The best cat movie of 2011 wasn't the much touted "Puss In Boots," rather the English dubbed re-release of a little Dutch film from 2001 called "Miss Minoes."
Last week, my friend and cat blogger/author Ann Dziemianowicz and I found ourselves at the last showing of the film at a shoebox sized theater in New York City, amongst a crowd of fellow cat enthusiasts. "Miss Minoes," based on a children's novel by Annie M.G. Schmidt, is the story of a cat who turns into a woman after ingesting toxic chemicals. What I found refreshing about the plot was that instead of focusing on the obvious question of why she turned into a human or how she could turn back into a cat, it turned into a heartwarming tale of how Minoes (played to feline perfection by Carice van Houten) struggles to adjusting to life as a woman, her often hilarious interactions with the neighborhood kitties, and her blossoming relationship with Tibbe (Theo Maassen), the struggling journalist who takes her in. (Of course, there's also a nefarious, animal hating town benefactor thrown into the mix for good measure.)
We first meet Minoes in human form after a dog chases her up a tree
In an act of foreshadowing, the film opens with Tibbe's editor proclaiming that "cats aren't the news!" as she gives him one last chance to find a scoop before firing him. The dejected journalist heads into town in search of the story that will save his career, where he finds Minoes stuck up a tree. Later, when she's able to give him an exclusive story based on tips from some of the local cats, he offers her the chance to become his assistant in exchange for keeping him up on the latest cat gossip. While in the body of a beautiful young woman, Minoes manages to catch mice, sleep in boxes, and "talk" cat, yet by the end of the film its hard to decide whether she should remain with her new human friends, or return to her feline family.
I was shocked to learn that the film is over ten years old, mostly because of how realistic the talking cats are. The gossiping kitties of the the fictional town of Killendoorn - a regal Persian, a hilarious Exotic, and a brave British Shorthair, among others - moved their mouths and acted in such a natural way, that they really couldn't have been more believable unless they actually DID talk (and from what I saw, I'm not entirely convinced they don't).
Roger Ebert gave the film a generally unfavorable review, however he outright conceded that it "would be adored by young girls who love cats." Based on the audible "Awws!" I heard in the crowd throughout the showing, and the positive reaction at the film's conclusion, I would say that he was mostly correct, except for the "young" part. (Also, for what it's worth, The New York Times reviewer seemed to share my rosier outlook).
"Miss Minoes" is anything but your typical piece of children's cinema (it won several awards in its native Holland, and doesn't really feel like a kids flick at all), and if you love cats, you'll likely find yourself as charmed by the movie as I did. It's sweet and funny and as cliched as it sounds, left me smiling from ear to ear. Unfortunately, it's unlikely that you'll be able to catch "Minoes" in a theater near you anytime soon, however I highly encourage you to save it on Netflix, and will be sure to give updates on any DVD release dates I find!