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'Top Cat: The Movie' review: TC returns for limp 3D animated feature

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Released on Friday, Jun 1 2012

Director: Alberto Mar; Screenwriter: Kevin Seccia, Tim McKeon; Starring: Jason Harris, Melissa Disney, Chris Edgerly, Matthew Piazzi; Running time: 90 mins; Certificate: U


Hanna-Barbera's classic cartoon character Top Cat makes a long-awaited return to the big screen this week, getting a 3D makeover and an English dub from its original Spanish-language production. Proof that sometimes it's not worth pursuing pangs of nostalgia, this Argentinean-Mexican co-financed jaunt flatlines from minute one and is barely able to raise a laugh throughout its entire running time. Something might have gotten lost in translation, but we suspect this wasn't very good in the first place.

The story finds Top Cat and his pals Benny, Fancy-Fancy, Choo-Choo, Spook and Brain under threat when Officer Dibble is overlooked for the new police chief role and the megalomaniacal Lou Strickland is installed in his place. TC gets thrown into a prison for dogs after being wrongly accused of stealing from an orphanage, leaving his con artist gang rudderless as the technology-obsessed Strickland dispatches robots across the city to maintain an iron fist rule.

There's romance for TC and feline Trixie during the course of the film, but it's secondary to the alley cats' hijinks and their painful slapstick comedy. Voice actor Jason Harris gives his all portraying six characters, but he's working with a ropey script that's about as funny as hocking up a hair ball.

Perhaps the scene that epitomises the movie most is when the screen is cast into complete darkness as the characters experience an eclipse and continue to talk over black. It's a joke that's not funny and a moment that allows the filmmakers to burn through a few seconds without doing any actual animation.

Alongside its complete dearth of gags, Top Cat suffers from a dreadful 3D conversion. The traditional 2D character animation is melded with a more modern CG approach for background scenery and props, but this doesn't lend itself naturally to the stereoscopic process. There's no real feeling of depth when it's all dimensionalised, just the appearance of separate planes layered up on top of each other. Top Cat and crew just don't look at home in their environments.

There's a cheap and tacky feel to the venture thanks to some unsophisticated Flash animation and a lack of visual inventiveness. Director Alberto Mar navigates through the film with static shot after static shot. It's perhaps the most un-dynamic, inert animated movie in years. The technical ineptitude is staggering, it looks too crude even for a small screen cheapo Saturday morning cartoon.

Our advice for this one? Throw it out with the kitty litter.

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