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Review: ‘A Street Cat Named Bob’ plays it tough and tender as redemption story

‘A Street Cat Named Bob’
Luke Treadaway portrays a down-on-his-luck London busker whose life takes a turn after a tabby adopts him in “A Street Cat Named Bob.”
(Andreas Lambis)

Adapted from James Bowen’s 2013 bestselling memoir, “A Street Cat Named Bob” is a rewardingly unassuming, tough and tender portrait of a drug-addicted London busker whose ill-fated life takes a surprising turn after a ginger tabby turns up in his kitchen.

When we first see Bowen (affectingly played by Luke Treadaway) singing and playing his beat-up guitar outside the Covent Garden tube station, he’s in decidedly rough shape — broke, homeless and heroin-addicted.

He’s thrown one last lifeline by a no-nonsense counselor (Joanne Froggatt from “Downton Abbey”), who puts him in a methadone program and finds him a no-frills flat in a dodgy neighborhood.

Although the road to recovery is looking rocky at best, he encounters redemption in the unlikely guise of a stray tom with a persuasive purr who proceeds to insinuate himself into all aspects of Bowen’s life, including a budding relationship with his bohemian vegan neighbor (Ruta Gedmintas, channeling young Daryl Hannah).

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While this could easily veer toward Disney cute, veteran director Roger Spottiswoode, whose output has been spotty in recent years, returns to form with a perfectly weighted redemptive story that engages the heart without shying away from the darker aspects of Bowen’s recovery.

And although the two-legged cast is uniformly terrific, it’s the feline performance — by none other than the real-life Bob the Cat — that handily steals the show.

With just a single, soul-penetrating gaze from Bob, any attempt at resistance is hopelessly futile.

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‘A Street Cat Named Bob’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Monica 4, Santa Monica; Laemmle’s Playhouse 7, Pasadena

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