July 23, 2008

Oliver & Company (1988)

Oliver & Company is Disney’s spin on the classic story Oliver Twist: A homeless kitten named Oliver (voiced by Joey Lawrence) roams the streets of New York and is taken in by a gang of homeless dogs, including Dodger (Billy Joel), who survive by stealing from others. Meanwhile, their human friend, a vagabond named Fagin (Dom DeLuise), is constantly trying to avoid the evil mobster Sykes (Robert Loggia), to whom he owes a large amount of money.

There are two main reasons to keep young children away from Oliver & Company: boredom and fear. Regarding the boredom: My 2-year-old bailed after 7 minutes to play with his toy cars. My 5-year-old went the distance, but stopped watching twice – once to show me a photo album he made, and the other to let me know that “we need to buy more Scooby-Doo Band-Aids.” And it’s only a 74-minute movie.

As for the fear, the film includes:
  • Lots of close-ups of growling, snarling dogs showing their sharp teeth
  • Threats of death and inflicting of pain
  • A phone conversation by Sykes where he says, “Don’t kill ‘em yet” and agrees with using “concrete shoes”
  • Kidnapping and gunplay
  • Electrocution (both comedic and fatal)
Other criticisms:
  • The film is dark in both lighting and tone. No one is nice to each other for the first half of the film – which is almost totally comprised of dreary, unlit hideouts and waterfront piers.
  • The musical numbers are almost nothing but disposable late-‘80s pop songs.
  • The animation is iffy; at times, you wouldn’t know it’s a Disney film unless someone told you.
Bottom line? Oliver & Company doesn’t hold up in terms of pacing, character development, or child-friendliness. But I guess it’s always darkest before the dawn: Disney’s next three films would be The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and The Lion King.

Rating: 1 star (out of 5).

Will your kids want to see it?
Since Disney doesn’t really mention Oliver & Company when touting their “classics,” it’s highly unlikely your little ones will know about this 20-year-old film. [UPDATE: Disney released the Oliver & Company: 20th Anniversary Edition DVD on February 3, 2009.] But if they trip across it somehow, guide them toward better Disney titles (maybe any of the three I mentioned above).

Will your FilmMother want to see it?
Hopefully no, since you’ll tell her about this review. Right?

Oliver & Company
Director: George Scribner
Screenwriters: Jim Cox, Timothy J. Disney, James Mangold
Stars (voices): Joey Lawrence, Billy Joel, Cheech Marin, Richard Mulligan, Dom DeLuise, Robert Loggia
MPAA Rating: G

Buy this movie for less at Half.com >>


Gemma said...

I gotta say that I don't know/remember this movie. Guess that's a good thing, eh? And don't forget to buy those Scooby-Doo Band-aids!!

Lisa said...

Your lovely wife sent me over here to check out your blog. This is great and I'll have to pass it on to my husband. My two boys have just recently become interested in movies and just last weekend we were online trying to find something appropriate for kids.

Jessica said...

Cool site! I was sent over here by your wife and have to say I'm impressed with the detail of your critiques. Keep up the good work. We will be back.


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