As Disney loves to do, it is rereleasing to the big screen, an
animated movie it has yet to release on video, OLIVER & COMPANY (1988).
Why they decided to hold this one back for another theatrical run
before it makes its inevitable transition to tape is beyond me. This
is one of the weakest Disney movies in years.
The plot is that a thieving, street smart animal gang is led by a
human named Fagan (Dom DeLuise). Fagan is given three days by a cigar
smoking evil character called Mr. Sykes (Robert Loggia). Mr. Sykes's
rhetoric is full of killing people and cement body suits. The animal
gang operates much like a street gang and when one of its members wants
to leave, he is pressured to stay. Why these juvenile delinquents and
their even worse masters are considered appropriate material for the
3-8 set that is most likely to see this movie is a conundrum.
The animals in the gang are led by a mutt named Dodger (Billy
Joel). In the gang is an intellectual bulldog called Francis (Roscoe
Lee Browne) who likes to watch Shakespeare on a stolen TV, a highly
ethnic mouse called Tito (Cheech Marin), and several others. One day
an orphaned and adorable kitty called Oliver (Joey Lawrence) follows
Dodger home and is adopted into his den of thieves. Dodger eventually
will allow that, "hey, you're okay for a cat," but at first considers
him a pest.
Mr. Sykes gives the gang 3 days to steal a large sum of money or
he will murder Fagan. In a frightening scene, he closes the electric
car window on Fagan's neck which realistically begins to strangle him
to death. His Dobermans, Roscoe (Taurean Blacque) and DeSoto (Carl
Weintraub), snare at all of them and look like they will rip their
throats up at any moment. This is a little kids' show?
While the gang is attempting to steal the radio from rich little
Jenny's (Natalie Gregory) limo, Oliver is found and taken home by
Jenny. Her overly pampered poodle with a massive ego, Georgette (Bette
Midler), is not amused and wants Oliver out of her house. Georgette's
motto is, "Perfect isn't easy, but it's me."
There are two good characters in the show, Jenny and Oliver, but
most are mediocre. The ones of Fagan and Mr. Sykes are inappropriate
for young kid's movies. The film would have been stronger if both of
these characters had been written out and the gang had led totally by
Dodger. Moreover, Fagan is so poorly written as to be an
The script has few ideas and is bad need of a rewrite. The
paucity of ideas is addressed by introducing unnecessarily frightening
images. Do we really have to have a scene of a small girl tied to a
chair by a sinister older man while Dobermans snarl at her and look
like they will maim her shortly?
The drawings are colorful and pretty, especially in the night
sequences. Overall, however, they saved money way too often by making
scenes where almost nothing moves, and they excessively pan the cameras
to create the feel of action. The music (J. A. C. Redford) itself is
full of a heavy beat that will keep the kids moving with it, but the
songs are imminently forgettable.
OLIVER & COMPANY runs a quick 1:12. It is rated G, but I would be
very careful with kids under 5 lest they be significantly scared. My
son Jeffrey (almost 7) liked the movie as he almost always does, but
his Dad was not impressed. I do not recommend it, but I generously
award it * 1/2 because I don't want to be too tough on any film with a
Copyright © 1996 Steve Rhodes