There’s enough story here to cover five movies, but The Rabbi’s Cat stuffs everything into 89 minutes.
First, the cat meows. Then he speaks. Then he utters God’s name and is relegated to his previous “meow” (which has a distinct human quality to it).
That’s the first 15 minutes.
There’s also a man shipped in a box; the rabbi’s cousin, who travels with a lion; and simmering colonial tension between the French and Algerians.
And have I mentioned that the cat is smarter than everyone? (His refusal to believe religious stories in favor of carbon dating is particularly funny.)
The movie may have been more enjoyable if it didn’t seem so intent on demonstrating its cleverness, but it has its moments—in particular the cat’s vivid nightmare; a story a young Russian Jew tells to explain how he ended up in Algeria; and a bloody duel—and the animation is a throwback to hand-drawn work that’s innovative and eye-pleasing without using computers.
The brisk pace makes the time fly, but The Rabbi’s Cat doesn’t really deal with the questions it raises; maybe it doesn’t want to.
Still, this animated tale for adults is a nice change of pace.
CCA Cinematheque, NR, 89 min.