Movie Review: A Street Cat Named Bob (2016)
“Sometimes it takes nine lives to save one.”
A Street Cat Named Bob (2016)
Director: Roger Spottiswoode
Cast: Bob the Cat, Luke Treadaway, Ruta Gedmintas
Synopsis: The true story of how a cat turned around the life of a drug addicted street busker.
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Young British actor Luke Treadaway (Killing Bono) defies the old adage about never working with children or animals to star in A Street Cat Named Bob, the film adaptation of the best-selling book by former Street busker and drug addict James Bowen. Over the past few weeks, the British public has been besieged by TV ads for Roger Spottiswoode’s new movie, and the overriding impression given by those brief teasers was that there wasn’t going to be much of a plot to the film. The film’s release confirms that suspicion; Treadaway’s laid-back charm and Bob’s natural feline appeal go some way to making up for this deficiency, but even the warmth of their companionship, and Bob’s uplifting role in James’ redemption can’t quite lift A Street Cat Named Bob into the realms of universal crowd-pleaser for which it aims.
Bowen was almost at rock-bottom when Bob wandered into his life; his heroin addiction had reduced him to sleeping rough on the streets of London, and the money he earned from busking wouldn’t even cover the cost of a takeaway burger. The run-down council estate flat found for him by his sympathetic counsellor (Joanne Froggatt), and James’ determination to kick his habit both mark small steps towards pulling his life back together, but it’s the arrival of Bob that gives him the purpose in life he needs if he is too succeed – even if he doesn’t at first realise it.
James and Bob become minor celebrities in Covent Garden. In between posing for selfies with tourists, James sings to passers-by with Bob sitting on his guitar, and earns enough money to keep away from his old haunts. At one point James observes that he has become his pet’s sidekick, and, proving that old adage correct, the same is true of Treadaway. As good as he is, the actor is always overshadowed by his feline co-star – we don’t see a cat perched on Treadaway’s shoulders, but Bob sitting on the shoulders of a man.
Considering the lack of any meaningful plot, Spottiswoode does well to wring moments of drama from situations in which little would seem to exist, but the story is really just a collection of incidents with little narrative drive, and the middle section of the film, during which James embarks – or, more accurately, fails to embark – on a lukewarm romance with his vegan neighbour, Betty (Ruda Gedmintas), drags as a result. The entire film is building to either a confrontation or reconciliation between James and his father (Anthony Head – The Iron Lady, Convenience), and although it’s a heartwarming moment that’s guaranteed to bring a lump to your throat, one can’t help feeling it would have been that much more touching had Bowen senior not been portrayed as such a henpecked wet blanket.
Your opinion of A Street Cat Named Bob will probably be shaped by how much of a cat lover you are. You don’t need to be a vagrant close to the point of no return for a cat to make a massive impact on your life, and the film’s biggest strength is in conveying just how integral to your life one becomes once it decides your worthy of its company. One thing’s for sure: after watching A Street Cat Named Bob, you’ll make even more of a fuss of your cat than you did before seeing the film – and waste a fair amount of time trying to coax them into giving you a high five…
(Reviewed 4th November 2016)