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A Street Cat Named Bob (2016)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 5/9/2017
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/17/2017
Despite the fact that they are the most popular (mammal) pet in the United States, cats continue to get a bad rap. People who like cats are often depicted as being the "crazy cat lady"-type, or someone who is shy and introverted. I found this ironic, as I look at dog-lovers and see people who need the constant attention and reassurance of their animals. Whatever the case, cats really get the short end of the stick when it comes to entertainment. For every ten movies or television shows where the dog is the hero, we get on appearance by a cat, and it's typically a jump scare as they leap from the bushes or a trash can. Maybe movies like A Street Cat Named Bob can turn the tables on these stereotypes and cast cats in a positive light.
James Bowen (Luke Treadaway) is down on his luck. Homeless and addicted to drugs, he wanders the streets of London, playing his guitar and singing to make spare change. He enters "the program" so that he can get methadone and begin the process of getting off of heroin. His social worker, Val (Joanne Froggatt), arranges for James to get a shabby flat so that he will at least have a place to live. On one of his first nights there, an orange cat comes in through an open window. James notices that the cat is injured, and his neighbor, Betty (Ruta Gedmintas), informs him of a animal clinic nearby. James takes the cat there and spends the last of his money to get medicine for it. Soon, James and Bob -- as Betty dubs him -- are inseparable, and people stop on the street to watch James play guitar while Bob sits on his shoulders. James has found a new friend and the appeal of Bob helps to bring in more money than James was making on his own. However, escaping from poverty and addiction is never easy, and James will need his new companion to make it.
A Street Cat Named Bob is based on a true story and the book of the same name. And, in a very interesting twist, the Bob in the film is played by the real-life Bob. The story gives a detailed look at James' life during this period, where he had hit rock-bottom. We learn some about his background and family life, although, to be honest, there is no true "Point A to Point B" explanation of how he went from living in Australia to living on the streets. The film certainly doesn't glamorize James' plight, as we see him eating out of trash cans (or bins, as they would call them in Britain), sleeping in the rain, or dealing with withdrawal from drugs. James is portrayed as a likeable person, and the way in which he helps Bob is certainly noble, but he's definitely not portrayed as being infallible. As for Bob, we see a cat who, like many cats, actively seeks human companionship, and this clever feline clearly enjoys his time with James.
There's no doubt that the story in A Street Cat Named Bob is unique. So, this begs the question, why does the movie feel so incredibly cliched? Obviously, movies need to have stories and drama, so when James gets his flat and finds Bob, I said to myself, "OK, now what's going to happen?". The answer to that question is a list of events that most anyone could put together, even if they haven't seen the movie. Again, assuming that what we are seeing here is faithful to the true story, James and Bob somehow found their way into encountering every predictable event that a human and a cat can encounter. Despite the hackneyed nature of these occurrences, I won't give anything away, but I will say that when Bob knocks over the Christmas tree during a visit with James' estranged family, I threw my hands in the air in disbelief.
The other glaring thing about A Street Cat Named Bob is the way in which it is shot. The film was helmed by veteran journeyman director Roger Spottiswoode, who directed Tomorrow Never Dies and Turner & Hooch and other movies which you've heard of. So, he should know what he's doing. But, he has chosen to present the film in an odd way, which is even more confusing when one notes that he began his career as an editor, again, having worked on movies which are familiar. The movie waffles between a normal narrative look and Bob's POV with no rhyme or reason. It's not surprising that the movie would utilize reaction shots from Bob -- they are good for a laugh and he's a very photogenic cat. But, Spottiswoode dips into this bucket so many times that it would make John Landis blush. The result is a very straight-forward film which has been assembled in a very clumsy way.
As a cat-lover, I had read about James and Bob and was very interested in learning more about their story. While I feel like I did learn from A Street Cat Named Bob, I wasn't moved by the film. Treadaway is fine and Bob is adorable, but the movie falls into such a "Movie of the Week" pattern that it doesn't feel special. To be honest, I think that I would have preferred a documentary. Fans of cats will like seeing Bob doing such a great job, and it certainly shows how people can turn themselves around, but the film could have been so much more.
A Street Cat Named Bob made me wonder if they have cat food in England courtesy of Cleopatra Films. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no noticeable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, most notably reds and yellows, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is OK, as a few shots skew towards soft and the picture doesn't have the depth that we are accustomed to with Blu-ray. The Disc carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 448 kbps. This is where we run into trouble. As one can imagine, there are some thick British accents here and the dialogue is somewhat muffled. And, there are no subtitles on this Disc. Therefore, there were times, especially in the opening scenes where James is in the rain or high, that I had no idea what was being said. The stereo and surround effects are fairly good, especially during the street scenes. The music in the film sounds fine.
The A Street Cat Named Bob Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. "Introducing Bob" (2 minutes) offers an overview of the story, and offers comments from the real James. "The Story of A Street Cat Named Bob" (2 minutes) allows Bowen to expand on his real-life story. "Slide Show" offers stills from the set, and finally we get a TRAILER for the film.
Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long