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‘The Rabbi’s Cat’ takes an animated leap into dueling faiths
A movie review of “The Rabbi’s Cat,” an endearingly loopy animated tale that uses a talking kitty to anchor a daisy-chain of interfaith dialogues.
The New York Times
‘The Rabbi’s Cat,’ with the voices of François Morel, Mathieu Amalric. Directed by Joann Sfar and Antoine Delesvaux, from a screenplay by Sfar and Sandrina Jardel, based on a comic-book series by Sfar. 100 minutes. Not rated. In French, with English subtitles. Northwest Film Forum, through Thursday.
The New York Times does not provide star ratings with reviews.
The frisky kitty at the heart of “The Rabbi’s Cat” — an endearingly loopy animated feature from Joann Sfar and Antoine Delesvaux — is hairless, bunny-eared and intent on preparing for his bar mitzvah. We know this because the cat, after gobbling his master’s parrot, acquires a voice (provided by François Morel). And hardly ever stops using it.
Set in early-20th-century Algiers and based on Sfar’s popular series of comic books, this can’t-we-all-get-along story uses the precocious puss to anchor a daisy-chain of interfaith dialogues. Meandering, along with a smattering of multiethnic characters, across the African desert, the film presents an often sharp commentary on dueling beliefs and idiocies that unfolds in lush pastel hues and distinctively retro drawings.
But the wit and warmth of the early scenes — which revel in the cat’s probing questions and cheeky attempts at feline frottage with his master’s cushiony daughter — are soon smothered beneath a dry blanket of philosophical didacticism. Disjointed and overpopulated, the subsequent adventures of this prattling pet cause the story’s initial lightness to congeal into a barely coherent exploration of identity politics and religious coexistence.
Though claiming, in its publicity notes, to be suitable for ages 13 and up, this colorful curiosity is more likely to tickle religious scholars than secular teenagers.