A mean butler takes a group of cats and dumps them in the country to ensure he will be the eventual heir to his bosses’ fortune. They must rely on a tomcat named Thomas to lead them back.
When I claimed this DVD to review, it was accidentally listed as Aristocrats: Special Edition. Imagine my surprise when I opened the package and instead of preparing to listen to Bob Saget spew off some of the most disgusting, vile descriptions of lewd deviant behavior, rape, cannibalism and scatology and instead I get a 40-year old animated movie about cats. Well, even if I didn’t get scatology, I still got me some Scatman Crothers.
The story begins with Madame meeting with her attorney to work on her new will. She decides she will leave everything she owns to her cat Duchess and her three kittens. Once the cats die, the fortune will go to her butler. The butler overhears this and after knocking the cats unconscious with liquid sleeping medication he takes them out into the country and dumps them off so when his boss dies he will inherit everything.
The movie then splits into two sections. The aristocratic cats meet a tomcat named Thomas O’Malley, who agrees to help them find their way home. Meanwhile, the butler realizes he left some evidence behind when he was attacked and chased off by two dogs (Napoleon and Lafayette). While the cats are trying to find their way home, the butler must battle the two dogs to retrieve his umbrella and derby hat. Hijinks ensue.
The Aristocats is a movie that takes equal parts 101 Dalmatians and Lady and the Tramp and transposes the action to felines. In this world, humans cannot understand what the animals are saying, but all the animals understand each other. Whether you are a cat, a horse or a mouse, they all speak the same language and work together for the greater good. The problem is with all the cuteness you get with little kittens, there is just not enough music or action early in the movie to keep the attention of your kids.
The cute factor is in full force. Little girls will absolutely love Marie, as she swoons and thinks everything is romantic. Boys will love either Toulouse or Berlioz, depending on whether they are daring or troublesome. And older kids should be enamored by the growing love story between Duchess and O’Malley, which mirrors the love story between Lady and the Tramp in many ways. Cuteness will always win over kids, but without dramatic action early, they may get bored and leave the story completely.
It is when the cats arrive back in Paris that the story begins to pick up. When they meet the Jazz singing troupe of cats led by Scat Cat, the music helps the movie pick up the pace. There are other moments early on with the butler and the dogs that turn into the type of slapstick pandemonium that you are used to by Disney flicks, but the movie just never seems to pick up speed and kind of meanders to the end.
There is a fun game for adults to play while the kids are watching the movie as well. Listen to the voices and figure out which character uses the same voice actors from other classic Disney flicks. Which character was also Baloo in The Jungle Book? Who also voiced Miss Bianca in the Rescuers? There were also many characters who also appeared in Robin Hood and the wife and I found it fun to pick out the characters and then see if we could figure out who they played in that film.
Sure, I did not get to hear about a guy who walks into an agent’s office and says “Have I got a great act for you!” and then proceeds to have his group of cats perform vile, disgusting acts, but I could have found worse ways to spend an hour. If your kid has ADD, this DVD might not be for you. If not, and you wouldn’t mind the little ones begging for kittens for the rest of their childhood, give it a go.
The picture and sound is great, but this is Disney, so what else would you expect. It is presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio (1.75:1) and the sound is Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound.
There are extras geared towards everyone and a couple of games geared towards, in my opinion, pre-school kids. There is an excerpt from a 1956 feature called The Great Cat Family, hosted by Walt Disney himself. It is pretty much a history of the domestic house cat. There is a feature that pays tribute to the Sherman brothers, who provided the songs for the film. There is also a deleted song, with an introduction and complete description by writer Richard Sherman. It’s a really nicely done piece for a deleted scene.
There is a photo scrapbook, a place to just see the scenes with particular songs of the movie and the two games – Disney Virtual Kitten and Fun with Language. Both are so mind numbingly simple that only the youngest or easiest to entertain kids will play more than once.