“A Talking Cat!?!”

“A Talking Cat!?!” is a feature-length movie, available on DVD and Netflix Instant, about a magical cat who has the power to talk to people – but he can only have one conversation per person. After that one conversation, he can never speak to that person again. The cat, Duffy, uses his powers to improve the lives of two different families.

Not an awful premise for a movie. If you change “talking cat” to “Golden Retriever” you have the plot of at least 20 other movies. And just judging from the trailer, you could probably guess this movie is hilariously bad.

Well it isn’t. It’s just bad. No, no. This isn’t “Plan 9 From Outer Space”. It’s not “Troll 2”, “Birdemic”, “The Room”, or any number of films riffed on ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’. This movie is just… not good.

One problem with the movie that becomes immediately apparent is the music. There’s basically two different pieces of Midi-file music that plays – one of “La Cucaracha”, and one of a song that sounds like it’s the baseline of “it’s a small world” mixed with Cartman’s “Cheesey Poofs” song from ‘South Park.’ The main problem is the music sounds like it would fit right in with a 90s children’s video, and it plays through the entire movie, even during the dramatic or emotional parts. And there’s basically no variation on the two pieces. They just play over and over again.

Then there’s the acting. I’m not actually a great judge of acting – basically I have a scale that consists of “very convincing” and “other”. But the line delivery in this film was atrocious. It sounded like no one knew their lines, or they were all supposed to be improvising, despite the actors not knowing how to improvise. They kept needing to pause and draw out words awkwardly, instead of just delivering the lines, like normal human actors do. The most baffling thing about that is the two oldest cast members have been in a lot of movies and tv show. The man playing Phil (the father) has been acting for almost 50 years.  The younger actors have all only appeared in a few minor roles in other movies or tv shows (except for one actor, who is making his film debut in this movie).

But I’m thinking the problem is mostly the material the actors had to work with. Because, honestly, this plot is just… dumb. And I don’t mean dumb in the way that all “animal that talks or at least has a voiceover changes and improves the lives of two families, possibly over a sports game or over the holiday season” movies tend to be. Normally with those other movies, the stakes are higher – like the mother just died and the children are sad, or the kids have to go live with one parent because of a divorce, or someone’s in danger of losing their business which would force them to move back to Smalltown Nebraska. This movie doesn’t really have that. From what I remember, the mother in Family B has a struggling catering business, but that’s it. I can’t even remember what anyone else’s problems were. The dad in Family A didn’t seem to be lonely and pining after his long-gone wife. The kids were all polite, well-behaved, and doing well in school. The only real problem was that the son in Family A didn’t know how to swim – which wasn’t even a problem at all. Nobody knew, and it wasn’t like he got embarrassed for not swimming in a certain circumstance, or that he couldn’t swim because his mom drowned, or something. He just didn’t know how to swim.

So there really wasn’t a reason for the magical talking cat to show up and save everyone. Because they were all doing pretty well.

Now to be absolutely fair to the movie, I gradually stopped paying attention to the movie, so it’s very possible that things could’ve been worse than they seemed, but it sure wasn’t presented that way. And to be fair all around, it wasn’t until an hour in that I just gave up paying attention to this thing.

There are only a couple things I can say about this movie that are very positive – it was filmed with a fantastic camera. The actual filming was pretty bad – by that I mean a lot of the scenes kind of vibrated up and down, unless it was for a completely stationary shot where they just the camera on a tripod. But the picture quality was great, and the opening footage of random landscaping was absolutely gorgeous. The crew of this movie should think about filming a nature documentary or something.

Second – the cast was all good-looking. Especially the younger actors. And the cat. It was nice to have something pretty to look at during this bore of a film.

Third – the cat’s voice. Eric Robert’s line delivery was better than the other actors’, although it was less emotional. But the particular sound of his voice fit very well with the cat. Plus, early on in the movie, before we learn that the narrator is actually the cat, there’s all these shots of rivers and waterfalls that have Eric Roberts speaking over them, so it looks like the entire land is speaking with his voice. It’s weirdly hilarious, and worth watching the first couple minutes just for that.

But, really, the rest of the film just isn’t worth it. The story is blah, the acting is meh. Maybe if you’re drunk or you’ve got some friends who can make light of any situation, it’s worth a watch. But otherwise, watch something else.

Miscellaneous Thoughts

There was this weird gay subtext through the whole movie. I don’t know the sexual orientation of any of the actors, nor do I care, but it especially felt like the teenage son of Family A (the one who can’t swim) was not entirely straight, despite wanting to get the attentions of one particular young lady. In fact, at one point towards the end, the son from Family B, who was much better-built and hunkier than Family A’s son (oh I should probably mention at this point that I can’t remember any of their actual names, other than the dad’s), tears off his clothes except for his swim trunks that he was apparently wearing under his pants, and dives into the pool. The series of shots before, during, and after this, along with the feeling Family A’s son was giving me, made me think the movie was going to take an entirely new direction, but it didn’t. And while I was looking up the director (who has used a whole boatload of different pseudonyms in his directing career), I found a thread where people are discussing how many of his films have gay overtones or characters who seem gay but apparently aren’t.

Family A lives in a gigantic house. A gigantic, empty house. That has a VW Bug just off the side in the living room. It’s really common for new players of the Sims franchise to build gigantic houses, no matter the size of the family living there, and then to put random decorations and such along the walls. So I feel like that’s what happened with this house – because it’s giant, and has almost nothing besides odd statues, and only two people live in it. But obviously that house must’ve already been built when they went to film this movie (not even big-budget blockbusters with theatrical releases build houses from scratch most of the time, unless they specifically need to), so that just makes the whole thing even weirder.

The credits to this movie are really long. They were at least 3 minutes long, probably more like 6 minutes. This is the despite the fact that almost no one had anything to do with making this movie.

Towards the end, the cat gets hit by a car. He is near death, and we’re told the veterinarian has made him comfortable, with the implication that it’s all he can do until the cat passes on (although if that was the case, couldn’t he just euthanize the cat?). Well, here’s what the cat looks like as it’s dying:

This is the only screencap I took, because I wasn’t thinking about doing a review for this movie at first.

Heart-wrenching. How will he pull through, I just can’t imagine.

And finally, currently in post-production is “A Talking Pony!?!” which sadly is not a sequel. Also the director has a couple other movies under his name that include exclamation points, including a third film that has the “!?!” at the end.

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