Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 5, 2017)
Based on James Bowen’s autobiographical book of the same name, 2016’s A Street Cat Named Bob takes us to London. There we meet James (Luke Treadaway), a recovering drug addict who busks on the street to raise money.
Alone and largely abandoned by family due to his abuse issues, James’s life takes a turn when he encounters a stray cat. James helps the feline – who he names “Bob” – and the pair develop an unlikely relationship that sends our lead on a journey of recovery.
Normally I’d shun such potentially soppy “feel good” fare as Bob, but a few factors drew me to it. For one, I love animals – I’m much more of a dog person, but I like cats, too, and I’m a sucker for tales about needy critters.
Also, there’s the “British Element”. In the hands of Hollywood, I’d assume Bob would become insufferable melodrama, but the Brits tend to lack the same saccharine tendencies, so I hoped the film would avoid the usual treacle.
The presence of Roger Spottiswoode helped as well. Best-known for big action flicks like Tomorrow Never Dies, I figured he would keep the production from going too far into Sappy Land.
Do these hopes bear fruit? Yeah, sort of – partly. While it does veer into sentimental territory too often, Cat still offers a fairly engaging piece.
I like that the film doesn’t sugarcoat the seedy aspects of James’ life. No, it doesn’t offer a Trainspotting-style view of heroin addiction, but it maintains a semi-dark air that gives it gravity.
It also stars a charming cat. As I mentioned, I’m more fond of dogs, but Bob creates a likable personality, and the movie’s depiction of the James/Bob relationship works well. We buy into their connection in a natural manner.
On the negative side, Cat doesn’t offer much of a story. It follows predictable paths related to James’ challenges and doesn’t throw out content we can’t see coming our way in advance. It’s a slight narrative that feels padded as the movie waddles toward 102 minutes.
These problems aside, Cat still remains largely likable across its running time. Nothing here stands out as exemplary, but the movie brings us a reasonably charming feel-good narrative.