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A Street Cat Named Bob
3.5/5
dir Roger Spottiswoode
prd Adam Rolston
scr Tim John, Maria Nation
with Luke Treadaway, Joanne Froggatt, Ruta Gedmintas, Anthony Head, Beth Goddard, Darren Evans, Caroline Goodall, Ruth Sheen, Lorraine Ashbourne, Nina Wadia, Mark Behan, Ivana Basic
release UK 4.Nov.16, US 18.Nov.16
16/UK Sony 1h43
A Street Cat Named Bob
Angel on my shoulder: Bob and Headaway

froggatt head sheen
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
A Street Cat Named Bob This true story may feel compromised by the need to be bouncy and comical, and also rather formulaic in its plot structure, but it recounts an engaging tale that has a lot to say about addiction and society. Anchored by two terrific performances - by Luke Treadaway and Bob the cat - this is a warm and only mildly edgy feel-good movie.

James (Treadaway) is a homeless junkie busker whose social worker Val (Froggatt) thinks he's worth the effort. In addition to his methadone programme, she gets him off the streets. And a friendly cat adopts him. Named Bob by his neighbour Betty (Gedmintas), the cat follows James to his busking pitch in Covent Garden and also out to sell The Big Issue in Islington, often riding on his shoulders as he travels and sings. But even as they become a YouTube sensation, there are plenty of obstacles to overcome.

The film hinges on the resonant story of a young man with no purpose quietly coming back to life with the help of a few people who refused to put him in a box as a waste of space. And of course a cat that gave him something to focus on. Around this, the screenwriters add all kinds of conflicts and setbacks, sometimes making James seem like the Job as a biblical-scale sequence of problems barrage him. This includes trying to reconnect with his estranged father (Head), a scene that's interrupted by zany slapstick.

These touches are so hackneyed that it's surprising the filmmakers neglected to shoehorn in a romantic subplot. Treadaway is terrific as the likeable and lost James. His chemistry with both Froggatt and Gedmintas is warm without ever turning slushy. Both women are somewhat sidelined, but are important in James' story. And there are nice cameos from the likes of Goodall and Sheen as fans of his street music, as well as Evans as a fellow heroin addict.

Spottiswoode directs energetically, never quite finding the balance between the jaunty comical tone and the darker drama. But even with some unnecessary plot gyrations, this is such a strong story that it can't help but keep the audience rooting for James to climb out of his hole once and for all. Thankfully, the filmmakers let the happy ending come without over-egging the sentimentality. Of course, writing several books (and making a movie) about his experiences means that he and Bob should never be homeless again.

cert 15 themes, language, some violence 22.Sep.16

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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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