Every now and then, a film comes along.
A Talking Cat!?! is one of those films.
A Talking Cat!?! tells the story of Duffy (played by Squeaky, a completely different cat than the one featured on the movie poster) a self-proclaimed “human whisperer” that wanders into the lives of two families to give them guidance because, as he states, “humans need all the help they can get.”
The first family to meet Duffy is newly retired software tycoon Phil (former-as in a REALLY long time ago- child star Johnny Whitaker) and his son Chris (Justin Cone, he was on Glee once). The father and son don’t have much in common but they do both like pizza and talk about ordering it often. Chris has a crush on an illiterate girl he is tutoring named Frannie (Alison Sieke), though all she ever wants to do is go swimming in his pool. This is a problem because Chris can’t swim. And also because Chris is gay.
Across the forest or beach (depending on the establishing shot used) lives single mom Susan played by Kristine DeBell (Meatballs, Alice in Wonderland: An X-Rated Musical Fantasy, which sounds amazing) and her twin teens Tina (Janice Peebles) and Trent (Daniel Dannas). Tina is obsessed with going to the prestigious Business College but money is tight due to Susan’s one-woman catering company only carrying a single item: cheese puffs. Not being able to go to Business College makes Tina very bitter and let’s just say it, a cu—oh, I can’t say it. She takes it out on poor, lovably dumb Trent, belittling him every chance she gets. Trent tries to fight back, but usually can’t think of much besides repeating his sister’s insults back at her.
Here’s an example of an exchange between Tina and Trent:
Trent: “Quit bugging mom about business college.”
Tina: “Why don’t you shut it?”
Trent: “Why don’t you shut it? You’re the annoying one.”
Tina: “No, you’re the one who doesn’t even know what he’s going to do with his life. At least I have direction and purpose.”
Trent: “And if only you had a personality, you might have a future.”
Tina: “I hate you Trent.”
Pretty sure Tina’s gigantic duct-taped computer is doubling as a teleprompter.
So yeah, Duffy has his work cut out for him.
Oh, have I mentioned who provides the voice of Duffy? Eric Roberts, that’s who.
Also not the cat in this movie, but I thought this was fitting.
Most of the time we hear Duffy in the form of voice-overs rather than him actually speaking to people. The reason for this? A miniscule special effects budget (more on that later) and because Duffy can only speak to each person once. This rule is never explained, unless you count Duffy saying “I don’t make the rules.” So Duffy must choose his advice wisely. The nuggets of wisdom dispensed by Duffy include “Take a walk in the woods,” and “Look at the beeping machine.” (A computer, which I don’t recall ever beeping once and which Duffy can apparently operate.)
Will Duffy’s minor assistance bring single parents Phil and Susan together? Will Tina ever get to profit off all her computer knowledge without attending Business College? Will Chris overcome his shyness and find his one true love? Oh my god, what if Duffy gets hit by a car? WHAT ABOUT THE CHEESE PUFFS? Don’t fret! All of these questions are answered in the magical world of A Talking Cat!?!
This film has a wonderful title that grabs you right away. If it were just called A Talking Cat, A Talking Cat!, A Talking Cat?, or A Talking Cat?! it just wouldn’t have the same punch as the winning exclamation point/question mark/exclamation point combination.
That is how you do a title, budding filmmakers. Maybe if John Carter had been titled John Carter!?!, audiences would have been intrigued and perhaps it wouldn’t have been the colossal failure it was.
See how much better that is?
The casting deserves a toast as well, as this is one of the most randomly bizarre assembled group of thespians ever to star in a family film; a former child star, a former porn star, some random pretty boys who most likely had to remove their shirts during the casting process, a deaf feral cat (I’m guessing), and of course, Eric Roberts, whose dialogue sounds as if it was recorded over a speakerphone while he was sitting in the bathroom on day five of a five day bender. I’d be willing to bet that everyone in this movie is the result of a Craigslist posting.
A Talking Cat!?! contains all the elements of bad movie gold: a ridiculous plot that hardly makes sense, laughable acting, poor production values, and most importantly, sincerity. It never feels bad-on-purpose, instead it comes across as an earnest, good-intentioned G-rated family movie filmed in one take on a porno set.
While watching A Talking Cat!?! for the first time, the viewer may wonder when the cat is actually going to talk since more than twenty minutes go by before this actually happens. But when he finally does, well, it is at this point you realize just how special this movie is.
You know those horribly-produced local car dealership commercials where they superimpose a human’s mouth over the family dog’s to make it look like he’s telling you how you can get a great deal on a car with no money down and bad credit?
It’s much worse than that.
It’s so unbelievably, ridiculously, preposterously, hilariously awful that it makes Birdemic director James Nguyen look like Ang Lee by comparison.
It must be seen to be believed.
A large portion of A Talking Cat!?! consists of establishing shots that are clearly only there as filler. It soon becomes apparent that they are the same four or five establishing shots repeated over and over. And over. Sometimes one after the other. The shots are: a beach, a forest, the side of one house, the side of the other house, and the pool. Sometimes they are actually used for the purpose of establishing where the next scene will take place. Most of the time, they’re just thrown in to pad the run-time which is an already short 82 minutes, though it sure feels like a lot more.
Over and over and over.
Then there’s the music. Jesus Christ, this movie and the music! Every scene is accompanied by a wacky!?! tune that sounds like the music that autoplays when you get an E-card. And, unlike E-cards, the background music (which is often so loud I don’t know if it can be called background music) usually doesn’t fit the emotion of the scene. There are two actual recognizable songs: “La Cucaracha” which serves as the soundtrack for the not-so-cute-meet-cute between Phil and Susan and “Itsy Bitsy Spider” which plays over the endless ending credits because of course it does. I’ll give you one guess as to why and how these songs made it into the movie.
If you said “public domain,” give yourself a cheese puff!
While watching A Talking Cat!?! you may think that the terrible acting, multiple repeating establishing shots, crazy music, etc, etc, etc, is the result of a first-time, most likely foreign, director.
You’d be wrong.
It’s quite the opposite actually. The director is a guy named David DeCoteau and according to IMDB he has directed 105(!?!) films. These range from Z-grade horror (Sorority Babes in the Slimball Bowl-O-Rama, Frankenstein Reborn!) to gay softcore (Leather Jacket Love Story, The1313 series) to family flicks (A Halloween Puppy, An Easter Bunny Puppy, and the upcoming, wait-for-it, A Talking Pony!?!) Do yourself a favor right now and scroll though the photos of the covers of these movies. Then watch a few of the trailers on YouTube. I need to set aside a weekend and have a David DeCoteau movie marathon. You are all welcome to join me. Bring alcohol.
DeCoteau often directs under a pseudonym as is the case of A Talking Cat!?! in which the director is listed as “Mary Crawford” in the credits. I’m not sure why DeCoteau goes through all the trouble to use a different name since nearly of his movies are filmed on the same set which, after some research, I learned is his own mansion. He doesn’t even attempt to rearrange the furniture…oh my god, can we talk about the furniture?
In one of the first scenes Phil looks at a large tree branch wearing one red stiletto boot (you read that correctly) and remarks “This thing is hideous!” I’m guessing this line was either ad-libbed or intentionally added to the script along with a later line about a hired interior decorator to explain away a piece of furniture that may sort of make sense in a gay softcore film but not in a family movie about a talking cat(!?!)
Aside from that saucy tree branch, there’s also a car couch (“VRROOM!”) that I think DeCoteau may have purchased from the set of My Two Dads (not positive on that one, it’s been a few decades since that show, but I remember they had a car couch too). It’s just one of the many, many bizarre things that makes this movie what it is.
At one point in the movie Duffy explains that his powers come from
MS Paint a magic collar. You might think it’s the collar he wears throughout the entire movie since he has the ability to talk to people.
Once again, you’d be wrong.
No, it’s a different collar which he keeps in the woods somewhere, just laying atop a random rock for anyone to grab, or for the wind to blow away, or for one of those waterfalls to wash away. If that is Duffy’s magic collar, then what is the other one for? Why wouldn’t he just wear the magic one all the time, especially since it has the power to heal (SPOILER ALERT). I know if I had a magic necklace that would save me from certain death, I’d wear that necklace all the time. And on the rare occasion that I wasn’t wearing it, I’d make damn sure to keep it somewhere safe and wouldn’t just leave it on some rock.
The “finding the magic collar” scene is meant to bring the two families together to save Duffy so I get why there needs to be a suspenseful (lol) race to try to find it. But it would have made a hell of a lot more sense if Duffy had only a magic collar and accidentally lost it in the woods. That would have accomplished the same thing a lot better than having one supposedly unmagic collar that somehow still gives him the power to speak and one really magic collar that gives him the ability to heal himself. And then to further complicate things Duffy mentions his nine lives. What? How do they play into this? This is all as confusing as reading…books, as Frannie would say.
Dammit! I ran out of beers before I got a chance to talk about Tina’s ingenious app where you scan in all your clothes and it puts together an outfit. Oh well, you’ll have to discover that on your own. Good luck trying to figure out how that would actually work seeing that 1) clothing tags don’t have bar codes. 2) They’re using a BOOKLIGHT to scan the non-existent bar codes.
While it never quite reaches the level of masterpieces such as The Room, Troll 2, or Birdemic, A Talking Cat!?! is not to be missed by fans of delightfully-gone-horribly-wrong cinema. It’s currently streaming on Netflix so listen to Duffy and go turn on that beeping machine.
Take a Drink: every time an establishing shot is repeated. Take Two: when it’s the pool and you spot the statue of the little boy peeing.
Take a Drink: every time Chris runs up or down the stairs.
Take a Drink: whenever Frannie mentions swimming/the pool.
Take a Drink: every time Duffy announces that he is a talking cat(!?!)
Take a Drink: every time Tina is terrible to her brother.
Take a Drink: “cheese puffs.”
Take a Drink: every time the laser pointer or the cat treats used to make the cat “act” are visible. (A laser pointer is much cheaper than hiring one of those fancy trained cats)
Take a Drink: every time Tina says “I know” during her phone conversation.
Take a Drink: every time someone uses any of the following big technical words: “algorithm”, “variable”, “recognition software”, and “thumb drive.”
Take a Drink: at the blue-filtered “night” scene.
Take a Drink: whenever a male character is shirtless.
Take a Drink: at the unbridled sexual tension between Chris and Trent.
Chug: While Tina reads the website.
Chug again: During the scene of the white car driven by..?…going…somewhere.
Take a Shot: whenever the hideous tree branch wearing the red shoe is in a scene.
Last Call: Just like at the end of the Twilight Saga, each character gets a curtain call as their most memorable scenes, or rather, just any scenes they were in play while the actors’ names appear during the credits.
Last Call Part 2: Oh, that charismatic Duffy!! Let’s watch some outtakes of him walking, looking off-screen, rolling, and sitting. If you somehow missed the laser pointer during the movie, here’s another chance to spot it!
Note: Even at 2,285 words, I’ve barely scratched the surface of A Talking Cat!?! If you’re jonesing for more Duffy-related fun (and you will be), be sure to check out this amazing in-depth Tumblr.