A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
What's the story?
Is it any good?
This miserable movie is irredeemably bad. Directed by Andrés Couturier, Top 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?
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?
- In theaters: September 29, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: October 10, 2017
- Cast: Jason Harris, Chris Edgerly, Bill Lobley
- Director: Andrés Couturier
- Studio: Viva Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Cats, Dogs, and Mice
- Run time: 89 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: rude humor, action and some language.
- Last updated: August 6, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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