Cats Don't Dance

1997, G, 86 min. Directed by Mark Dindal. Starring Scott Bakula, Jasmine Guy, Natalie Cole, George Kennedy, Hal Holbrook, Rene Auberjonois, John Rhys-Davies, Kathy Najimy, Betty Lou Gerson, Don Knotts.

REVIEWED By Robert Faires, Fri., April 4, 1997

Hooray for Hollywood on Hollywood! The Dream Factory has long loved turning the camera on itself, mythologizing and mocking the way it makes movies, and lucky for us it has. Movie movies are some of filmdom's great delights -- Singin' in the Rain, Sunset Blvd., even Pee-wee's Big Adventure -- exposing all the glamour, romance, and unchained egos behind the glossy illusions through more glossy illusions. Now comes an animated feature from Warner Bros. in this Tinseltown tradition, and it's another delight. Cats Don't Dance is an inspired movie movie, one that celebrates and spoofs cinema with wit, verve, and a breathless enthusiasm for the form. The plot is right from the studio vaults -- hayseed hits Hollywood with stars in his eyes, meets girl, gets shot at stardom, blows it, but refuses to give in and eventually gets the girl, the glory, and the big contract -- still, director Mark Dindal, his crack team of animators, and the screenwriters keep it fresh with a reverence for classic filmmaking and irreverence of classic animation. The dynamic compositions and vivid pastel palette evoke vintage Disney, and the expressiveness of its characters recalls the cartoon work of the great Chuck Jones -- these are funny animals we can feel for. And feel we do, warming easily to its cast of felines and various four-footed, flippered, and feathered folk (vividly voiced by Bakula, Guy, Rhys-Davies, et al.). But this 'toon ain't all warm 'n' fuzzy; zany gags and puns hurtle by, the jokes and pace channeling Tex Avery and Jay Ward. In many ways, Cats Don't Dance is a patchwork of past cartoon styles; but it works because it gets the spirit of those old 'toons: the mischievous glee, the rowdiness, the fun. For this old cartoon fan, it's nice to see such a richly realized animated film from Warner Bros. It does the studio's legacy proud. But it's nicer to know that it isn't just a film for animation buffs. My four-year-old critic “liked the animals and all the dancing and singing. I especially liked the woman cat because she was beautiful and I liked the way she danced and I just liked her. I really liked the part where they were in the elephant's house and he was walking. That was funny. There were some stupid guys that I didn't really like. They were messing up the animals, telling them that they couldn't dance and making all these problems. I think you have to be pretty brave to see this show. I didn't like it some and I did like it some, but I'm very glad we went.” Me too, Rosalind.

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Cats Don't Dance, Mark Dindal, Scott Bakula, Jasmine Guy, Natalie Cole, George Kennedy, Hal Holbrook, Rene Auberjonois, John Rhys-Davies, Kathy Najimy, Betty Lou Gerson, Don Knotts

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