Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Cat From Outer Space (1978)

Directed by Norman Tokar. Disney had a slick way of starting with something simple like a cat and making a family movie that works. Here they accomplish the feat despite a simple plot, bland characters and some unappealing casting. I pre-screened this to see if it was appropriate for Max, (who will be nine in a couple of months) and decided it was though I wasn’t sure if he’d think much of it. It sat on our AppleTV box for nearly a year before he had any interest in sitting down to it but to my surprise, he loved it.

The main plot involves this cat, Jake, who crash lands on Earth and needs to fix his ship with the help of -- in his 1,237th Disney role -- Dean Jones. To do it, they need a lot of gold, which they get the money for by gambling. The whole thing takes place mainly on a military base and heavily involves McLean Stevenson and Harry Morgan although they do not play Colonels Blake or Potter. However, Sandy Duncan is presented as an appealing young woman, who was not, raising the question why the hell Marlo Thomas never made any Disney movies.

The voice of Jake is played by Ronnie Schell, who is one of the great character actors of all time, but to be honest, he leaves a lot to be desired. If you’ve ever seen “Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey,” in which Michael J. Fox provides the voice of a dog who may or may not grow up to travel through time to cure Parkinson’s Disease, you will both see a great voice acting performance and then be a little disappointed in Ronnie Schell here. However, you will enjoy seeing Schell in a whole other role in the movie, as Sgt. Duffy, which will confuse the hell out of your kid when you try to explain to him or her that it’s the guy who is doing the voice of the cat.

Caution: the chase scene that anchors the third act goes on forever.

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