Top Cat Begins

Movie review by
Tom Cassidy, Common Sense Media
Top Cat Begins Movie Poster Image
Cartoon cat origin story is mean-spirited, joyless, violent.
  • PG
  • 2017
  • 89 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Characters are fundamentally selfish and cheat, scam, and steal. A single message of teamwork and respecting friends comes far too late.

Positive Role Models & Representations

No characters have respect for others. Top Cat is proudly selfish, only caring about money. Mean-spirited humor throughout includes Top Cat using an unhoused person as a footrest. A police officer who jumps out of a window when assigned a tough job is given a woman's scream as he falls. Female characters are only used for violence and sexual jokes. Flight attendant is portrayed as a camp outdated stereotype. Orphans are represented as dirty street children, made fun of, and physically attacked. Top Cat self-harms when he loses a diamond, smashing his face repeatedly with drain covers and other items. At the very end, Top Cat learns the value of friendship and is kind to two children.

Violence

The movie is full of "cartoon" violence. All attempts at slapstick fail to be funny, so without the humor it just feels nasty. People and animal characters are regularly punched in the face, grabbed by the throat, and threatened with weapons including knives, guns, and cleavers. Most characters are hostile and the movie has many threats of death. Character pretends to be a doctor and convinces someone to put hot sauce in their eyes. A nun with a baseball bat gets stun-gunned by a police officer. "Possessed" character's head rotates 180 degrees before spitting goo in the face of someone.

Sex

Female characters' breasts are uniformly large, usually in low-cut tops with lots of cleavage and animated to bounce with each movement the character makes. Character enjoys secretly watching a singer undress. The singer's underwear lands on their face. A character swoons into the arms of another when they speak French.

Language

Language includes: "idiot," "schmuck," "pooped," "bull," and "stupid." A censored outburst starts with a character screaming the first syllable of "f--k," with the rest of their long tirade bleeped out and with a large "censored" card over their mouth.

Consumerism

Multiple characters are solely motivated by money. A character promises their gang "a luxurious life of money, girls, cars… anything you want." Two performances of the song Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
As a substitute for alcohol, milk is served in martini glasses at a nightclub.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Top Cat Begins is a dire, mean-spirited origin story movie about the cartoon cat who first appeared on TV in the early 1960s. Top Cat (voiced by Jason Harris) is a selfish hustler whose sole aim is to get money by stealing and scamming. The cruel tone of the movie makes the abundant slapstick violence feel sinister rather than lighthearted. Characters are punched in the face, choked, shot at, threatened with a multitude of weapons, and told they'll be killed. A scene in which a woman gets her face shoved hard in her food twice sums up the movie's approach to women. There are no positive female characters, with the few that do appear being sexualized. In one scene, Top Cat's sidekick Benny (Chris Edgerly) spies on a woman getting undressed. There are also stereotyped portrayals of the LGBTQ+ community, while orphan children are depicted as dirty-faced street thieves. In a scene that sums up the offensive tone of the whole movie, Top Cat buys a "premium" air ticket that means he can use an unhoused person as a footrest on the plane. The movie also includes explicit references to the very adult movies The Exorcist and Reservoir Dogs. Some mild language -- such as "idiot" -- but Top Cat does scream the first syllable of "f--k," with the rest bleeped out and with a large "censored" card over his mouth. It's yet another example of a gag that feels inappropriate for the movie's target audience.

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What's the story?

TOP CAT BEGINS tells the story of how Top Cat (voiced by Jason Harris) became a con artist, met his gang of cat accomplices, and came to face his foe, Mr. Big (Darin De Paul).

Is it any good?

This miserable movie is irredeemably bad. Directed by Andrés CouturierTop Cat Beginshates women, men, cats, dogs, children, unhoused people, the LGBTQ+ community, orphans, nuns, the police, and pretty much everything else it features. It's rare to find a truly joyless children's movie but Top Cat Begins proves it's possible. Couturier and his screenwriters have no idea of tone. Explicit movie references include Reservoir Dogs, Psycho, and The Exorcist, three films most children have never seen, and for good reason. These references aren't clever asides for a knowing adult audience. It's the entire intro to Reservoir Dogs, complete with the whole of Little Green Bag. As for The Exorcist reference, a character appears possessed, twists his head round 180 degrees and spits goo in the face of another. What could any of this possibly mean to children watching?

The movie is even arrogant enough to take a shot at a previous movie version of the cartoon. In one of the countless violent scenes, Top Cat is slammed into a trash can, which the movie's makers have stuffed full of DVD copies of 2011's Top Cat: The Movie. This weirdly cynical joke majorly backfires. It's true, that version was another dismal offering. But Top Cat Begins needs its own trash can right next to it. Thanks to streaming sites, there's never been more choice of what to watch as a family -- choose anything but this.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the humor in Top Cat Begins. Did you find it funny? Were the jokes appropriate for a movie like this? A lot of the jokes were at the expense of others. Could this type of humor be described as bullying?

  • Talk about the violence in the movie. Is it necessary to the story? How does the movie's comic tone affect the impact of the violent moments? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • How are the female characters portrayed in the movie? Did they serve a purpose to the story?

  • Top Cat carries out a series of scams. What scams do you know to be aware of? If something looks too good to be true, should you always question it?

Movie details

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