Making the Grades
Thanks to the mouse that roared, Disney holds on to a history of garnering the lion's share of profits from animated features. Meanwhile, competing Warner Studios is working fervently to develop projects that will land them into the same den of dollars captured by those Disney ?Classics?. Yet the studio that made Bugs Bunny has to overcome its own style or the Warner projects will continue to feel more cartoonish than movie.
In Cats Don't Dance, Danny, a song and dance cat from Kokomo Indiana, heads to 1930's Hollywood to break into pictures. The twist on this ageless formula plot is that Danny discovers cats, along with all animals, only get bit parts that pay chicken feed. Even the trademark mascot of Mammoth Studios, Woolie the elephant, works for peanuts. (I'll stop now, I promise.) So the animals work out a plan that will allow them to demonstrate their abilities to the studio owner. Of course they must first overcome the obligatory enemy -- in this case reigning starlet Darla Dimple, a Shirley Temple likeness with King Kong's temper and a bodyguard to match named Max.
Playing like a very long episode of Tiny Toons, this movie has a few good laughs and will probably keep your children entertained, although the younger ones may be frightened by Dimple and Max. Typical of other children's movies, the violence increases towards the end of the film when the writers resolve the conflict through combat. As usual, I am more critical of violence that appears in a film marketed to the under 12 crowd.
At the very least, Warner deserves credit for creating a children's animated feature where the parents of a lonely child aren't killed off in the first ten minutes. But the classic Warner slapstick cartoon violence and in-your-face sight gags are the studio's excessively used creative tools. The hyperactive characters and try-so-hard-songs create a movie that seems as desperate to break into the big time animation industry as Danny is to break into Hollywood. Take a breather and relax Danny, then try tapping your way back into show biz one more time.