The Cat from Outer Space: A Low Water Mark

At this point, you might have noticed that a Disney theme for Cat Week. So why didn't I just call it Disney Cat Week? Wait and see. Meanwhile, here's one more Disney cat flick, and the worst of the bunch.

Cat from Outer Space

I really wanted to like The Cat From Outer Space. On paper, it looked like it had a lot going for it:

  • The presence of both Col. Potter (Harry Morgan) and Col. Blake (McLean Stevenson) from M*A*S*H.
  • The fetching-but-wholesome Sandy Duncan. Am I the only one that thought that show Valerie got better when Valerie left and Duncan replaced her? (Am I the only one who even considers that question?)
  • It's a Disney movie with a cat, and as I've seen, Disney makes good movies with cats.

But yeesh, this is one unfunny comedy. What a difference a decade makes. That Darn Cat! was made in 1965. This film was made in 1978, during the Card Walker era at Disney, a kind of interregnum between the death of founder Walt Disney and takeover by Michael Eisner, who, whatever his faults, at least pushed for high quality and trying new things. The Card Walker era frequently saw Disney churning out pale copies of things it had done better in the past. For example, after the opening of Walt Disney World in Orlando, instead of a proposed all-new animatronic tour de force called the Western River Expedition, the top brass instead opted for a substantially shortened version of the Disneyland Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.

The film's story involves an alien cat, or perhaps an alien that takes the form of a cat, or something, and his spaceship is captured by the government, and a nice man named Frank has to help him get back to his ship and depart. There's really nothing wrong with that story as a clothesline to hang gags on, but everything just sort of sparks and smolders without catching fire. Have you ever watched a badly made sitcom, where the setups for the jokes come so early and so often that all of the humor is drained from the situations? This film is like that. That's not to say there aren't some good moments, but there are too few of them, and for the most part, the film is rather dull.

When I reviewed That Darn Cat!, I noted how enjoyable it was to watch a real cat doing real things, glad that the cat wasn't computer-generated imagery, or speaking with a human voice. This cat from outer space talks, and while that's probably the right choice for this story, too many gags are built around the simple premise that the cat is talking and only our hero Frank can hear him. In general, I think talking non-animated animals are a mistake. I remember how excited I was when I first saw the trailer for Dinosaur, because none of the dinosaurs were talking. This, I thought, would be a magical film. Then I discovered the dinosaurs actually talk up a storm, like they're guests on the View or something, and that was the end of that.

In short, if you're only going to see one Disney film about a cat this year, make it one of the others. The Cat from Outer Space is not absolutely awful, but your time is best spent elsewhere.



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