Oliver and Company (1988)

Well, it’s been a while hasn’t it? Oliver and Company gave me a lot of trouble, especially when it came to finding the thing. Nevertheless, after what seems like months, I’ve finally seen the film and, continuing my Disney series, I figured I’d review it.

Oliver (Joey Lawrence) is a kitten in New York city. After he is left alone in a cardboard box one rain night, he awakes to find a dog named Dodger (Billy Joel) who, after stealing hot dogs with him, leads him to the home of Fagin (Don DeLuise) and his numerous dogs including Einstein (an idiot), Francis (a Bulldog with a British accent and a penchant for the theatre) an annoying Chihuahua named Tito and a streetwise female Saluki named Rita. Fagin is in debt to a thug named Sykes and, after Oliver is accidentally adopted by a wealthy young girl named Jenny who also owns a prize winning dog named Georgette (Bette Midler), Fagin attempts a kidnapping plot which leads Sykes to steal Jenny in order to extort a large amount of money from her parents.

Ok, read that last paragraph and see if you can find one of the biggest problems in this film. See it? Well, let me tell you. There is just too much going on and not nearly enough time is spent on each point. It’s difficult to tell which character we’re supposed to focus on,  obviously Oliver is the main character but he’s barely developed and doesn’t do a lot. In fact, none of the characters really do a lot, I didn’t really care about any of them and at times they bored me. There needed to be some element of focus in this film and there simply wasn’t, it’s actually a little complex for a Disney film. Because of this, the plot point about Fagin’s debt tends to be overlooked at times. It’s clear that Oliver spends a great deal of time with Jenny because we see a montage of them hanging out, and yet Fagin’s debt still stands, why isn’t he dead? Another point I should bring up is that Fagin presumably owe Sykes something like a couple of grand,a large enough sum that Sykes continually pushes for it. Why doesn’t Fagin just sell his house and bike? I mean, ok they’re both pieces of crap but there are scrap yards aren’t there? It makes no logical sense and actually really annoys me.

Sadly this is far from the only problem with Oliver and Company. I don’t mind Disney trying to adapt Dickens’ Classic but at the very least, try to make the character somewhat likable. I really didn’t like Dodger, I thought he was arrogant and, to be honest, a douche. The Chihuahua is a pain in the ass but, to his credit, he does get a few funny lines. Bette Midler is alright, but I’m really confused as to why she changes her mind halfway through, originally she hates Oliver but at the end she tries to save him. Why? I have no idea. The villian is kinda dull but he has some dark, cool moments so he probably isn’t as bad as most people say.

The animation isn’t that great, especially not by Disney standards. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like the sort of chalk sketch style that they go with when it comes to the buildings but some of the people in the crowd scenes look weird and the mouth movements never really match up so well with the voice actors. In fact, I was always aware that I was listening to an actor rather than a character, for me the voice and the image became two separate things. When I watched this film I had no idea it would be as dark as it is. The death scenes are genuinely some of the darkest in Disney history. Sykes two dogs are both thrown from a car onto a subway track (during what is actually a pretty good chase scene) and you actually see one of the dogs get electrocuted by the rails and hear it whimper. It’s arguably the furthest Disney’s ever gone in the dark zone and the death of Sykes is no exception. At the climax of the chase his car, with him inside, is hit by a train and explodes and, to be honest, part of me kinda likes it. Ok, I know the majority of people watching Disney films are kids and maybe these scenes are a little overboard for them but there are still a huge percentage of adult viewers out there; Disney is more aware of it than anyone, but consider me a little split on both of these death scenes. The music is ‘meh’ at best with only two songs that stand out. Bette Midler’s number and ‘Why should I worry?’ which is ungodly catchy. Some of the supporting characters have a few good lines, I especially like the butler and Francis, the British bulldog is hilarious, but most of the other characters fall into the ‘don’t know, don’t care’ category. In my opinion, I’d say give Oliver and Company a miss.

The animation is decent at times but awful at others, most of the characters are boring, only two songs stick out and the story is far too complicated. There are far better Disney movies out there and Oliver and Company let’s the whole team down.



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