When I learned that Mexico made a Top Cat 3D animated movie, I was intrigued and perplexed. Intrigued because Top Cat is one of my most favorite Hanna-Barbera cartoons, and its titular character is one of my most favorite fictional cats. And perplexed because… Mexico? Furthermore, looking into it, I learned that it’s not even the first Top Cat movie from Mexico (the first one was back in 2011). Wow. Maybe Top Cat has become such a giant pop culture hit in Mexico that a local studio was compelled to license and produce its own movie based on the property… twice!
Don Gato: El Inicio de la Pandilla (translated “Top Cat: The Start of the Gang” in English) – the movie’s original title in Spanish – was first released in Mexican theaters last 2015. But it’s only this year that the movie is released in English, which has been titled Top Cat Begins. The movie, if you haven’t guessed it already, tells the story of how Top Cat and his gang came together.
I was prepared to love this movie. But I just couldn’t. Its tone, humor, and direction don’t at all reflect the “spirit” of the classic cartoon. It’s still a kid’s movie, but I was taken aback by how edgy it is. It’s not the Top Cat I know and loved. In addition, it has a badly written script and very poor pacing. I just hope this origin story is not canon because I hated it.
It also doesn’t help that the animation is mediocre. It’s not really awful per se. Its quality is okay for a direct-to-video production, but not as a film intended to be shown in theaters, which Top Cat Begins is. By that standard, there’s not much delight in watching.
But there are also some parts of the movie that I liked. There are some genuinely amusing sequences, and there are sporadic glimpses of the kind of charm the original cartoon has. My favorite part is the ending, when the gang has finally settled on their alley, because it was only then when I felt the movie became the Top Cat I was familiar with. In most parts though, it’s an unnecessary, boring origin story told through visually unattractive storytelling.