I don't know where to begin.
Via a voice-over so muffled that it must have been recorded through a coffee can, a drunk-sounding Eric Roberts voices Duffy the titular talking cat!?! in what I can only assume was an effort at a Lorenzo Music impression. Indeed, for the first half-hour or so, the Duffyverse seems to operate under Garfield rules of cat-human communication—specifically:
- Article I
1. Cat characters may not speak.
2. Cat characters may develop wisecracking responses to stimuli.
3. Wisecracking responses from a cat character are inaudible to human characters, and result in no movement of the cat character's mouth.
1. Human characters, particularly of the more pathetic variety, may speak to cats.
2. Human characters have no means of understanding cats' thoughts, and this incomprehension may be employed to comic effect.
But then, Duffy actually opens his "mouth," and the idiotic story, to borrow a phrase from Tropic Thunder, "goes full retard."
But that makes it sound too watchable. A Talking Cat!?! offends me because it does nothing interesting with its key attributes—the homemade amateurishness of Birdemic, the torpor of Monster a Go-Go, the repetitive nature-shot filler of Boggy Creek II, the cluelessness about modern commerce and interpersonal relations of The Room, the lumpy aging lovers of a Tim and Eric sketch, and domesticity so false that it makes Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders look like cinema vérité. Shitty movies like these sometimes coalesce into something that transcends their constituent shitty elements; they sometimes take on a hypnotically-bad, entertainingly-bad, even heartwarmingly-bad quality. This? Does not.
The theory I developed after the first half-hour or so was that A Talking Cat!?! was the product of an investment banker's bored wife who thought her cat was the handsomest creature under the sun and, dimly aware that "cat video" is a thing that's popular with the World Wide Web kids these days, decided to make a movie about him, despite a lack of any relevant training. In fact, I was convinced that the actress playing Susan (cheese puff lady) was either the director or screenwriter—her part was the most strangely-written and she was the worst actor of all seven cast members (that's including Eric Roberts).
I've never been more mistaken. Turns out that the director is a Roger Corman protégé who normally works in the genre of softcore gay horror—the 1313 films, which you may have spotted on instantwatcher.com, came from the same director as A Talking Cat!?! And both of the leads are actual, if washed-up, actors—which means the frequent terrible line reads might just as easily be a symptom of an Ed Wood-like desire to never shoot more than one take.
Which makes me detest A Talking Cat!?! even more, because if it HAD been an overfunded personal vanity project as I originally believed, its witless sincerity might have at least come off as slightly cute, like Miami Connection. Instead, it must be a cheap, lazy cash-in on kids' absence of critical faculty. That's my new theory in light of the evidence.
And yet, any kid young enough to not respond to A Talking Cat!?! with "This is the stupidest thing I've ever seen, and I've been to public school" would likely be so bored that they'd never get to the long-delayed talking-cat scenes. So that's another reason to genuinely dislike this movie: the poor kids whose parents bought this (widely-distributed!) piece of crap will be expected, due to the psychology of previous investment, to actually watch it, and probably more than once. (This same mentality is why American portion sizes result in fat kids.)
There's a strange recurring theme of "water" in A Talking Cat!?!, which I'll investigate in this paragraph at grave risk of personal mental trauma. Most of the placid nature photography involves water; some of the exactly-duplicated shots are of scenic water drainage pipes; a treatment tank is prominently shown alongside the thrilling climactic forest hunt sequence (seeking the magic collar that Duffy was already shown wearing in a previous shot, but god jesus dammit just never mind); and Phil is offered, and consumes, water with same the insistent repetitiveness with which a character in a Coleman Francis movie is given coffee. Perhaps Duffy's purpose in establishing contact with the human families is to unite them in preparation for the true threat to their livelihoods—which is neither the boredom inherent in retirement, nor lack of personal career direction, nor even a shortage of edible cheese puffs—but domestic terrorism in the form of poisoned public water systems! WAKE UP SHEEPLE.
So you see, at least A Talking Cat!?! is not so dull that it's unmockable—not that that's praise. I can say only one semi-kind thing about this movie: the young actors do not suck as much as some. I've seen young soap actors who were less believable. They're dull, and none of them are in danger of major careers, but they at least seem to have some training, unlike their two elders. And they're trying, unlike Eric Roberts.
But even factoring that one not-completely-shitty element in…this one's painful. I am very much a cat person—never met one I didn't like—but this movie made me want to punch Duffy. I can in good conscience recommend A Talking Cat!?! only to the seeeerious gluttons for cinematic punishment—those of you who can keep the quips coming even when the hurt inside is so searing that you know in your heart it will never fully heal.
Star Score: 0.5 out of 5