A Street Cat Named Bob Luke Treadaway, Ruta Gedmintas, Joanne Froggatt. Directed by Roger Spottiswoode. Not rated. Opens Friday at Regal Village Square.
With A Street Cat Named Bob, Bob the cat joins the likes of Howard Stern, Audie Murphy and Muhammad Ali on the list of celebrities who’ve played themselves in biopics about their own lives. And while Street Cat is really about the life of Bob’s owner, James Bowen (played by Luke Treadaway), it’s clear that Bob is the main attraction. Bob is a bigger star than Grumpy Cat in the U.K., where Bowen’s various books about him have become huge bestsellers. Street Cat is based on Bowen’s first memoir, the story of how meeting Bob, then a stray cat on the streets of London, helped Bowen turn his life around and go from a homeless heroin addict to a bestselling author and prominent activist.
It’s an inherently heartwarming story, and veteran director Roger Spottiswoode, along with screenwriters Tim John and Maria Nation, handles it in a fairly straightforward fashion, focusing on James’ attachment to Bob, whom he discovers in the rundown apartment building where he’s been assigned provisional housing. James predictably warms to Bob after first trying to set him free, and soon Bob is his constant companion, helping him garner more attention as a busker and a distributor of a homeless charity magazine.
The movie also gives James a rote romance with a pretty neighbor (Ruta Gedmintas), which is mostly a distraction from his basic redemption story. The filmmakers offer a grittier depiction of drug addiction (in particular withdrawal, as James transitions from heroin to methadone to complete sobriety) than would be expected from a typical family movie, but they brush past it relatively quickly in favor of more scenes of Bob’s cute antics. Bob is indeed cute, and he’s certainly a better actor than Grumpy Cat (although his performance was augmented by additional cat stand-ins), but even his appealing playfulness (and the various cat POV shots) only goes so far. Bob initially rose to fame thanks (of course) to YouTube videos, and he’s probably still best appreciated in those small doses.