Judge Jim Thomas wishes they had named this The Cat in the Yarmulke.
I've heard of the cat that swallowed the canary, but this is ridiculous.
French writer/artist Joann Sfar, one of the biggest names in French comics these days, made a splash with his first film, Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life. He followed that with an adaptation of one of his earlier comics, The Rabbi's Cat, inspired in large part by his heritage as a Sephardic Jew. New Video brings us The Rabbi's Cat (Blu-Ray).
In 1920s Algiers, Rabbi Sfar has trouble enough to deal with as his daughter is on the verge of becoming a beautiful young woman. Utter chaos ensures, however, when his cat eats the family parrot. Somehow, doing so gives the cat the power of speech. Let's face it—a talking cat is going to be nothing but trouble. The cat promptly proceeds to pester Sfar about his nature and his religion. What religion am I, the cat wonders. When Sfar replies that since the cat lives in a Jewish house, he must therefore be a Jewish cat, the cat concludes that he must have a bar mitzvah. Didn't I tell you? Nothing. But. Trouble.
Sfar takes the cat to his own rabbi for guidance, but the uber-conservative man only counsels him to drown the cat. Soon other people pop into his life, there's a large crate full of books in which a Russian student has smuggled himself, and before you know it, the rabbi and his cat are on a road trip, a quest for a legendary Jewish city in the depths of Africa. Maybe his cat can get a bar mitzvah there…
Telling too much will spoil the fun; though it occasionally gets too didactic for its own good, The Rabbi's Cat is a delightful film from beginning to end. It's highly episodic, so don't go in expecting a particularly well-structured plot. Just sit back and enjoy the ride. The characters are nicely drawn (literally and figuratively). The cat is in turn mischievous and affectionate, playful, and solitary—basically, it's a cat.
The way the religion occasionally leads to bloodshed in the story probably is not something for the youngest kids.
Technically, the disc is equally delightful. The animation is whimsical, with strong use of colors and line patterns. Despite the patterns, the AVC video doesn't have any noticeable artefacting. The DTS-HD track is bright and clear, allowing you to enjoy the score, an affecting blend of musical styles. English subtitles are provided, but the text is rather small, forcing you to sit close to the TV. There are some nice featurettes about the story—adapted from a series of French comic books. My only real complaint is that a music-only track wasn't provided.
The wildly careening narrative might be somewhat off-putting, but The Rabbi's Cat is a pleasant, thought-provoking yarn. Not guilty.
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