MEOW (2017) review

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Cats are actually aliens. They come from planet Meow, and those of them that exist on earth are actually there to colonize the planet, but they have been lulled into inaction by human love and food. And so a Meowian warrior, Pudding, is sent to earth with a magical weapon, to galvanize the troops and initiate a global takeover. Except that upon landing, Pudding loses the weapon and undergoes a transformation, due to the earth’s atmosphere, from alpha-feline warrior to chubby, oversized cat, while a mix-up leads to him being adopted by a family. The father (Louis Koo), is a well-meaning but hopelessly childish ex-football star, the mother (Ma Li) an highly-strung aspiring actress, the son (Andy Huang) a wannabe-film director who for know mainly collaborates with his pets, and the daughter (Liu Chutian) suffers from a bad leg which keeps her away from the sporting activity she would like to join in. At first, Pudding – now renamed Xixili – plans to break up the family, but soon he is won over by their kindness.

What led the master of Hong Kong and Chinese action cinema, Benny Chan, to want to branch out into kiddy cuteness? Not that there’s anything wrong with a director trying his hand at a genre new to him, on the contrary, but one would expect Meow to be a Wong Jing quickie, not the new film from the man who brought us New Police Story and The White Storm, among many others. But never mind the element of surprise: beyond its unexpected nature in the filmography of its director, Meow is simply a mind-bogglingly misguided and facepalm-inducing concoction. Its vaguely droll premise might have led to something mildly amusing, if the humor hadn’t consisted almost solely of farts (some in the face of Louis Koo), wide-eyed pratfalls, and shouty sitcom, all pockmarked with forced, cringe-inducing attempts at cuteness, and capped off with saccharine and wholly unearned pseudo-emotion.

Tiny victories are won along the way: the cat’s fur is well-animated, the kids are actually quite likable… But on the whole this is a film that’s too childish for adults, too weird for pre-school kids (witness Louis Koo force-kissing Ma Li to calm her down, while their son films them), and probably too unfunny for pre-teens. And Louis Koo gives a performance that’s both oddly admirable (the man clearly has no vanity and is having a lot of fun) and frankly embarrassing (he throws himself into pratfalls as obliviously as a desperate stepfather clumsily trying to appeal to his new kids). However, Ma Li’s deft comedic touch is lost in this mess of cat jokes. Should we expect Dante Lam’s Woof for 2018?

Long Story Short: An unhealthy brew of forced cuteness, unfunny pratfalls and weird subplots, with Louis Koo spinning out of control at the center of it. *

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4 Comments

  1. Considering, how poor CGI is in Chinese movies compared to Western movies. This seems like something I would avoid.

    Reply
    • I see what you mean, but CGI is actually the least of this film’s problems ^^.

      Reply
      • Off topic, but is there any film critic that you model your writing style after?

        Reply
        • Not consciously, no; though I’m sure I have absorbed stylistic features from those I read – or used to read – often.

          Reply

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