultimately, there’s nothing particularly good or bad, nothing particularly outrageous or stupid and nothing especially memorable either.
So, forgive me for largely skipping over this film, but things are about to get far more interesting next time out for one reason or another. For starters, next time out we have ‘The Little Mermaid’, which happens to be Kerry’s favourite film of all time. The stakes are high on this one. If truth be told, I’ve rarely been so worried about disliking a film! But furthermore, we exit the creatives downturn and enter what I’ve learnt to be the Disney renaissance. What this entails for a someone like me is yet to be seen. Will the modern classics be the films to finally win me over? Considering my review of the next film may determine whether I have the respect of my wife or not, I really, really hope so…
We’re watching The Little Mermaid tonight (Monday 23rd November)!!!! I’m so excited!!!!
Still, I digress from Oliver & Company. I have to say, I didn’t know what to expect from this one, but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s actually really enjoyable. I already like the story of Oliver Twist and used to watch the musical a lot as a child (“Oom-pah-pah oom-pah-pah that’s ow it goes!”, so I already knew it would be a good narrative, but the adapted characters were good and it had some really catchy, contemporary songs.
In conclusion, I would recommend it as a solid family film.