Thursday, September 6, 2012

Purr-anormal Activity: Ghost Cat

I love to imagine the day the distribution company for a minor, forgettable film discovers one of its stars went on to be a well-known potential DVD draw. You can almost feel the excitement in the office as someone drops their coffee mug to scream “Leapin’ lizards! Ellen Page starred in our very own Ghost Cat!”

Now perhaps I’m wrong about said office employee’s Annie fandom, but I do not doubt SOMEONE in the marketing department for the very first feline entry into the Animals Doing Human Stuff canon feature received a substantial bonus for the idea to capitalize on Juno’s DVD fame. Though the young Oscar nominee has yet to headline a monster hit, such a detail didn’t stop someone from reissuing 2004’s Mrs. Ashboro’s Cat as Ghost Cat, complete with the young Miss Page’s teenage face blocking out the titular spectral feline on the menu and cover art.  

Quick Plot: Page plays Natalie, a teenager moving from the big bad NYC to small folksy town of Ringwood following the death of her mother (note how in the first five minutes of the film, Ghost Cat knocks off a third of the Standard Tropes Checklist). Natalie and her clueless historical writer dad are charmed by an old house with a for-sale sign and a 15-year-old cat named Margaret. The only problem is that its owner, Mrs. Ashboro (Shirley Knight) isn’t selling, much to the chagrin of her smarmy embezzling yuppie banker nephew Boyd.

Thankfully for Natalie and her dad, Mrs. Ashboro passes away that very night, leaving her lovely two story home open for purchase. Even better, the dead Mrs. Ashboro’s neighbors include two young single teenage boys that take a liking to our cat-loving bookworm. Life in this new town is GREAT!

Well, except for the dead old Ashboro.

And Margaret, who followed her owner to the great beyond on the night of Mrs. Ashboro’s funeral.

Or DID she?

After Natalie moves in, the slightest of ghostly signs seem to appear, mostly in relation to Mrs. Ashboro’s young pal Brenda, a single blond who runs a controversial animal sanctuary on a prime piece of real estate being eyed by yet ANOTHER smarmy embezzling yuppie financial employee, this one so evil he SPEAKS ON A BLUE TOOTH DEVICE.


Smarmy embezzling yuppie financial dude with blue tooth device teams up with smarmy embezzling yuppie nephew banker to destroy Brenda’s animal reserve—be it via exhaust fumes or FIRE—so that Single Blond Who Runs a Controversial Animal sanctuary  can buy her land and Smarmy Embezzling Yuppie Banker Nephew can be paid so he can reimburse the bank he’s been stealing from or—

Yeah, I know…this film needs more ghost cat.

See, much like the talking-koala-bear-film-that-didn’t-really-care-about-its-talking-koala, Ghost Cat doesn’t quite understand that its prime asset is not the sordid tale of two white collar scumbags causing economic scandals. Hence, we get a whole lot of Ghost-like (as in Patrick Swayze ditto Ghost, not Ghost Cat) number crunching to conflict with Natalie’s tepid courtship of her neighbor. Whatever running time is left—and of course, it’s not enough—is thrown towards Margaret…

The ghost cat.

Now don’t get me wrong: Margaret the Ghost Cat is all sorts of awesome. She purrs with the fervor of a NASCAR race and befriends the neighborhood dogs as if she were running for mayor. Years ago, she even saved her owner’s life by waking her up when the aging woman left the stove on. I don’t care if you’re allergic: you have to agree this is SOME CAT.

But sadly, the movie doesn’t seem to think any of this is THAT special. Not when there’s land development shenanigans, embezzlement, puppy love (but sadly, not the cute kind with big paws), mortgage payments, property foreclosure, and a juvenile delinquent record to deal with. 

These things are not as fun as ghost cats.

Because c'mon! GHOST CATS!

High Notes
Though her lines are duller than an economics lesson, the young Ellen Page proves herself to be a natural, likable little actress who makes a bland but nice teenage character work

Low Notes
When your film is called “Ghost Cat” but the first major scene of dialogue involves women discussing financial problems, you have an issue

Lessons Learned
‘Partially renovated’ can mean anything

When a creepy, sweating 35-year-old man is caught prowling around your new home and teenage daughter, you can probably just laugh it off and chalk it up to the innocent fact that he misses his dead aunt

Young men generally don’t tell prospective girlfriends that they’re juvenile delinquents on a first date

Even if your bank account is near empty, if every night someone seems to be sneaking onto your property to set your caged dogs loose or, I don’t know, KILL ALL YOUR BELOVED PETS WITH EXHAUST FUMES, *maybe* it’s time to splurge on SOME form of security

Montage Mania!
It’s a ‘feeding adorable goats, puppies, lambs, and kittens’ montage! The best one yet!

Standard Animals Doing Human Stuff Trope Checklist:
New Kid In Town: Check

Recent Dead Or Divorced Parent: Check
Montage: Check-with PUPPIES!
New Friendship: Check
Potentially Inappropriate ‘Friendship’ Between Child & Unrelated Adult: Eh, it seems innocent but the perv in me likes to believe Brenda taught her 17 year old assistant something, so let’s say Check
Evil Corporate Enemy: Check (one banker plus one land developer has to add up to that)
Original Song: X
Bully Comeuppance: X
Small Town Values: Check
Back to Nature Moral: X

Overall Score: 7/10
Make no bones about it: this is indeed an authentic Animals Doing Human Stuff rep.

A-Paws Meter
Margaret the Genius Ghost Cat clearly deserved better, particularly in the ways of knowing who her audience was. I gather the makers of Ghost Cat were aiming for the family-visiting-grandma crowd, giving the kids a teen romance, the elderly a Harry & Tonto-ish relationship, and parents the constant danger of mortgage payments and, well, embezzlement. But Ghost Cat isn’t E.T., Toy Story, or that small ever so complex selection of films that transcend generations. No, this is a film that needed more ghost cat.

And if you’re wondering: yes, this review was cowritten by Mookie and Joplin. They are as opinionated as they are illiterate and adorable.


  1. I've got my Animals-Doing-Human-Stuff review of Poochinski up! It's terrifying beyong belief! ...But at least it actually features enough animal action, unlike Ghost cat, by the sound of it.

  2. I want a Ghost Cat/Poochinski crossover special, stat!

  3. You forgot to play the Spot-The-SVU-Guest-Star. Correct me if I'm wrong but, Shirley Knight was in two episodes. One where she played an unethical psychiatrist and another where she played an unethical rich, socialite.

    Maybe Ghost Cat was all about reiterating her range...

    Where do you find these movies?

  4. Damnit! And the whole opening, I kept thinking back to that first episode (season 1?) where she plays the adoptive grandmother of the fat kid who plays video games but did NOT kill his little adopted sister. I remember that one well!

    Can't remember the second episode. Now I need to do some sleuthing!

    And as for the movies: it's mostly a matter of Netflixing "You Might Like..." As of now, Netflix thinks I'd give C.H.O.M.P.S. and The Dog Who Saved Christmas 4.5 stars.

  5. Your cats are GHOULISHLY adorable.

    (I'm not sure if that made any sense. A feeble effort to tie this comment to the ghost themed post.)

  6. A valiant effort (and far more valiant than a movie called GHOST CAT!)

  7. Ghost cat needs a better agent.. she could be a star in the AirBuddies franchise.

  8. I'm picturing a remake of The Sixth Sense with Margaret the Ghost Cat in the Bruce Willis role and a bunch of underage AirBuddies rotating in the role of Haley Joel Osment.