Thursday, December 04, 2014

Murder of a Cat: a Good Use of a Crossbow

Cats do not have a lot of charm, but they have the virtue of being disposable pets. If you are moving, just dump your old one out on a street corner and pick up a new one when you get to town. I kid, of course. Nevertheless, most people find it slightly excessive when Clinton Moisey turns his cat’s premature demise into a blood vendetta. Fear not, the cozy quirkiness never turns hard-boiled in Gillian Greene’s Murder of a Cat (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Moisey’s only job is the semi-regular yard sale he mismanages. Fortunately, his indulgent mother lets him leech at home, watching Who’s the Boss re-runs in his bathrobe. Perhaps even his beloved feline Mouser gets tired of him. It turns out, Mouser was two-timing Moisey with a different owner, the tattooed Greta, a would-be stylist who lives cheaply in the local retirement home. Moisey and Greta never knew of each other until Mouser has a fatal run-in crossbow bolt.

It turns out that bolt came from the “Sure Shot,” a fancy new crossbow only sold at Ford’s, the local big box store. Both grieving cat lovers have some history with the mass merchandiser. Moisey blames it for the failure of his short-lived comic bookstore, whereas Greta was once an assistant manager, before precipitously quitting. Moisey will try to get to the bottom of the murky dealings at Ford’s, while Greta fruitlessly counsels discretion.

The two best things about Cat are the retro one-sheet clearly inspired by Saul Bass’s iconic Anatomy of a Murder poster and Deborah Lurie’s lively Elmer Bernstein-esque score, featuring some effervescent trumpet solos by Matt Von Roderick. It’s not Ellington, but we take what we can get. If you consider these things rather tangential, so be it.

As Moisey, Fran Kranz probably couldn’t possibly be any more annoying and nasally. At least Twilight franchise survivor Nikki Reed brings some energy to the film, but there are no sparks with Kranz. Oscar contending J.K. Simmons is a good sport as Sheriff Hoyle, but viewers will dearly wish to see him unleash his inner Terence Fletcher on Moisey. Blythe Danner also escapes with her dignity playing Mother Moisey, but only Leonardo Nam really distinguishes himself as Yi Kim, the flamboyantly villainous Ford’s stock-boy.

Cat might have sounded funny on paper, but the execution is too cutesy and comfy. Granted, the film essentially suggests Moisey should grow up and get a job, but the man-child stock character is just getting tired in general. Way too safe, Murder of a Cat is maybe something Hallmark Channel viewers might enjoy when it opens tomorrow (12/5) in New York, at the Village East.