Thursday, September 13, 2012

Cats: The Movie (no really: that's the title)

The term ‘crazy cat lady’ gets thrown around a lot in this day and age. As mother to two feline furballs who impose themselves on virtually every aspect of my life—

Oh look! Here’s a picture!

What was I talking about?

Right. See, I myself have been known to accept such a title. Perhaps it’s Joplin’s comfort with sitting on my shoulder…

Or Mookie’s enjoyment of being spanked…

Or the fact that I say these things in public with no consideration that some people find it, well, inappropriate.

Nevertheless, the beauty of something like Cats: The Movie is that, when watched with the director/producer commentary, I suddenly feel normal. Yes, I may take my showers as Mookie sits loyally on the bath ledge or have complete back and forth conversations with the chatty alarm clock also known as Joplin every morning, but at least I’M not the one spending 7 years of my life recording my kids’ antics and editing it into a 69 minute full-length feature youtube video with a story arc.

Mostly because Mookie speaks a hybrid of broken American English with a North Korean accent and despite being cute as a black and white button, Joplin is horribly unphotogenic and would look awful on camera.

They’re just not ready. Yet…

Quick Plot: Marchello is an indoor cat whose mother is the definition of a crazy cat lady, overearnestly voiced by Lolita’s Domonique Swain. See, when Mom spends the night at her boyfriend’s—apparently the first time this has ever happened—and later LEAVES HER CAT A MESSAGE ON THE ANSWERING MACHINE that she’ll be delayed another day, Marchello goes into a bit of a, dare I say it, tailspin, sneaking outside to explore the street life. 

It’s a CAT-astrophe!

Get it? Because cat—


And what does our four legged friend find in the wilderness of wealthy suburbia? A sexy neighbor cat named Jujube, voiced by none other than Michelle Rodriquez. Like every character ever played by Michelle Rodriguez, Jujube messes everything up when she teases Marchello into traveling too far away from home. Now our hero must face territorial crows, manic depressive abandoned cats, drunken bullfrogs, overenthusiastic dogs, and a seedy rollerblader who makes a living by grabbing stray pets and ransoming them to their rich owners.

All of the abovementioned action is filmed guerilla style with a handheld, sometimes fingerprint spotted lensed camera. It’s like Milo & Otis with weaker production values or an episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos with, well, equal production values and the voice of Jeremy Piven.

It’s hard to knock Cats: The Movie when it was essentially a hobby for painter-turned-cinematographer-turned-auteur Susan Emerson. Listening to the commentary track of her and producer Paul Williams (no, not that one) shows that Emerson wasn’t aiming to make Citizen Kat. She simply discovered her pet main coon was a natural in front of the camera and if she organized things a little bit, she could have a feature film. From one crazy cat lady to another, I have to sort of salute this effort.

But also, you know…it’s Cats: The Movie. I imagine its appeal lies in kids bored with Baby Einstein or nice old ladies with eternal supplies of hard candy. Also, Joplin seemed to really like it:

Although not as much as she did Sharon Stone in Scissors.

The little darling could not take her green eyes off Steve Railsback

Lessons Learned
Squirrels make shitty messengers, even if they are voiced by Jeremy Sisto

Crows are assholes

Culled from the commentary: a D.O.P. is a director of photography (as explained to the film’s producer)

Standard Animals Doing Human Stuff Trope Tally
New Kid In Town: Check 
Recent Dead or Divorced Parent: X
Montage: X
New Friendship: Check
Potentially Inappropriate ‘Friendship’ Between Child & Unrelated Adult (Human): Check Check Check Check Check Check Check Check Check Check Check Check Check Check Check Check Check Check Check Check Check Check Check
Evil Corporate Enemy: X. A rollerblading catnapping con artist seems to be working independently
Original Song: X
Bully Comeuppance: X
Small Town Values: X. This is pure suburbia. There is nothing to compare it to
Back To Nature Moral: Check. The movie ends with Marchello’s mother randomly deciding he can be an indoor/outdoor cat, which is apparently the way nature intended (earmuffs Mookie & Joplin!)
Overall Score: 4 + Infinity/10

The main reason to rent Cats: The Movie is to watch the first 59 minutes with commentary (because for whatever reason, it just stops at that point). Here you get such adorable nuggets as the producer asking if the disc is skipping and my favorite opening discussion of all time:

Producer: So how did you get Marchello to chase the ball like that?
Writer/Director: I threw it.

Throw in a connection to Sunset Boulevard (it happens) and what more do you need?

A monkey. Yes, a monkey would have been good…


  1. From my recent experience, I now think of cats as pure evil! One of my cats has been acting as the meanest alarm clock ever! For the last two morningsYOWLYOWLYOWLYOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Joplin is actually the most adorable alarm clock ever. I've slept through my phone, but it's hard to sleep through a little furry thing gently nibbling your face. As annoying as it can be, be assured that they have your best interests at heart. They just don't want you to be late!

  3. My sister had a maine coon once, and I always thought it was pronounced "man coon". I probably shouldn't be throwing around the word "mancoon".

    I will have a review this week for Spymate, starring Emma Roberts and a superspy chimpanzee! I watched it already and it's awesome.

  4. Nice! Make sure you email me the link. Chimpanzees can do ANYTHING!