A Street Cat Named Bob online movie review - A film with loads of heart despite it's limitations and small budget
There is much to like about this film. For a start Luke Treadaway does a solid job as James Bowen, the lead character. But let's be honest, Bob (as himself) totally steals every scene he is in.
A gorgeous ginger Tom, he is adorable and just oozes charm despite not having any dialogue. You could almost hear the audience warm to him from the first time we see him, helping himself to a box of cereal. Bob needed a home and someone to look after him and James needed Bob to find the strength to save himself and a sense of purpose in life.
The film is based on a true story and yet weirdly it suffers a bit from being too adult (in parts) to be a real family film yet it almost comes over as a severely compromised view of the world of drug addiction and thus will be a bit of a disappointment to those expecting a deep character study. In the UK the film is rated 12 so it is neither a kiddies film about a cute cat nor is it quite the Trainspotting style view of a man trying desperately to kick his drug dependency. In this regard the film falls between two stalls and despite trying hard, can never quite make up it's mind what it purports to try to be.
Roger Spottiswoode is a talented director (just look at his CV) and yet he feels a strange choice to direct this. He made the Tom Hanks comedy Turner & Hooch a long time ago so he has form of working with animals and humans but this film is a million miles (and millions of dollars) away from that Disney crowd-pleaser. Here we have a small story that must have been a very delicate balancing act to get right at the script stage, a mixture of comedy & pathos that has to be able to not offend a family audience and yet deal with a serious subject matter and the huge uphill struggle James has to deal with, his desire to get clean of addiction for once and for all. And some credit must go to the screenwriter for showing the degrading and tragic side of drug addiction without making it too overtly harrowing. If this film inspires one other person to turn their life around like Bob motivated James to do, or even stops one person turning to drugs as an escape then it will have done its job.
I should point out that the film also has a light side too, with touches of comedy alongside the seriousness. The supporting cast are all fine too, although the neighbour 'Betty' seems a little too kooky and convenient for my liking. James's support worker Val is wonderfully played out by Joanne Froggatt from Downton Abbey and fans of Mike Leigh films will also recognise Ruth Sheen popping up too. And let's not forget Anthony Head (who is always immensely likable) as James's dad and has a wonderful scene towards the end of the film when he finally shows his true feelings.
So then, this is a worthwhile film providing you aren't expecting to see a) a Garfield film or B) a Trainspotting expose of life as a drug addict. There is almost no bad language to speak of so it ticks that box too. Like I said earlier, there is a feeling of compromise to this, like the story was edited for a younger audience but that isn't necessarily a bad thing and it certainly helped James Bowen's book reach out to a mass audience and rightfully become a best seller. If this was set in the US it would certainly have a glossier feel and maybe it's touch of grittiness (partly as it was filmed on location in a grey, drab London during November-December 2015) will harm it's box-office, but as a true life human drama of inspiration with a dash of charm and loads of character then do give it a try.