Wanting to spend more time with his socially-awkward son Chris (Justin Cone), horribly toupee-ed Phil (Johnny Whitaker) sells his computer company and looks forward hanging out with his son that wants nothing to do with him and nearly setting the house on fire trying to make breakfast.
Meanwhile, though her nice country home would say otherwise, Susan (Kristine DeBell) is struggling to make ends meet as a caterer while her twin kids Tina (Janis Peebles) and Trent (Daniel Dannas) squabble over issues no one really gives a shit about.
That’s when someone special enters their lives – a talking cat named Duffy (voiced by Eric Roberts) who gives them life-saving advice, but with the superfluously written limit that he can only speak to each person once, unless they find him his magic collar which is what allows him to help people.
A few years back when Mickey Rourke was sweeping up acting awards left and right for his performance in The Wrestler, he made a call to action at the Independent Spirit Awards for all indie filmmakers: He was provided a comeback; now’s was the time for them to provide his friend, colleague and former co-star Eric Roberts the comeback he so greatly deserved.
Since then, that call has been greatly answered beyond anyone’s wildest imaginations. From 2013-15, Mr. Roberts has graced the screen in at least 150 films such as The Hot Flashes, Six Gun Savior, Chicks Dig Gay Guys, Cool Cat Finds a Gun and about a 120 others that aren’t even good enough – hell, not even thought of enough to merit a Wikipedia page. If you do the math it equals out to just shy of one film a week. Those are the kind of numbers that could knock down Nicolas Cage in utter astonishment.
Perhaps Rourke should’ve been a little more specific? “I call on all indie filmmakers – David Gordon Green, Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater, the Duplass brothers, Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry, Sofia Coppola, Spike Jonze, Robert Rodriguez, Jim Jarmusch, Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, Jeff Nichols! Give my friend Eric Roberts the comeback he deserves!”
See, when you’re not specific, somewhere in between film #1 and #150 you end up stumbling drunk onto the set of A Talking Cat!?! and being asked to provide the titular feline hero’s voice. And who wouldn’t be desperately scratching and clawing each other over this part like its the beginning of Black Friday and the big prize on everyone’s eyes is choice lines like these?
Duffy: “I like the woods. I always have. Don’t get me wrong. I like to be indoors on a nice, fluffy bed as much as anyone, more than anyone, probably. I’ve heard them say, ‘It’s the simple things you should appreciate most.’ Mmmm hmm. And right now it’s the wind in the trees and the smells in the air. This place has magic! And people nowadays are way more concerned with their tiny, shiny, beeping machines than they are with the simple joys of living. Sometimes I’m propelled to come out to this place and do a little meditation, they call it, or communing with nature, or just letting the magic guide me. Because I help people. Even if they don’t know they need help, because as I’ve discovered, people need all the help they can get!”
Halfway through that beautifully written monologue, something very special happens. You begin to ask yourself, “What am I doing here?” Not in reference to the film, you start questioning your reason for existing.
And there’s still 80 minutes of film left to watch.
I imagine, somewhere at a seedy motel, the casting negotiations with Roberts went down like this…
“So this movie’s supposed to be about a talking cat?”
“Not just any talking cat, Mr. Roberts. A talking cat!?!”
“Mind if I drink while I record my lines?”
“… Uh – I’m not sure we’d be comfortable with…”
“Well, my Academy Award nomination for Runaway Train just so happens to be very comfortable with me sipping my little – burrrp!! – flasky-flask of scotch.”
Eric holds up what looks like a certificate of nomination recognition.
“Wow – they actually give out certificates for that?”
“No, I just printed out the Wikipedia page for the 58th Academy Awards which has me listed with the nominees. I had it lanimat… lami… lanimat – God, I’m so fucking drunk right now – laminated. I was even nominated before Julia… bitch… Fucking Erin Brockovich.”
“Okay, so we’ll set up a day for you to come by the recording studio and…”
“Yeah, I’m just gonna call you right now and read off the lines on your – burrrrp!!!! – whoops – got a little spittle on the script – on your voicemail.”
“Okay, that’s fine. Now, as for compensation, we hope it’s understood that this is a micro-budget film, so compensation will unfortunately be light.”
“Are you fucking kidding me? You’re gonna do me like that?! You know who I am?! I’m Eric fucking Roberts!! I’m the fucking star of The Ambulance!!!! Yeah, that’s right! My name comes before Darth Vader’s!”
“Absolutely, but – look – uh – here I got a coupon for a 'free Checkers value meal with the purchase of a value meal at equal or lesser value'”.
“Okay, sure – wait a minute. Is it location specific? I got banned from the one down the street for verbally berating the worker who gave me a regular coke instead of a diet. Poor girl was in tears. We’re talking ugly crying, but it shouldn’t be that hard to get right.”
“Alright, let’s get to recording.”
“This ain’t gonna take all day, is it? I’m supposed to be shooting Taco Shop in a couple hours.”
… FIVE MINUTES LATER…
“Okay, Mr. Roberts, thank you for your time. We’ll let you know when the film is done.”
A Talking Cat!?! is an inexplicably bad film, one that at least passes the Bechdel Test according to bechdeltest.com, so I guess it has that going for it… which is nice.
There ya go, feminists. The movie you all have been waiting for your entire lives.
What makes this film so horrible? Is it its PowerPoint trailer? The Windows Movie Maker/Comic Sans-fonted opening credits? The Renaissance Fair score as played by a 4th grade music class? This being a family film with a character wearing a shirt that says “Un pinche dia a la vez”, which roughly translates to “One fucking day at a time” (luckily, judging from all my friends Facebook statuses, Americans can barely speak their own native English, let alone Spanish, but Hispanics parents will be mortified when they show their children this)? What about the black circle drummed up from Windows Paint which is placed over the cat’s mouth and expanded/contracted to simulate talking? Or how ’bout the insane amount of establishing shots and random filler shots of characters walking around their homes for no real reason that director/cinematographer David DeCoteau (under the pseudonyms Mary Crawford/Marc Denne) shoves into his movie in order to fill up the film’s padded 85-minute run time?
No. No. No. No. Nope and No. Although it’s pretty bad when even your own trailer lets out an lazy, exasperated sigh and just phones it in. No, sad to say, those are actually the film’s strengths, or I should say the lesser evils.
The synopsis for A Talking Cat!?!, as stated by IMDb, is and I quote, “A sassy feline helps a family resolve its problems.” And that there is the main problem, among the many others. First off, way too liberal a use of the word “sassy”. This sanctimonious bastard is as dour and non-photogenic as they come (which explains the use of a different cat in the poster). Secondly, and most of all, what little conflict there is could be solved in 10 seconds, and half that time if you decide not to half-ass it. You’d think any problem that needs a talking cat, or any talking animal period, to intervene would go beyond Susan’s cheese puff dilemma, but any idiot can solve the trials and tribulations that have stricken Phil and Susan’s families.
CONFLICT: “Dad, what do you do when you like a girl?”
CAT’S SOLUTION: Chris should talk to his father, even though he feels they have nothing in common. Duffy responds by reminding him they do. They both talked to a cat.
BEST SOLUTION: “Your mother left me, son. I’m the last guy you should be asking.”
CONFLICT: Trent doesn’t know what he’s gonna do with his life ’cause he feels he doesn’t have enough imagination, and continues to take the daily verbal abuse from his twin sister Tina like the sad-sack he is.
CAT’S SOLUTION: Trent does have enough imagination ’cause he’s having a “thoughtful conversation with a cat”.
BEST SOLUTION: Practice this line over and over: “Would you like fries with that?” That’s the path your herbal substance-influenced “thoughtful conversations” are leading you toward.
CONFLICT: Trent’s bitchy sister Tina is trying to start an online business.
CAT’S SOLUTION: Team up with nearby neighbor Phil, a retired computer programmer who can’t operate a waffle iron without instructions.
BEST SOLUTION: Tina, your business is pretty much an app that matches your customers’ daily outfits for them. Unless you’re looking to corner the market of unimaginative dimwits like your brother or Phil, the retired computer programmer who needs to be told what a flash drive is, I suggest you give up on your dreams.
CONFLICT: Susan’s meeting with a potential catering investor seems to hinge on her homemade cheese puffs. These pastries are life and death with her, and take up more narrative space than you’d ever expect a problem revolving around a Culver’s side dish to take up. The problem only escalates after she bare-hands a hot tin pan of cheese puffs fresh out of the oven and expects Phil not to drop ’em all over the floor like a hot potato when she hands him the tray.
Yep, the atom bomb has been dropped.
CAT’S SOLUTION: Running out in front of a car.
BEST SOLUTION: Go to your local grocery store, head down the frozen food section and get some cheese puffs. Either Farm Rich or T.G.I. Friday’s brand will work. The investor honestly won’t tell the difference – you know… ’cause they’re FUCKING CHEESE PUFFS!!!!
But no, don’t listen to me. Go on and keep listening to the one with the insufferable God complex who gets his kicks out of spraying all over your furniture.
You can’t be too surprised by what you get with A Talking Cat!?! when its director’s filmography consists of Roger Corman flicks, gay porn and children’s films. Amazingly, his wildly eclectic film history intertwines with each other here, combining the absurdity of Corman, the cheap-ass design of a porno set and the writing of a vegetative 8-year-old. As if those smug domesticated furballs didn’t give us enough reasons already, this is yet more indisputable proof as to why cats are the scourge of the animal kingdom. Only a diabolical creature as deviously and sadistically arrogant as they are would have the gall to unleash a film so pungently inept and catastrophic on a world so undeserving of such pure, unapologetic evil.