You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Tribeca Film Review: ‘Murder of a Cat’

This eccentric misfire's idea of comedy is an overbearing man-child who takes his cat's death a little too seriously.

Fran Kranz, Aidan Andrews, Blythe Danner, Greg Kinnear, J.K. Simmons, Nikki Reed, Leo Nam, Dileep Rao, Aidan Andrews, Brian Turk.

“Murder of a Cat” is that rare post-“Little Miss Sunshine” laffer that could actually stand to be quirkier. Somehow, despite all the eccentric bathrobes and vintage sweaters and bad wigs, despite the involvement of “Sunshine” star Greg Kinnear and “Juno” vet J.K. Simmons, this weird little detective story never quite manages to establish its own personality. After years of watching hubby Sam Raimi direct, first-timer Gillian Greene plucked a script off the Black List and made a go of it, and the result feels like someone won a contest where the grand prize meant getting to make a movie.

Actually, the real winners here are co-writers Christian Magalhaes and Robert Snow, whose well-loved spec script made the rounds in Hollywood and helped land them staff writing gigs on “New Girl.” At a moment when douchebag comedy is king, these guys serve up unapologetically dorky counterprogramming, where the main character is a thirtysomething virgin and the inspirations are mostly literary. The result plays like a classic Encyclopedia Brown case, if the boy detective were still sleuthing from the spare room of his mom’s house to this day.

As the title suggests, the mystery begins with the death of Mouser, a contented housecat who’d lived well into the double digits. Cats die every day, but there’s something especially suspicious about Mouser’s demise, considering that this kitty’s corpse is found impaled by an arrow. Of all the jokes in the film, the first sight of Mouser’s dead body is one gag the pic cannot afford to botch, and yet Greene, an avowed animal lover, opts not to play the macabre beat for laughs, thereby lending a certain validity to her man-child protagonist, Clinton Moisey (Fran Kranz), and his foolhardy plan to bring the cat’s killer to justice.

Unfortunately, the premise simply isn’t as funny with Clinton seeming justified in his quest. The character was conceived in the vein of “Confederacy of Dunces” oaf Ignatius J. Reilly, who battles the impression of his own irrelevance with a constant stream of grandiloquent nonsense. Though undeniably over-the-top, Kranz has stopped one step shy of making Clinton a figure worthy of a full-blown “Saturday Night Live” sketch, or perhaps another Napoleon Dynamite. Had he played it just a bit more specific, “Murder of a Cat” might have been the first of many tales to feature this endearing buffoon, instead of just a grating one-off.

While Kranz fumbles at being eccentric, the supporting cast has the easier task of playing it straight. Blythe Danner is the picture of patience as Clinton’s fuddy-duddy mother; Kinnear brings surprising range to the one-joke role of a frustrated actor stuck operating a Walmart-like superstore (complete with hammy local-TV commercials); and Simmons can barely keep from cracking up as the sheriff tasked with aiding Clinton’s investigation. The case takes many a twist and eventually leads to a far bigger criminal operation, though the surprises are suffocated by Clinton’s tendency to spout elaborate conspiracies before anyone has a chance to process the information.

His first big breakthrough is discovering that Mouser had been “moonlighting” — slipping out to be with a funky gal named Greta (Nikki Reed), who knows the cat as “Horatio.” In real life, Greta would simply be too cool to be caught dead with a comicbook-collecting, custom-action-figure-making momma’s boy like Clinton, but every nerd needs a fantasy, and Reed rises to the challenge. Still, there’s something off in the pic’s chemistry, and the surest clue that Greene and the screenwriters are operating on different wavelengths can be found in the film’s score, a brassy bit of overkill determined to turn “Murder of a Cat” into a legit retro-detective movie, when truth be told, there’s barely enough material here to sustain a short film.

Tribeca Film Review: 'Murder of a Cat'

Reviewed at Tribeca Film Festival (Spotlight), April 24, 2014. Running time: 101 MIN.

Production: An Exclusive Media, BabyItsColdOutside Pictures, Seine Pictures presentation of a BabyItsColdOutside Pictures, Seine Pictures production, in association with Hassell-Free Prods. (International sales: CAA, Los Angeles.) Produced by Molly Hassell, Sam Raimi, Gillian Greene, Ivan Orlic. Executive producers, Adam Kolbrenner, Robyn Meisinger, Arianne Fraser. Co-executive producers, Benjamin Mathes, Caroline Bernhardt, Kathy Chang. Co-producers, Andrew Blumsack, Paul Merryman, Mu Sun, Christian Magalhaes, Robert Snow, Chris Cook.

Crew: Directed by Gillian Greene. Screenplay, Robert Snow, Christian Magalhaes. Camera (color), Christophe Lanzenberg; editor, Eric L. Beason; music, Deborah Lurie; production designer, Krystyna Loboda; costume designer, Shawn-Holly Cookson; sound, Robert Anderson; re-recording mixer, Jussi Tegelman; special effects supervisor, J.D. Schwalm; special cat effects, KNB EFX Group; stunt coordinator, Todd Bryant; associate producers, Fran Kranz, Stephanie Pon; line producer, Micahel O. Gallant; assistant director, Stephen Harrison; casting, John Papsidera.

With: Fran Kranz, Aidan Andrews, Blythe Danner, Greg Kinnear, J.K. Simmons, Nikki Reed, Leo Nam, Dileep Rao, Aidan Andrews, Brian Turk.

More Film

  • Playwright Mark Medoff author of "Children

    Mark Medoff, 'Children of a Lesser God' Playwright, Dies at 79

    Mark Medoff, the playwright who wrote Tony Award-winning play “Children of a Lesser God,” died Tuesday in Las Cruces, N.M. He was 79. His daughter Jessica Medoff Bunchman posted news of his death on Facebook, and the Las Cruces Sun-News attributed the cause to cancer. “Children of a Lesser God” starred John Rubinstein and Phyllis Frelich [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Interscope Films Relaunches With Full Slate at Tribeca (EXCLUSIVE)

    The Interscope record label’s interest in film/music crossover isn’t exactly a secret: With hit companion albums for “A Star Is Born,” “Black Panther” and “La La Land,” they’ve seemed to own the soundtrack space at times in recent years. And the company hasn’t completely made a secret of its desire to move into film production. [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame': Fans and Theaters Assemble for Biggest Marvel Movie Ever

    For San Diego resident Shawn Richter, “Avengers: Endgame” is more than the conclusion to a monumental period in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As the West Coast branch chair of Avengers Initiative, a cosplay charity that raises money for causes like the Ronald McDonald House Children’s Charities, the comics of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are [...]

  • Jillian Bell appears in Brittany Runs

    Amazon's 'Brittany Runs a Marathon' Sets Summer Release

    “Brittany Runs a Marathon” will be rushing to theaters on Aug. 23. Amazon Studios dated the comedy on Wednesday. The pic, starring Jillian Bell (“Rough Night,” “22 Jump Street”), won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival. The flick follows the titutal Brittany, who decides to run around New York City in order to [...]

  • Lionsgate Hires Lynn Whitney in Marketing

    Lionsgate Hires Former Warner Bros. Exec Lynn Whitney

    Lionsgate announced Wednesday that Lynn Whitney will become head of worldwide paid media, partnerships, promotions and consumer products. Whitney was formerly the executive VP of worldwide media at Warner Bros.   In her new role, Whitney will build out media campaigns for movies like Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron’s romantic comedy “Long Shot.” “I am [...]

  • El silencio de otros

    Film Review: 'The Silence of Others'

    “Forgiven but not forgotten” is a platitude we routinely use to end disputes both petty and grievous, but it’s the reverse outcome — the mass forgetting of crimes and conflicts never truly resolved — that itches away at a post-Franco Spain in “The Silence of Others.” Soberly chronicling the ongoing legal battle of General Franco’s [...]

  • A Womans Work-The NFLs Cheerleader Problem

    Tribeca Documentaries Explore Gender Issues in Sport

    Up until recently, what it meant to be a professional female athlete in a world dominated by men wasn’t an issue that garnered high volumes of public interest, let alone national headlines. But that all changed in October 2017 when stories from the New York Times and the New Yorker detailing sexual allegations and improper [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content