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With: (voices) Joey Lawrence, Billy Joel, Cheech Marin, Richard Mulligan, Roscoe Lee Browne, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Dom DeLuise, Taurean Blacque, Carl Weintraub, Robert Loggia, Natalie Gregory, William Glover, Bette Midler, Frank Welker
Written by: Jim Cox, Timothy J. Disney, James Mangold, from a story by Vance Gerry, Mike Gabriel, Joe Ranft, James A. Mitchell Jr., Chris Bailey, Kirk Wise, David Michener, Roger Allers, Gary Trousdale, Kevin Lima, Michael Cedeno, Peter Young, Leon Joosen, based on a novel by Charles Dickens
Directed by: George Scribner
MPAA Rating: G
Running Time: 74
Date: 11/13/1988

Oliver and Company (1988)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

New Twist

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Surely one of Disney's weakest full-length animated features, Oliver and Company features terrible, badly dated songs and some shoddy, patchwork animation with precious few dazzling moments. Loosely based on Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, the film seems to forget about its main character Oliver, an orphan kitten (voiced by Joey Lawrence), for long stretches. On the streets of New York City, he's left behind in a cardboard box and taken in by a pack of stray dogs, led by Dodger (voiced by Billy Joel). Dodger and his teammates prowl the streets, stealing things for their master, Fagin (voiced by Dom DeLuise), who in turn must hand over the profits to gangster Sykes (voiced by Robert Loggia). On his first job, Oliver falls into the hands of a lonely rich girl, Jenny (voiced by Natalie Gregory) and finds happiness. But his old friends believe that he's been kidnapped and stage a daring rescue. From there, things blunder onward into the final showdown, chase, etc. Bette Midler plays a spoiled showdog, and a Chihuahua called Tito (voiced by Cheech Marin) spends a lot of time flirting with her. At times, the film seems confident and relaxed and at other times, it seems badly miscalculated; it's a decidedly mixed bag. At least sixteen (!) writers -- not counting Dickens -- worked on this, including some who went onto greater things. However, it was the first and last Disney animated feature for director George Scribner.

DVD Details: Disney's 20th Anniversary DVD release comes with a bunch of stuff, including a vintage making-of featurette; Billy Joel records his dialogue and songs while wearing sunglasses (how cool!). There's also a game for kids, and two classic Pluto cartoons: Lend a Paw (1941) and Puss Café (1950).

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