March 28, 1997 in Seven

Animated ‘Cats’ Lively And Tuneful

Chris Hewitt St. Paul Pioneer Press

“Cats Don’t Dance” has a title that seems to be making fun of Andrew Lloyd Webber, so it goes without that saying that you enter the theater ready to like it. The surprise is, you leave feeling the same way.

Clever, tuneful and fast-paced, it’s the best conventionally animated movie since “The Lion King” (“Toy Story” and “James and the Giant Peach” were better, but both used unconventional techniques). Set in 1930s Hollywood, “Cats Don’t Dance” features a talented batch of singing and dancing animals who keep losing out on all the best movie parts. So they put on a show to convince the moguls they have as much star power as humans.

“Cats Don’t Dance” is one of those children’s movies that works just as well for adults (maybe better). It’s set in a - and I apologize in advance for using this word - milieu we recognize from countless backstage musicals, and the occasionally spotty animation picks up the theme, with blue-gray skylines and gorgeously deserted bus stations that recall the work of Edward Hopper.

You could interpret the overlooked animals as a metaphor for Hollywood racism, but you don’t have to.

The accent is on smart-alecky jokes and witty, animated cameos by folks such as Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

Best of all, the biting-the-Hollywood-hand-that-feeds-it script has an inspired villain: a monstrous child star named Darla Dimples.

In her movies, she’s a little angel, but in real life, she’s Shirley Temple of Doom.

Whether she’s doing lunch with a cat singer while gnawing off the heads of kitty animal crackers or singing her theme song, “Big and Loud,” this pint-sized Ethel Merman is petty, mean and vicious.

I couldn’t have loved her more.

xxxx “Cats Don’t Dance” Location: Lincoln Heights, North Division, Coeur d’Alene Cinemas Credits: Directed by Mark Dindal Running time: 1:09 Rating: G

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email