If you name your movie, “The Travelling Cat Chronicles”, you immediately have my attention. Just think of all the possibilities for a movie with that title! (Also, cats!!!) Although, the actual material isn’t as zany or outrageous as you may think, even if there is still a talking cat in the mix. Realistically, though, the best comparison for The Travelling Cat Chronicles is something like A Dog’s Purpose…with 100% less animal death (thank goodness).
Satoru (Sôta Fukushi) is on the road looking for a new home for his cat, Nana (voiced by Mitsuki Takahata), as he can no longer take care of her for reasons that will become apparent later. Like all cutesy pet movies, there are hints of a cosmic connection between Satoru and Nana, as if they were destined to come together at some point in their existence. A horrifying prologue shows Satoru caring for Nana after she gets hit by a car in the street, which is also the beginning of their fated friendship (and luckily, not a wave of manipulative animal deaths).
But this road trip is more about Satoru, and each person offering to take his cat into their home is an opportunity to reflect back on their relationships together. We learn more about Satoru’s childhood and family, his past love, and also the lives of those around him. It’s one flashback after another. The plot takes on a wash, rinse, and repeat as it becomes far too formulaic: Satoru drives to a person’s house, they recollect about their time together, a revelation is revealed, and Satoru moves on to the next stop when the person can’t keep Nana for whatever reason.
You can see how The Travelling Cat Chronicles is setting up for the big cry in its third act. The film’s mix of melodrama and appeals to cat cuteness is too much to bear, even for the most earnest of viewers. Well, maybe the most strident of cat lovers will find something worthwhile.
As for me (even as a cat lover), The Travelling Cat Chronicles is an overabundance of mushy, manipulative feline drama. On the bright side, at least it doesn’t include horrifying, Show Dogs-esque CGI to make the cats involved look like digitized monsters with expanding mouths. It’s all about the small victories.
The Travelling Cat Chronicles is screening online as part of Fantasia Film, running from August 20 – September 2. To view the full program and buy tickets, head to fantasiafestival.com.
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