HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Oliver and Company
HTS Overall Score:66
We are back for more of Disney’s offerings to the Blu-ray community. This time, instead of Disney’s double features, we are blessed with probably one of the more unique Disney titles available in their animated catalog. Based off of “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens, we have a bit more of a darker take than the classic Disney heroes and villains. I’d almost say it’s reminiscent of Disney crossed with Don Bluth - while most Disney villains are a bit dark and scary at times, “Oliver and Company” carries an almost seedy feeling that is usually unseen in the classic Disney offerings. Lacking the complexity of most of the mouse house titles, it’s simple, to the point, and fairly short. However, a good story doesn’t always need to be as complex and multi-layered as an onion to be endearing. Sometimes the best stories are the simple ones, for at heart “Oliver and Company” is about family, and finding out where one belongs.
Oliver (Joey Lawrence) is a kitten who’s the last of his litter to be adopted from a box on the corner of the seedy side of New York City. Lonely, dejected and abandoned, he is picked up by Dodger (Billy Joel) and his crew of street wise dogs to help collect items of value for their master Fagin (Dom Deluise). Fagin is in DEEEEEP to a mobster by the name of Sykes (Robert Loggia) and only has 3 days to cough up the money that is owed. Going out in the streets to scavenge for valuables so that Fagin can pay off his debt, Dodger and his crew (along with Oliver) run into some trouble. During a routine scam, Oliver is mistakenly picked up and driven home to a young girl who takes pity on the poor kitten. Adopting him as her own, Jenny (Natalie Gregory) gives Oliver what he’s been longing for this whole time, a loving home. Finally achieving what any pet dreams of, Oliver’s only real troubles now are dealing with the spoiled show dog Georgette (Bette Midler) and playing with Jenny.
The problem arises when Dodger and crew come to Oliver's “rescue.” Thinking that Oliver was kidnapped, they stage a daring rescue and re-kidnap Oliver back without realizing that Oliver is happy where he is. To make matters, worse Fagin sees the gold collar on Oliver’s neck and concocts a plan to extort the owner of the cat for a ransom in hopes to pay off his debt. Jenny intercepts the ransom note and, grabbing her piggy bank, goes on a rescue mission of her own. Fagin, for as much as he’s a doofus and a lowlife of the city, is still a kind human being at heart and takes pity on the young girl, giving Oliver back without payment. However, Sykes has been watching the whole proceedings and decides to take matters into his own hands and kidnaps Jenny herself, realizing the bigger ransom wasn’t in the cat, but in the girl. Now Fagin, Dodger and Oliver must concoct a plan to rescue Jenny and get Oliver back to his new family.
“Oliver and Company” isn’t as deep or intricate as the Dickens story, but it is still a sweet and heartwarming (albeit almost bittersweet at places) tale. As I said at the beginning of the review, “Oliver” is a story about family and finding where you really belong. While the story is simplistic in nature and rather different than other Disney titles, I found the film to be captivating from beginning to end. I’m a man’s man most of the times, but when it comes to animals (especially cats and dogs) I turn into a giant marshmallow softy. As a result “Oliver and Company” resonated with me in a way that isn’t usually the norm. The sadness and pain of Oliver was poignant, depressing and beautiful all at the same time. Most of us in life are very much like Oliver, just looking for that place to fit in and call home, to be around people who love us and are loved in return.
The flaws of “Oliver and Company,” unfortunately, are as big as the pro’s for this 80’s animated film. The film suffers from a low budget (which shows in the animations), a story that can be a tad meandering at times along with the fact that there seems to be no real apparent overarching villain (we switch from the dogs, to Fagin to Sykes all within an hour). As a result, the film just doesn’t live up to the greatness it could have been with a larger budget and some more attention to detail. That doesn’t mean the film isn’t worthy of the Disney line of classics, though. The film is sweet and endearing to both adults and children alike, and as usual, the one thing that Disney really does well is their side characters. Georgette is as deplorable and goofy as one would expect from a stuck up show dog, and Cheech Marin steals the show as the Taco bell dog …..Tito. Although I do say that this one is a bit dark for the young children both in tone and in terms of violence. Still it’s fantastic to see Disney releasing more of the catalog animated titles and “Oliver and Company” would be welcome among any Disney fans collection.
Rated G for General Audiences
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=12174[/img]While Disney has usually given us great to fantastic video encodes, “Oliver and Company” is one of the more disappointing titles in terms of picture quality. While “Oliver” has always been a rather roughly drawn film (and no one can blame the transfer for that), the real letdown is the abusive use of DNR to scrub the film of any film grain. Disney has always had a penchant for using DNR in their restorations of animated films, they have usually done so with at least acceptable to good results. Here the DNR becomes so prevalent at times that you can actually see the smearing in fast motion scenes and detail in the picture is scrubbed out. On the flip side, contrasts are great, giving the film a more natural feel and the color replication has been retimed to a softer hue. Primaries shine with much aplomb and brush lines are clean and crisp without any jaggies from digital artifacting. Blacks are inky and deep, giving a great feel to the dark dock scenes in the film. Overall a decent transfer, but not that great of a step over the standard DVD.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=12175[/img]The audio track for “Oliver” is definitely a slight step up from the video encode. The film is mainly front loaded so there’s not a whole lot of surround usage here. There’s a few times, especially during the train chase at the end of the film, where the surrounds light up with action, but most of the surround usage is relegated to the musical numbers. Dialogue is well balanced and stays up there in the front soundstage. Given that this isn’t a huge action score, the film stays well balanced where the vocals stay in tune with sound effects. LFE is mild and really only utilized during the musical numbers as well, which tends to stay in line with the front loaded and mild soundtrack.
• "Lend a Paw"
• "Puss Cafe"
• Disney Sing Along Mode
• Disney's Animated Animals
• The Making of Oliver and Company
• Original Theatrical Trailer
• TV Spot
“Oliver and Company” may not be a perfect film, but it’s still a fun movie and is sure to entertain us whether we be children, or just children at heart. My only real reservations come from the fact that the video is a tad lackluster and the audio is not much better. The lack of extras doesn’t exactly help it’s case either. While it not be a MUST BUY! type of transfer, it is still a jump above the standard DVD and I would recommend it for fans of Disney everywhere.
Starring: Joseph Lawrence, Billy Joel, Cheech Marin, Richard Mulligan
Directed by: George Scribner
Written by: Jim Cox, Tim Disney
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish, French DD 5.1, English DD 2.0
Studio: Disney/Buena Vista
Runtime: 73 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: August 6th, 2013
Buy Oliver and Company Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It
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