Los Angeles Times

That Darn Cat


Friday February 14, 1997

     Disney's reworking of its beloved 1965 "That Darn Cat" is too contrived and drawn out to have much appeal for audiences beyond small children, who may be diverted by the antics of a clever feline but who may also start to squirm before the crime comedy at last wraps it all up.
     This new version finds bright 16-year-old Patti (Christina Ricci) bored out her mind living in an idyllic Massachusetts town with her genial bookseller father (Michael McKean) and her prissy, obtuse mother (Bess Armstrong), who would drive most teenagers crazy. Patti's key consolation is her alley cat, D.C., who brings excitement into her life when he comes home with a wristwatch around his neck, which becomes a clue in a kidnapping. Action of sorts kicks in when Patti takes off for Boston and convinces a rookie FBI agent (Doug E. Doug)--she will soon describe him accurately as "painfully inept"--to investigate.
     Amazingly, this bit of fluff was originally written by the same writing team--Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski, this time using the initials "S.M." and "L.A." in the credits instead of their first names--who wrote the hard-edged "The People vs. Larry Flynt." (They have said in interviews that most of the original "Darn Cat" dialogue they wrote long ago was subsequently changed.)
     Although most of what ensues in "Darn Cat" is inane, there are a couple of pluses. Although Doug's FBI agent is made to seem idiotic, Patti is well-written and well-played by Ricci under Bob Spiers' direction. Armstrong is especially amusing as the tiresome mother. Dean Jones, who was in the original film, and Dyan Cannon are the classy couple whose housekeeper is the kidnap victim.
     Other familiar players include George Dzundza as Doug's huffy boss; Peter Boyle, the local soda fountain proprietor; and Estelle Parsons as the town's crazy old lady. None of these sterling actors has much of a chance to shine in this film, which was first announced for release last year.
     But Elvis, cast as D.C., is one smart, scrappy feline. And Edgeville, S.C., which stands in for the fictional Edgeville, Mass., is quaint. But that's about all you can say for this "Darn Cat."

That Darn Cat, 1997. PG, for mild thematic elements. A Buena Vista release of a Walt Disney Pictures presentation. Director Bob Spiers. Producer Robert Simonds. Executive producer Andrew Gottlieb. Screenplay by S.M. Alexander & L.A. Karaszewski; based on the novel "Undercover Cat" by The Gordons and the screenplay by The Gordons and Bill Walsh. Cinematographer Jerzy Zielinski. Editor Roger Barton. Costumes Marie France. Music Richard Kendall Gibbs. Production designer Jonathan Carlson. Art director Jeremy A. Cassells. Set decorator Susan Lee Degus. Running time: 1 hour, 58 minutes. Christina Ricci as Patti. Doug E. Doug as Zeke. George Dzundza as Boetticher. Peter Boyle as Pa. Michael McKean as Peter Randall. Bess Armstrong as Judy Randall.

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