A Street Cat Named Bob: Film Review
Cast: Luke Treadaway, Ruta Gedmintas, Joanne Froggatt
Director: Roger Spottiswoode
It's perhaps no surprise that A Street Cat Named Bob goes for audience pleasing broad brush strokes in its tale (or should that be tail) of a struggling wannabe reformed drug addict who befriends a lonely ginger pussy.
"You're a human interest story" intones a reporter in the latter stages of this less-than-purrfect yarn.
And it's a spot-on analysis of why some audience members will find this relative kryptonite.
While the redemption story of homeless James Bowen (played with twitchy about to fail edginess by Luke Treadaway) is at times as entirely predictable as you'd expect, it suffers from an episodic choppy feel as the earnest story plays out.
Given a second /last chance by Downton Abbey's Joanne Froggatt social worker, James is never far from slipping back into old ways due to catastrophic coincidences and bad luck (something Spottsiwoode's film actually gets painfully right.)
But when the ginger Tom shows up in assisted home without warning, a bond is formed between the two.
And the bond is further cemented when James starts busking with Bob on his shoulders, bringing him an income he'd never expected and a fame he never sought.
However, as James tries to sort his life out, demons start to emerge and threaten his road to reconciliation and redemption...
A Street Cat Named Bob is exactly what you'd expect from a family film adaptation of Bowen's successful novel of life on the streets.
However, it's because of that, that this film never quite hits a tonal consistency throughout.
Despite the film starting off fairly gritty in its portrayal of the faceless homeless masses being treated badly on London's streets, the film quickly goes for saccharine to counter some of the darkness that threatens to enter the screen.
And even later on, the film's keen to embrace a degree of Trainspotting bleakness as James goes through withdrawal alone in his flat.
But, it's almost as if the film's too scared to take the movie to a darker place - granted, its simplicity and the occasionally overt naivete of the narrative mean it has to stay under a certain level to ensure a wider audience, but Spottiswoode is ham-strung by a story that feels like Homeless 101 sanitised for the middle-class liberal masses who don't want to feel guilty in the dark of the matinee.
Far more successful is when the film concentrates on its bond between feline and master, sending James into the category of quirky that gets so embraced by the English masses. While a lot of the bonding is simply kept to endless cutaways of the reaction of Bob to something that's said, any cat owner who's felt their charge is talking to them will recognise and empathise with every moment.
And while Spottiswoode initially employs a cats-eye-point-of-view for Bob's take on the world, this directorial trick soon begins to grate.
A Street Cat Named Bob may be earnest in its intentions and true to its author's tome, but it's hampered by some weaker acting from those involved.
Chiefly, Ruta Gedmintas's Betty, a hippy-dippy neighbour who wafts through life with a flighty approach, even with her well-meaning interactions with both James and Bob.
It's very easy to be cynical about a feel-good film such as this - as mentioned, it wears its heart on its sleeve, and clearly those involved want to ensure there's a sanitised approach and presentation to the homeless and darker elements of the story.
But it's not ultimately beneficial and while what transpires on screen is less than cat-astrophic and more feel-good, it certainly doesn't give paws for thought, thanks to the darker edges that could provided a stronger narrative being held at bay and ultimately leaving you with a more muted catharsis than should be expected.