Feed the Kitty

Film Review by Dean Duncan May 31, 2015

One of the loveliest films in the world. On the face of it it’s just cat-versus-dog, or at least it looks like it. It’s jokes in a domestic setting, and other assorted bits of apparent run-of-the-mill. But there’s so much way more going on than that!

Actually as I see it, when I watch it, Feed the Kitty is about how masculine strength, which has so often tended to insensitivity of various stripes, or even dire to displays of brute force, can be disarmed by vulnerability and gentleness, by duty and love. It’s Silas Marner! Required viewing for prospective dads, or young men whose only ambition is to keep on watching Sportscenter!

As mentioned there are jokes, which is at least part of the point of the exercise. These films are being distributed, and they’re at least partially made to the order of audiences and their expectations.

Given that that’s the case, my own particular interpretations might appear a little suspect. Important issue. Films can mean a certain thing, and the people who make them will often have certain intentions. Here’s another thing. Films can also be subject to our personal comparing or extrapolating. They then mean something different, something more to us, though we don’t lay the responsibility at the filmmakers’ doors. We’re allowed, and the results can be wonderful.

But this picture is different, I think; the analogy has to be the point of the thing. The jokes are one thing, but this is why men need children. (If you want, by extension, part of why men need women.) You might be more familiar with how this vital discussion is carried out in Monsters, Inc.. Hurray for Pixar! But except for its very last shot, that fine feature doesn’t come close to the power of this tiny cartoon short.

Is the lady of the house a controlling wife that symbolically emasculates the man? Or infantilizes him? Maybe that’s there too. Since this is Warner Brothers and not George Eliot, the analogies can also be a bit untidy.

But mostly, what a powerful change of heart! The big dog, at first antagonized by and antagonistic toward the little kitty, undertakes to protect it. Ego, giving way to ethics, the Self to the Other. Further and if you want, he that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.

The flour/cookies sequence is not only skillfully suspenseful, it’s also gleefully cruel. A dangerous combination, in both commercial and ethical senses. But this is as sure-handed as Chaplin, who also knew how to throw in gags while hearts were breaking. That face!  That restoration! Previous gags are now reprised when Marc Anthony is caught with the cat. It’s all very careful, craftsmanlike. But notice that, unlike almost the entire tradition of gag comedy, there’s no joke at the end. This young man has subordinated and save himself, all at the same time.

This is the very best that family entertainment can possibly be.