It seems that the Walt Disney Studios have always had a thing with films focused on talking animals. The Aristocats, despite having a very predictable plot and storyline, is a fun film that will make you watch it again and again.
(I just got the chance to rewatch it after buying the Special Edition DVD . . . and I noticed that I hadn't reviewed it. **Possible Spoilers . . . but I guess we all know the storyline by now, right?**)
Apparently in 1910 Paris, France, an aging woman - known simply as Madame by most - adores her lovely family of cats: the beautiful female Duchess and her three kittens, Marie, Toulouse, and Berlioz. Having no other relatives and being as old as she is, Madame plans for her beloved felines to inherit her estate and wealth once she passes on.
However, there always has to be someone who is against the whole thing out of greed and power. Edgar, the Madame's faithful butler, learns of this change to the plans and knows that if the cats are gone, he'll be the sole inheritor of her estate. Underneath the cover of night, he drives the sleeping cats - drugged to sleep via milk and a very thought-out plan - off to the countryside, thinking that nothing could go wrong.
Of course, something goes wrong -- the cats are left behind as he putts back to Paris, and the small family awakens in shock that they are no longer at home with their Madame. But luckily, a stray tom named Thomas O' Malley shows up, instantly falling for Duchess' natural beauty and in the end, he agrees to help them get back home to Paris.
But what awaits them once they return home and what adventures will they run into?
The Aristocats reminds me of a cat version of another Disney classic, Lady and the Tramp, with the whole thing of a fancy pet and a stray helping each other and such. However, the idea of rich cats being the targets of revenge is rather interesting . . . and Edgar makes an enjoyable villain that you could relate to - his expressions and movements are just hilarious, sometimes one may forget that he is a bad guy. The kittens are easily adorable with their own individual personalities and talents, but the stars of the show are Duchess and O' Malley with their dialogue to the other characters that they meet (especially since it's Phil Harris and Eva Gabor . . . such perfect casting!). Some of the other minor characters - like the geese (Abigail and Amelia) and the dogs (Napoleon and Lafeyette) - are quite filler, but the ones that truly make the movie are Scat Cat and his band of jazzy cats. Although I agree that the fact that the song "Everybody Wants to Be a Cat", the jazzy feel of the song was more 1960s America than 1910s France . . . but the different cats really add a sense of diversity to the film and perk it back up with Duchess and her kittens making their way home. It's a fun, catchy song to listen to, despite the awkwardness of it all.
The film moves pretty quickly, with the songs, comedy and sheer emotion that each of the characters feel as the cats try to return home. The finale is just enjoyable to watch, just as the beginning theme, "The Aristocats," sets the theme and the French feel of the tale. The background music works very well and sets the moods for each scene, especially the music during the night-countryside and the traveling theme for the geese. The animation is quite sketchy, and during the dancing scene with Scat Cat and his gang, some animation was recycled from previous films (like "Robin Hood" and "The Jungle Book"), but to me, it feels awkward but still seems to work.
However, there was one thing that made me think: in one scene, Duchess and O' Malley were asked by Amelia and Abigail about whether they were husband and wife, in which he replied that they weren't. The geese muttered something to themselves about this being rather "scandalous" and easily noticed that the tomcat could be a shifty male that would only be trouble. I noticed this as I watched the movie once I bought the Special Edition, and I guess it was the studio's way to add a bit of maturity to the story, so that grown-ups could find some sort of humor and reality to it. Actually, when you think about it, Duchess had kittens with some unknown male cat, so it really makes you wonder about that . . . possible wedlock or something? - - - - it's just a grown-up thing, I suppose . . . kind of like the stuff in Lady and the Tramp with the two of them together and the morning after. That was a more mysterious way to explain things, while the Aristocats just spills it out from about halfway through the film. You could say this was a sign of the change that was going on in the Walt Disney Studios at the time . . . they were more open with cats and more distreet with dogs.
But I digress . . .
In the end, this is an enjoyable film, perfect for both children and adults alike. Despite the predictability of the plot and the awkward jazz in 1910 France, you'll fall in love with these cute cats. However, I just can't seem to give it a perfect rating . . . it's not a masterpiece, but it's rather fun and up-lifting. You see how different people and animals can be when they interact with each other, while also understanding the importance of family - even when it is simply a woman and her cats.
My Rating - 3 stars