Music Box Films // 2001 // 86 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge William Lee (Retired) // August 5th, 2012
Always listen to your felines.
Miss Minoes is based on a beloved children's book of which you've never heard -- unless you're Dutch. After debuting in the Netherlands in 2001, the movie slowly made its way through children's film festivals and won some citations. A decade later, the charming but odd fantasy film comes to North American home audiences on DVD.
Miss Minoes (Carice van Houten, Black Book) was a cat until her curiosity led her to lap up some toxic waste. Now she's a human female working as the secretary to Tibbe (Theo Maassen), a bumbling junior reporter. Minoes can still talk with the neighborhood cats, so she gets all the latest gossip about their human owners. Relaying the news to Tibbe, she helps him become the small town's hottest investigative journalist.
When the town's industrialist, Ellemeet (Pierre Bokma), becomes chairman of the "Club for Friends of Animals," the neighborhood cats meow their displeasure. Minoes and Tibbe discover the chairman isn't the animal lover he claims to be. But smearing the name of the town's wealthiest resident turns out to be an unpopular and dangerous move.
Carice van Houten deservedly won three Best Actress awards for this role, proving that comic performances can be recognized (at small film festivals at least). She carries the film with her portrayal of the cat/woman that can be variously innocent, odd, unexpected and sweetly alluring. She is so instantly likeable in the title role, questions of logic and plausibility are set aside. When she gets distracted by something in the air and feels compelled to bat at some shiny thing, it just cracked me up and won me over to the film's quirky humor.
The story is a run-of-the-mill discovery and upsetting of a rich bad guy's scheme. The action moments and even the understanding of the newspaper business are pitched at young audiences so it never gets too intense or complicated. Curiously, the DVD starts with a warning that the film is Rated R. This doesn't match the PG rating on the back cover and on IMDb. The most violent moments are Ellemeet's abuse of cats, which happens off-screen. As for the suggestion of inter-species romance, parents may just have to hope the kids don't ask.
Letting the human actors dominate the movie is the right choice but feline casting is unavoidable. There is an abundance of cuteness on display and special effects work is limited. Some mouth animation to make it look like the cats are talking is convincing in small doses. I suspect some cats were animatronics but I can't be certain. Here's a movie for little kids that feels like a fantasy rather than a hyperactive cartoon.
The DVD from Music Box Films looks very good. Primary colors are nicely saturated, the image is reasonably sharp and there are no compression problems of note. The original Dutch language track is presented in 5.1 surround. It is a decent standard mix that puts the dialogue up front and the environmental effects and music in the surrounds. An English language dub and a Spanish option are presented in stereo mixes. Sampling the English version, I thought it sounded completely unnatural with uninspired voice actors reading the DVD subtitles. It's unfortunate that the alternative language track was treated as a throw away because that will be the preferred option for parents of younger viewers.
Miss Minoes is more than a decade old but I wish the DVD would have included some sort of extra to help put the movie in context with Dutch pop culture. Was the original book a sensation in the Netherlands? How did the movie fair in its home country against other fantasy movies for young viewers? Too bad we only get a brief "Kitty Bloopers" reel and a trailer. The bloopers are unremarkable as they're just footage of uncooperative cats on set. Look to YouTube for your fix of funny feline foolishness.
The movie is an adorable fluff ball you can enjoy with your kids. If you don't have the excuse of watching with young ones, Carice van Houten is more than enough reason for a rental viewing.
Not guilty. Oh, no, you're not, you silly kitty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Music Box Films
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Dutch)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Blooper Reel