Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever (2014)

Grumpy Cat was right when it growled that “this movie is awful.” The Lifetime production tries to get ahead of the game with a lot of fourth-wall-breaking and puts it out there that this is a shameless cash grab. Apparently memes weren’t enough for the unhappy kitty and it, or its owners, thought it best to leverage internet fame for a bigger payday. There’s a reason why viral clips don’t last more than a few minutes though, and now here we are with a film no one wanted.

I suppose children may get a kick out of this, but I’d be wary of letting any kid I care about watch it. For all the goofiness, Grumpy Cat is just really cynical, and it’s a tiring act from the start. Aubrey Plaza, despite her comedic talents, brings the whole mood down. I know sarcastic deadpan is her thing and she’s probably a natural choice to voice a cat that hates everything, but it’s too much for a 90 minute movie and especially at Christmastime.

Thankfully one’s exasperation wears off as the adventure progresses. The entire movie is not about Grumpy Cat or talking animals. Chrystal (Megan Charpentier), a sweet teenager, is the real star and a far more joyful presence. She’s friendly with everyone at the mall where her mom works but is having a harder time breaking through to the mean girls in her class. After making a wish on an internet-purchased Christmas coin, she finds she can hear and talk to Grumpy Cat, and thus the excitement begins. Chrystal stumbles on a kidnapping one night, or a dognapping rather, at Mr. Crabtree’s (David Lewis) pet store. Two boneheaded musicians figure they can ransom Mr. Crabtree’s slobbery Leonberger, valued at one million dollars, and finally have money to go on tour. The young girl gives chase, taking Grumpy Cat along with her because why not?

There goofy plot has hints of Paul Blart: Mall Cop, a film I actually enjoyed, thank you very much. Grumpy Cat, however, has almost none of the heart. Plus, the production values aren’t great, something the testy feline can tell you him/herself. The movie has a plain and boxy look that’s low on visual interest. For my part, I wish the script would have strengthened the relationship between Chrystal and Grumps and show that dogs aren’t man’s only BFFs. The more I think about how improvements though, the more I’m reminded that we’re really just talking about a meme. I’m not in the business of encouraging full-length features based on snarky GIFS, so I’ll end by suggesting you watch something else.

Released: 2014
Dir: Tim Hill
Writer: Tim Hill, Jeff Morris
Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Megan Charpentier, David Lewis, Russell Peters, Evan Todd, Isaac Haig, Casey Manderson, Jay Brazeau
Time: 87 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Lifetime
Reviewed: 2019

The Amazing Adventure of Marchello the Cat (2008)

The wonderful thing about libraries is that you never know what you’ll discover. Sometimes you come across great gems, stories that excite the imagination and inspire real wonder, and sometimes you come across The Amazing Adventure of Marchello the Cat, a movie to be sure but not at all what I expected when I checked out this feature film.

At least it is true to its description and delivers on a story about “a sheltered indoor cat [who] escapes and is forced to face the mean city streets in order to find his way home.” There’s a plot, which is more than you can say for some kids’ movies, and it proceeds in logical fashion. Marcello (Troy Garity), a coddled black and white furball, ventures outdoors when his human mom goes off to meet her boyfriend’s family. Blame it on his kitty hormones. He attempts to flirt with outdoor cat Jujube (Michelle Rodriguez), but his efforts are cut short when he’s catnapped by a rollerblader. Naïve to the ways of the world, he is easily taken advantage of by animals who either wish him harm or who just want a laugh. All Marcello wants though is make it back home, wherever that is.

I can see someone embarking on a remake and turning this into a movie worth watching. It has cats, and I’m not going to turn down a cat movie. I did watch Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties and Nine Lives after all, so there’s no bottom line for me. Marcello encounters some interesting characters, like Pinky and Blackie, who have quite touching stories. Pinky is under the illusion that her human mom will come back to their palace any day, except she’s just an abandoned cat who sleeps in a dump. Blackie, meanwhile, is a do-gooder trying to find new homes for the strays who cross his path. The crows are a different story. They control much of the animal-to-animal communications and love nothing more than to stir up trouble.

The problem, however, is that this plays like someone’s home movies from the 1990s. You’re honestly going to get better production values by sticking your iPhone on a tripod and capturing the neighborhood pets. Writer and director Susan Emerson, who has a handful of credits to her name, pieces what I assume are the best bits of her grainy, zoom-happy footage and still ends up with something that looks like amateur YouTube. In addition, the perspective is all over the place, which I guess is what happens when you take a handheld camera and chase a few animals around. Sometimes we get shots from Marchello’s point of view and sometimes we’re just creepy voyeurs from afar spying on him and his furry friends. If you must watch this, I’d recommend muting the sound, but really, just stick with the cute cat videos already populating the internet.

Alt Titles: Cats: The Movie!; A Cat’s Tale
Released: 2008
Prod: Paul Williams
Dir: Susan Emerson
Writer: Susan Emerson
Cast: Troy Garity, Michelle Rodriguez, Mara Lane, Dominique Swain, Troy Hall, Jeremy Sisto, Shannon Conlon, Jeremy Piven
Time: 100 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2019

Mouse Hunt (1997)

A little Money Pit and a little Ratatouille, Mouse Hunt is a mostly forgotten 1997 film that made a reappearance on network TV last weekend. Always one for children’s entertainment, I gave it a try and liked it just enough to recommend it – that is, after your standard options have been exhausted. Kids will get a kick out of the zany story about a mouse that wreaks havoc on a crumbling mansion, even if adults don’t. Fronted by Nathan Lane and Lee Evans, the film generates enough wacky energy for an afternoon laugh.

The actors play estranged brothers, heirs of string titan Rudolf Smuntz (William Hickey). Rudolph’s death brings together Ernie (Lane) and Lars (Evans), who have inherited dad’s string factory and mansion, both of which have seen better days. Ernie, a chef, hopes to sell his share and make a buck or two. The extra money couldn’t come at a better time; he needs to salvage his reputation after the mayor accidentally dines on a cockroach at his restaurant, leaving him a persona non grata in town and at home with his greedy wife. Lars, on the other hand, hopes to keep everything intact and resurrect the factory, thus reviving the Smuntz name and fortune.

The brothers agree to work together to save the mansion when they discover it is a lost masterpiece by architect Charles Lyle LaRue. They have just one week to renovate it before it goes up for auction, a mighty task under the best circumstances but an impossible one when a tenacious mouse gets in their way. The tiny rodent taunts the brothers at every turn, and they respond with every overly complicated mouse trap available. The efforts only hasten the home’s deterioration, which is the fun part if you are a child.

As I live in a house that is literally breaking apart, it pains me to see this sort of wanton destruction, but kids are kids and collapsing staircases and entryways sprayed with sewage are funny. Never mind that Ernie and Lars could easily work around the little mouse, the most benign squatter there ever was. They have to make things worse by hiring maniacal cat and, when that doesn’t work, Christopher Walken. There’s no end to the madness, and the mouse hunt escalates into an existential battle.

Writer Adam Rifkin throws out non-stop shenanigans and occasional weirdness, e.g. Belgian hair models, but it gets tiresome after awhile. I would have liked more mouse, as in an actual character. We get a few peeks from his point of view as he exercises his cunning, but his personality is pretty thin for a primary antagonist. Likewise, Ernie and Lars are too busy running around for us to explore their relationship or that with their father. This is a mostly fun and sometimes wild trip but also one without much heart.

Released: 1997
Prod: Bruce Cohn, Tony Ludwig, Alan Riche
Dir: Gore Verbinski
Writer: Adam Rifkin
Cast: Nathan Lane, Lee Evans, Vicki Lewis, Maury Chaykin, Eric Christmas, Michael Jeter, Christopher Walken, Debra Christofferson, Camilla Søeberg
Time: 98 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2019