Thursday, April 16, 2009

4/16/09: That Darn Cat! (1965)

It's hard to imagine kids sitting through this exceptionally dull Disney picture. I may well have seen it as a youngster myself, but there's utterly nothing memorable about it except for the title. Even Hayley Mills, so endearing in the non-Disney films The Truth About Spring and The Chalk Garden only the year before, is completely forgettable here, thanks to a script that starts nowhere and stays there. You sit there itching for the movie to gain any momentum.

A couple of bank robbers kidnap a female teller and hold her hostage in an apartment for what seems like forever while planning to ultimately bump her off. (Why they keep her alive at all is never made clear.) The teller scratches the word HELP on her watch and attaches it, collar-style, around the neck of a visiting neighborhood Siamese cat named D.C., where it is eventually discovered by the cat's owner, Hayley Mills. She enlists FBI agent Dean Jones to help solve the mystery by tailing the feline back to the victim. The story moves at a pace that aspires to reach snail level, and practically all of the characters are morons nobody could possibly care about. (The most interesting thing in the movie are the kitty's pretty blue eyes.) Great comic actors like William Demerest and Roddy McDowall are totally wasted in this rubbish, and Hayley looks horrible in a poofy wig and a nightmarish wardrobe—it's the only film that actually makes her look bad. This is the second yawn-inducing Disney film I've seen this year to star Dean Jones, who can be quite likable given adequate material, which unfortunately was all too rarely. Clearly, Disney had a fetish about pairing the hapless Jones with with the animal kingdom, as his resume reads more like a zookkeeper's credits (Million Dollar Duck, The Shaggy D.A., The Horse in the Grey Flannel Suit, The Ugly Dachshund and Monkeys, Go Home). The poor schnook deserved better.

A 1997 Disney remake of That Darn Cat! featuring Christina Ricci is said to be even worse, although that is next to impossible to imagine. Despite a catchy theme song written by the Sherman Brothers and sung by Bobby Darin, this Cat needs to be put down. Rating: 2/5.

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