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DVD Review: Top Cat Begins

An animated origins story about Top Cat and his alley-cat gang, showing how T.C. met each of his gang members and the trouble they got themselves into.

Every hero has his origins story and Top Cat was one of the heroes of Hanna-Barbera’s animation studios in the early 1960s. Now, using modern CGI, the hero and his gang have been reborn for a new generation.

Produced for a Mexican market, this prequel to the original cartoon series was redubbed in English and tells the story of how T.C. met the other cats that would eventually become his alley-cat gang in Manhattan.

TopCatBeginsDVDThe film opens with the gang getting into big strife as they attempt to pull off a cat burglary at the Starlight Club. As the end seems nigh for T.C. and the gang, he reflects back on how it all began. We see him meet loveable but simple Benny the Ball, who becomes his partner in crime. T.C. teaches Benny the art of scamming people into willingly giving away their cash but the scams lead to a run-in with Bad Dog, the ruffest thug in town who works for the mysterious Mr Big.

Stealing diamonds, Top Cat and Benny find themselves in more hot water than expected. Officer Dibble and Bad Dog have their nose to the ground to find the duo who eventually meet and team up with a group of former circus clowns looking for work – Fancy-Fancy, Spook, Brain and Choo Choo.

The gang is formed and the situation goes from bad to worse for them as Mr Big catches Benny and they’re forced to mount a daring rescue.

While the crisp CGI animation of Top Cat Begins modernises the visuals, the animators have wisely avoided too much detail, opting for a simplier graphic style that should please those who grew up with the oft-repeated original cartoon and long for that earlier style of hand-drawn animation.

Directed by Andrés Couturier, the film maintains a brisk pace and is injected with a lot of verbal and visual humour, however the violence contained in some scenes earns this film its PG rating. Parental guidance is most definitely advised. The screenplay by James Krieg, Doug Langdale and Jorge Ramírez-Suárez not only features nasty punch ups, shootings and other realistic brutality, but a rather busty lounge singer named Furletta (who has a great repertoire, I might add!).

On the lighter side, there’s some cheeky nods thrown in, both to itself and other well known cats. Look out for a trash can full of Top Cat DVDs and T.C’s undercover disguise as Dr Garfield, amongst others.

The American voice cast features Jason Harris Katz as Top Cat, Chris Edgerly as Benny and Bill Lobley as Officer Dibble, with Jason Harris Katz, Matthew Piazzi and Benjamin Diskin voicing the rest of the gang.

While nothing can replace the original (and the most tip top!), Top Cat Begins is a fun romp that should satisfy newcomers and long-term fans alike.

Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Twitter: @StrtegicRetweet

Rating out of 10:  7

Top Cat Begins is out now on DVD and Digital.

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