Friday, 24 January 2014

The AristoCats

Lowdown: A well off family of Parisian cats requires alley cat support to get back home.
It’s hard to believe, but there was a time when The AristoCats was my favourite book. Yes, book.
Back when I did not know how to read, around the age of 4-5, one of the very few books at my disposal was The AristoCats – the book based on the Disney film. It was a daily ritual for my uncle to read me a chapter when he got home from work. Because he was rather tired by then and often fell asleep during proceedings he recorded himself reading to cassette tapes, thus giving me my first audiobook. Still, I loved the live readings much more; there can be no doubt The AristoCats were a cornerstone in our relationship.
Yet, throughout that time I never got to watch the 1970 movie upon which that book was based. Those were the days when if you missed out on the movie at the cinema, your only hope of ever watching it was the TV many years later. Back then, though, there was no chance in hell you’d be able to watch a Disney animation film on TV.
Nowadays, though, we have Netflix. One of the things Netflix gaveth to me was the opportunity to finally watch The AristoCats. And although it’s been more than four decades since that movie was released, I still thoroughly enjoyed it.
Our story takes place in pre World War 1 Paris, where a family of cats – mother Duchess (Eva Gabor) and her three kittens – serve as the children of a very well off but otherwise lonely lady owner of a mansion, Adelaide. When Adelaide writes down her will, her butler Edgar could not help notice she’s about to give everything she owns to her cats; and once the cats are gone, everything would go to Edgar (I note not much thought was spared to the cats’ potential descendants). Edgar decides to cut out the middle cat, and takes the feline family for a sidecar ride to the middle of nowhere in order to get rid of them. His plan suffers when he’s attacked by dogs along the way, but still – our cats find themselves out in no cat’s land, without a clue as to how to get back home.
Help comes in the shape of various alley cats, geese, a horse and a friendly mouse. As our upper class heroes make their way back home with the help of the working classes, they learn something about the harshness of the real world. However, they are also exposed to this world's nicer aspects, notably warm friendliness, loyalty and jazz music.
As mentioned, I quite liked The AristoCats. However, I will note it will probably appeal more to today’s adults rather than the children for whom it was originally aimed more than four decades ago. Manually drawn animation lacks the pizazz factor of contemporary computer animation flicks, action scenes are rare and the proceedings are delightfully slow. Even the jazz music, one of The AristoCats main offerings, is not the type of thing one would naturally offer a modern iPad generation child. I, however, couldn’t care less; I was delighted with this complete package of a friendly, cheerfully naïve, movie. Even if it is not exactly up to date with today’s perception of feminism.
Overall: A fine blast from the past worthy of 4 whiskered crabs out of 5.

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