Oliver & Company (1988)

oliver and company poster 1988 movie
6.0 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 6/10

Good cast

So-so story and art

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Oliver & Company

Studio:  Walt Disney Pictures

Genre(s):  Animated/Musical/Family

Release Date(s):  November 18, 1988

MPAA Rating:  G

oliver and company fagin cast

It Oliver! …and company

An orphaned kitten in New York City meets up with a stray named Dodger and his crew.  Working for a man named Fagin, Dodger teaches the kitten the ways of the streets and helps him steal for Fagin who is desperately trying to repay his boss Sykes.  When the kitten is found by a girl named Jenny Foxworth, he’s named Oliver and appears to have found a home.  Unfortunately, Jenny is kidnapped by Sykes for ransom from her wealthy parents, and it is up to Oliver, Dodger, and the other dogs to save her.

Directed by George Scribner, Oliver & Company is an animated family musical.  The movie is the twenty-seventh entry in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series following The Great Mouse Detective in 1986. Oliver & Company adapted Charles Dickens’ 1837 novel Oliver Twist and was met with moderate reviews but high box office returns.

oliver and company why should i worry billy joel

Why should I worry?

Oliver & Company missed me.  By the time it came out, I was too old and when it finally was released on video and later DVD, I had other things to watch.  I remember the trailers and the fact that Billy Joel provided the voice of Dodger, but for the most part never sought out this Disney film.  I didn’t really miss much.

Oliver & Company isn’t a bad film, but it isn’t a great film.  One problem for me is that the Oliver Twist story has been told multiple times and in much better forms.  Here we have the strange problem of adopting the story to animals which means Oliver can’t find his relatives and no half-brother (which is often dropped out of the story including in the classic Oliver! musical).  This is compounded by the fact that they do not want Fagin to be the bad (and often criticized stereotype) that he is in the book.  This Fagin really is good to the dogs and later Jenny…he does not end up in jail with death looming as in Oliver Twist.

oliver and company bette midler georgette

Georgette the uppity poodle…why not? Let’s just keep adding characters

The movie does have tons of vocal talents.  Oliver is played by a young Joey Lawrence (who was in Gimme a Break when this was made).  Billy Joel provides the voice of Dodger and sings his title song “Why Should I Worry”.  Cheech Marin steals many of his scenes as the Chihuahua Ignacio Alonzo Julio Federico de Tito.  Richard Mulligan plays Einstein, a rather slow Great Dane.  Roscoe Lee Browne plays the professional bulldog Francis.  Bette Midler provides the voice of the uppity poodle Georgette.  The humans Fagin and Sykes are played by Dom DeLuise and Robert Loggia.  With a runtime just over an hour, there are far too many characters for the movie to develop…and it feels like they just keep adding them because of how the plot unfolds.

oliver and company lady and the tramp characters jock trusty peg

Best part? Cameos by The Lady and the Tramp supporting cast (plus a Dalmatian)

Style-wise, this movie had the unfortunate distinction of really falling through the cracks…the Disney Renaissance hadn’t started with The Little Mermaid (which still used traditional art) and movies like The Great Mouse Detective and The Black Cauldron hadn’t endeared many children to Disney like earlier Disney films.  The fact that this art is not bad, but also not distinctive.  It didn’t really inspire much imagination…it was better than Saturday morning cartoons, but not amazing like something like Disney’s Sleeping Beauty (which I still say has some of Disney’s best art despite a so-so story).  I also find it weird that the non-character seen on the street generally look so different than the Disney character that are part of the story.

Oliver & Company feels like rather tired Disney.  It isn’t bad but doesn’t provide anything unique or interesting to a story that has been told over and over again.  The movie is enjoyable but feels like nothing special…this is a shame because many Disney originally felt like an event because they weren’t as regular as animated films today.  Disney followed Oliver & Company was followed by the game changing The Little Mermaid in 1989.

Related Links:

Oliver Twist (1948)

Oliver! (1968)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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