It's entirely possible to love cats, children and animation and still be aghast at the low level of invention in "Heathcliff the Movie" (citywide), a proudly G-rated film that combines all three.
First of all, let's get our cartoon kitties straight. It's Garfield with the half-lidded eyes and a sneaky take on life. Heathcliff may even have preceded him, but even with the masterly Mel Blanc doing his voice, Heathcliff's a big snore.
He's characterized as more of a sorehead than devilishly inspired, and Heathcliff's every tangle with opponents is the same shot: a dust storm with feet, elbows, paws and a tail emerging at different times, predictable as vaudeville. That may cut corners in the budget, but it's poverty-level animation and young audiences deserve better.
To make things worse, this feature feels jiffy-built, as though several television episodes had been bound with a thin thread of invention, with the result to be called a feature movie. (Heathcliff forbids his three identical nephews to go out and play; instead they have to stay inside while their uncle runs through his scrapbook of past adventures. Even kittens balk at that one.)
The producing organization, Clubhouse Pictures, has a laudable aim: to produce films that will lure whole families back into the movie theaters. This one won't. However, later this year Clubhouse will be releasing Will Vinton's remarkable Claymation feature on Mark Twain. That one has in abundance the spark and freshness that Heathcliff so badly needs.
Released by Clubhouse Pictures, a subsidiary of Atlantic Entertainment Group. Co-production of Dic Audiovisuel, LBS Communications Inc. and McNaught Syndicate Inc. Producer Jean Chalopin. Executive producers Chalopin, Andy Heyward, Tetsuo Katayama. With Mel Blanc as the voice of Heathcliff.
Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.