A Street Cat Named Bob is lightweight, feelgood fare based on a true story – and if you’re a moggy person, irresistible.
This tale of a heroin addict busker who finds his way off the street and the junk that landed him there thanks to a stray cat he adopts has more in common with Cinderella than Trainspotting. If you’re after grim realism stay away – but you’ll be missing an entertaining and surprisingly affecting little flick featuring a truly irresistible star. I refer to Bob the cat, who plays his green-eyed, ginger, rather well-padded self (with the assistance, apparently, of some feline stunt doubles).
This is the very same Bob who, draped around de-facto owner James Bowen’s shoulders, launched the two of them to YouTube busking fame. A publishing deal followed that culminated in Bowen’s 2012 best-selling memoir on which this movie is based.
Bowen, played here by Luke Treadaway, is introduced to us as a homeless recovering heroin addict on methadone, who barely survives on the loose change he ekes as a busker. After scoring an apartment with the help of his addiction counsellor Val (Downton Abbey’s Joanne Froggatt), his luck changes when Bob makes an entrance through an open window and moves in. James’ uninvited share-mate proves a boon as a busking companion. The punters open their wallets in appreciation of the feline novelty and life starts to look up.
The narrative develops rather predictably from here on. Bob helps James through cold turkey by watching on dispassionately. The subsequent OD death of one of James’ street acquaintances is chucked in as a caution (to him and young viewers) to stay on the straight and narrow.
The addiction and street life stuff is sanitised, but that’s OK. A Street Cat Named Bob is not an excursion into the wasteland of drug addiction. It’s a feel-good flick aimed at a wide market including families.
There are a couple of underwhelming narrative sub-strands. Luke’s hippy-dippy vegan neighbour Betty (Ruta Gedmintas) is a potential love interest. Then there’s his estrangement from his father, a package that comes complete with nasty stepmother and a dose of obvious emotional manipulation that had a fair proportion of the preview audience sniffling.
This is not a particularly well-made film, but I’m not going to spend time and energy on critical dissection when it works so well as what it is – a heart-warming tale of redemption taken from real life, with a feline star that steals the show just by being adorable and not giving a shit in that cat way that is so perversely endearing. If you’re into cats, you’ll love him and the flick. If you’re not, chances are you will be by the time the credits roll.
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