It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
The words “Disney” and “animation” fit together so firmly in the public mind that a feature-length cartoon from any other studio has tough going. If it's not Disney, somehow parents don't feel automatically compelled to load up the family van and head for the multiplex.
Warner Bros. has been trying to change that perception, and its “Space Jam,” starring Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny, was a box-office hit, even though it didn't break through the magic $100 million domestic box-office ceiling. Now the studio is back again, with “Cats Don't Dance,” a cute animated musical about Danny the Song and Dance Cat, from Kokomo, Ind., who hops on a bus to Hollywood in search of stardom, circa 1939.
The movie lacks the strong plotting and vividly defined characters typical of Disney movies, and it doesn't start with the death of one or more parents, which seems more or less obligatory in the genre. It plays, indeed, more like an animated version of an old Hollywood musical (there are elements of “Singin' in the Rain,” and the late Gene Kelly is credited with the film's choreography).
The opening is right out of countless show-biz tales. Danny (voice by Scott Bakula) arrives in Hollywood with a seven-day plan that starts with getting an agent and ends with getting the girl. He quickly discovers the hard facts of life: Animal actors aren't much in demand, and humans get all the best jobs.