A mainstay of post-school primetime since 1961, Hanna-Barbera’s Top Cat essentially took Phil Silvers’ Sgt Bilko and his platoon of army schemers and transmogrified them into a gang of streetwise, cartoon felines.
Actually, “wise” is pushing it. Because while the theme song maintains that Top Cat’s “intellectual close friends get to call him TC”, most of his close friends are several streets from intellectual. Like the ironically named Brain and loveable, little big-gob, Benny.
Same goes for his close frenemy Officer Dibble, the grouchy but good-hearted New York beat cop who is constantly up to his neck with these littering kitties.
Indeed, after stretching out the TV show’s opening sequence to introduce the artful dog-dodger and his crew (which also includes disgraceful philanderer Fancy-Fancy, the unexciting Spook, and the vaguely camp Choo-Choo), this belated feature-length caper eventually enters new territory when Dibble foolishly thinks he’s about to be promoted to Chief of Police.
Sadly, the post goes to an obnoxious, technology-mad imposter called Strickland who replaces the entire force with robots. Except Dibble, whom he needs to keep the computers turned on.
Strickland wastes no time in turning the city into a police state. And having fallen for one of TC’s scams earlier, he further abuses his position to have the rascal framed and sent to jail in disgrace... dog jail.
Naturally, after using up a couple of his lives to outsmart the mutts, and see justice prevail, TC proves himself the indisputable leader of the gang.
Which isn’t difficult, since he’s practically the only character who isn’t either chronically gullible and/or a complete dope.
From the objectification of females to the condoning of crime, the mild political incorrectness of the 1960s fits uneasily with the 21st century upgrades. This Mexican-Argentinian revival seem to struggle with the show's distinctly American mindset.
For sheer wonkiness though, try the bit where the screen goes deliberately yet pointlessly blank for a while. Very weird.
Then there's the scene where they evidently forgot to finish the 3D. Rather sloppy when 3D is the only thing preventing this sorry stray from being kicked straight down DVD alley.
Following The Jetsons, The Flintstones, Scooby-Doo and Yogi Bear, it’s yet more evidence that the Hanna-Barbera conveyor belt simply wasn't designed to reach the big screen.
As long as schools have holidays, however, on it will go. Up next, Eddie Murphy as Hong Kong Phooey. Do try to contain yourself.