Eye For Film >> Movies >> Rats And Cats (2008) Film Review
Rats And Cats
Reviewed by: Anton Bitel
"I might be here a bit longer," says journalist Ben Baxter (Adam Zwar) to his editor on the telephone. "It's not quite the story we'd imagined. It's a bit different."
Ben is writing a 'where-are-they-now?' catch-up profile on Darren McWarren (Zwar's co-writer Jason Gann), a one-time star of the small and big screens who subsequently, and somewhat mysteriously, disappeared into self-exile from the industry. After being vetted by Darren's gormless assistant Bruce (Paul Denny) for an interview with the actor, Ben finds himself embedded at Darren's huge mansion in Gladdington, a small town in Western Victoria, once best known as home to 'Harry' the three-metre-long groper, but now accommodating a rather different kind of big fish in its small pond.
The mere presence of the star gives the community of Gladdington "an identity", even if, removed from the career that made him famous, Darren leads a somewhat rudderless existence. Days are spent collecting small change from the coin-operated machines that he has set up outside the local store, or driving around 'masseuse' Cindy (Anya Beyersdorf) to her various motel assignations. Nights, meanwhile, are spent fronting his band Black Diamond ("like Bon Jovi but with a Sting-ish edge"), and annoying his bassist Don (Francis McMahon) with increasingly lengthy and pompous spoken-word intros.
With his fiery temper, rock 'n' roll image and massive ego, Darren comes across as a low-rent Russell Crowe (there is even, in Darren's attempt to enter the ring with a local fighter, a nudge-nudge reference to Crowe's 2005 boxing movie Cinderella Man), but Tony Rogers' Rats And Cats lampoons not just the self-absorption of the star, but also the way in which such narcissism is fueled by a starstruck coterie of groupies, fanboys and hangers-on, including the press itself (embodied by dimly earnest Ben), who all seem to need Darren as much as he needs them. It is, as Don puts it, "a double-edged sword" – and that means twice the sharpness for this modest satire.
Ben, it turns out, is right in supposing that this story is "a bit different". Sure, it has all the cringe-making laughs one might expect from a comedy of celebrity, but Rats And Cats also achieves a surprising subtlety by approaching its larger-than-life protagonist in a disarmingly low-key fashion. Darren's posturing may be grandiose, but much of what makes it so funny is its incongruity with his small-town environs, his shabby circle and his banal activities. Even the excerpts from his past TV shows and films amuse not because of their exaggerated distance from, but rather their extraordinary proximity to, what they are parodying (who amongst us has not seen the equivalent of 'the controversial film Father Roger'?).
Rounding it all off is Sam Mallet's eerie, plaintive score, lending even the most preposterous scenes an unwarranted and ill-fitting intensity that somehow makes them even more preposterous – and Gann, Zwar and Denny offer performances that are hilariously spot-on.Reviewed on: 17 Mar 2009
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