Wednesday, 23 November 2016

A Street Cat Named Bob - Book vs. Movie

The movie looks pretty gorgeous sometimes
I actually went to see this last week and I thought I'd put this in the same post where I reviewed the book... but then I realised I actually had quite a lot to say so maybe it's better if I put it in a post of its own.

If you read my review of the book, you'll already know that I a) enjoyed it and b) feared that the movie adaptation would be too much of a feel good flick without the actual depth and darkness of the book - living on the streets, battling addiction et cetera. Turns out I was worried about all the wrong things.
The premise is the same; James Bowen (played by Luke Treadaway, of whom I'd admittedly never heard of before but who's British, of the right age and does a good job) is living on the streets and meets a cat named Bob (played by the actual Bob and around six other cats, all of whom named in the credits. I only remember Oliver but it was cute!). Since he now has Bob, James decides that it's time for him to kick addiction and get himself off the streets. It's a feel good idea, but I don't think it translated right to the big screen. Or rather, I would've done it very differently - less Hollywood (or whatever the UK equivalent is) and more loyalty to the source material.

The darker the movie got, the more I felt like it wasn't actually trying to tell a story as much as it was trying to jerk some emotions out of me. Additionally, they've added some scenes not in the book that just made me feel so uncomfortable in the wrong ways. There's a scene where James goes to visit his father, breaks a vase, takes down the Christmas tree and has Bob run around a house with someone severely allergic to cats. I get artistic license and all but this wasn't in the book, therefore I assume it's not factual, therefore I wish they didn't make me suffer through it. Also, James is written to be a complete idiot. thicker than bark in this version. It's part of Book-James' character that he's very knowledgeable about cats. Movie-James needs to be told that a male cat should be neutered and that vets aren't free and he doesn't even understand the simplest hints that his father doesn't want him around. I was insulted about this because the book lead me to believe that James was actually pretty sharp and instead we get this mess.

Left to right: James Bowen, Bob, Luke Treadaway
and the worst part about this movie (nothing against her
personally though)
I think however that the worst part about this movie was Betty, Jame's Bowen's girlfriend(?) who was played by Ruta Gedmintas, Luke Treadaway's actual girlfriend. You see, I remember Belle from the book as a very likeable person. She's on the streets like James, they've dated at some point but it didn't work out, she takes care of Bob when James leaves to visit his mum in Australia. She's kind-hearted but mostly not very much there, because this is simply not her story. What do we get instead, in the movie? We get Betty, hippie vegan artsy hipster with pink hair who goes to pickets against animal cruelty and thinks she's smarter than James and better than him because she's not battling with addiction like he is. She even gets upset at him for... what? Trying to get his life back on track? Worse yet, she's always, constantly and endlessly on show. The story portrayed in the movie is almost as much about her and James' relationship as much as it's about Bob??? The book never mentioned a Betty but Belle has mysteriously disappeared for the movie, so I'll go ahead and assume this is how she was replaced. Sure, the two characters have chemistry but if any story didn't need a boring, extremely cliché mass-produced love angle, it's surely this one. It's a book about how a man's life was saved by a cat!! Also, Betty names Bob and it made me salty. In the book, it goes like this:

'By now I’d given him a name: Bob. I got the idea while watching a DVD of one of my old favourite TV series, Twin Peaks. There was a character in that called Killer Bob. He was actually schizophrenic, a kind of Jekyll and Hyde character. Part of the time he would be a normal, sane guy, the next he would be kind of crazy and out of control. The tom was a bit like that. When he was happy and content you couldn’t have wished to see a calmer, kinder cat. But when the mood took him he could be an absolute maniac, charging around the flat. I was talking to my friend Belle one night when it dawned on me. ‘He’s a bit like Killer Bob in Twin Peaks,’ I said, drawing a blank look from her. But it didn’t matter. Bob it was.'

In the movie, it goes something like this:

Betty: *in an off-handed manner* Oh, he told me his name's Bob.
James: What?

Because as a hippie vegan hipster, she talks to animals. It's later written off as a joke but it still felt somehow very annoying. I mean, if I was a vegan hipster, I'd be annoyed at these stereotypes. As a moviegoer and book-reader, I'm just annoyed at what an easy out they feel like. Belle was a side-character. Betty is a walking, talking, cliché annoyance that just doesn't go away.

You guys did your best, really.
All in all, this movie doesn't receive very high recommendations from me, but if you're a avid cat lover and somehow can't read the book, if you can laugh at incredibly stereotypical hippy vegans and if you don't want a movie that can be clearly put in a category, maybe I can tell you to go see this messy attempt of producing an interesting story in a new media. It was not worthy of the book, though.

Hopefully next time when I write about a book vs. a movie, it'll finally finally finally be about The Martian! It's certainly been a long time in waiting. 


  1. Good review. I've been debating whether to bother getting the DVD as I liked the books but was wary of how much it would be different from the real story. You've just saved me the money. By the way Belle was written out
    probably because she had an affair with James' stepdad in real life and thus his friendship with her was destroyed. So they created a whole new character to get round this awkward issue I'm guessing.

    1. I just found out I have a comment (hooray!), hopefully you'll see this somehow! Glad I could save you from the DVD - while the movie was heartfelt and all, it just wasn't half as good as the original work. I probably could have enjoyed it without having read the book though.

  2. I completely agree with this review because it greatly annoyed me that scenes that weren't in the book were added in and the character of Belle was totally taken out and replaced with that super annoying hippy vegan Betty. It really didn't do the book justice at all. As far as Anonymous' comment above, I think he/she has read a lot of tabloid trash and it's completely untrue that the "Belle" mentioned in the book is remotely related to the person who had an affair with James'stepdad, if that's even true. Belle never met James' step-father at all. Their relationship was hindered due to James and Belle both having been heroin addicts which is tenuous because when one person is trying to recover the other one is using thus making it difficult on the relationship.

    1. Hey, I'm glad you agreed on Belle and Betty - I was worried if I was maybe too harsh on Betty but she really did get on my nerves! I imagine that sort of thing must hinder a relationship, also. Still, Betty was a horrible replacement for Belle.

  3. Trying to get his life back on track? Worse yet, she's always, constantly and endlessly on show.

  4. Oh.My.Gosh!!!! I read the book today (LOVED IT) and immediately fired up the movie on Netflix. WTF was that???? That's not how Bob came to live with James! That's not how Bob got his name! Bob did not come in and out via a window! Where are the 5 flights of stairs? There was no mouse in the house! There was no frog! Who the F is this Betty chick???? AND BOB NEVER RODE AROUND ON A BICYCLE! I am beyond angry about this movie, as you can tell. Only thing good about it was Bob. And Anna from Downton Abbey. :-D

  5. he did ride around on a bike, but in the second book

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