Gillian Greene’s bizarre, unfunny Murder of a Cat has a pretty straightforward plot: the murder of a cat. In an attempt to be a spoof on who-dun-its with a splash of 90s sitcom nostalgia, the wacky plot fails completely and wastes significant talent along the way.
With (really) offbeat humor, the story centers on man-child “Clinton” (Fran Kranz) who still lives with his mother “Edie” (Blythe Danner) at age thirty-something, lazily watches television in a dirty robe, and fights with neighborhood kids over action figures at his own makeshift yard sale. One night, Clinton wakes up to find his cat, Mouser, shot dead in the street by an arrow – and the nightmarish adventure begins. When he’s not berating cop-turned-mom’s-boyfriend “Sheriff Hoyle” and other innocent neighborhood locals, Clinton makes time for a rooftop vigil in honor of cat Mouser – complete with the tune of “Amazing Grace.” It turns out that Mouser had two owners, including tattooed hipster, “Greta” (Nikki Reed). She and Clinton discover where the murder weapon was sold – at the town’s sporting goods store owned by “Ford” (Greg Kinnear) – and make it their mission to find the killer.
The single highlight of the entire film is a scene where Greta gives Clinton a much-needed makeover. She cuts his mop of hair and trades in his bathrobe for a form-fitting suit. In a single moment, Kranz transforms from gross to gorgeous and the two start to fall for each other. Both actors give convincing performances, particularly Fran Kanz as the incessant, annoying Clinton – so irritating to the point of wishing the film would end abruptly. Hopefully, this is a part of Kranz’ talented acting skills (and not his shrill voice in general). But once Clinton receives his makeover, he is seemingly cleaner and therefore, more tolerable.
Besides the slightest romantic silver lining, the film is a complete waste of talent. Having a roster with Kinnear, Simmons, and Danner should indicate a somewhat relevant, interesting script but none are given anything to work with besides caricatures of colorful townsfolk. The awards buzz surrounding J.K. Simmons for his role in Whiplash should easily cover the disaster that is Murder of a Cat, but the same can’t be said for Blythe Danner or the usually-reliable Greg Kinnear. Director Green and screenwriters Christian Magalhaes and Robert Snow miss the mark on the aspects of comedy, drama, action, and romance they were aiming for. Instead of wondering, “Who killed Clinton’s cat?” it unfortunately leaves you wondering, “Who invested money in this?”
Review © Brigid K. Presecky (12/15/14)
Top Photo: Fran Kranz as “Clinton”
Middle Photo: Nikki Reed as “Greta” and Fran Kranz as “Clinton”
Bottom Photo: J.K. Simmons as “Sheriff Hoyle” and Fran Kranz as “Clinton”
Photo Cred: Gravitas Ventures
Q: Does The Murder of a Cat pass the Bechdel Test?