This Canadian made-for-TV movie from 2003 is about to be released on DVD. It stars a young Ellen Page (Juno, Hard Candy) which, I suspect, is the reason it is being released on DVD after all this time. The changes to the cover art support this theory. The original displayed much of the cast, with the titular cat featured in the foreground. The new and improved cover features a large picture of Ellen Page above the cat, with her name featured prominently above the title. I’m not sure if Miss Page has the kind of wide appeal to warrant basing a marketing campaign around, but sometimes you have to toss out every pitch you know and hope one of them gets over the plate.
The screenplay is based on a kids’ novel, and has popped up on various cable networks since its initial airing, most recently being shown as an Animal Planet original production. Over the years it has also changed titles, having originally been called Mrs. Ashboro’s Cat. The title Ghost Cat is certainly more evocative and will likely sell more copies, but is a tad misleading. I was really expecting a kind of whacky supernatural comedy, like one of those fluffy Disney Channel pictures featuring whatever set of clones happens to have been most recently harvested from their labs. Instead, what I got was a grounded, sincere family drama with some supernatural elements and many cute animals.
The story revolves around a young girl, Natalie, and her dad, coping with the recent loss of her mother and moving to a small town. The house they move into was, until recently, owned by a very nice lady who had befriended the mother when she was a teen living in the town and who has just died, along with her cat, Margaret.
There is also some villainous activity happening in the town, courtesy of an unscrupulous land developer and the desperate nephew of the recently deceased cat lady. It seems that the animal rescue shelter across the road is the only holdout preventing a multi-million dollar land deal, and the two scoundrels will stop at nothing to force its owner to sell, including – gasp – animal murder and arson.
This leads to some genuinely suspenseful situations and the ghostly meddling of Margaret the cat. With her otherworldly help, Natalie and her friends attempt to interfere with the plans of the evil businessmen and put things right. There may also be a few phantom kitty scratches applied to the faces of the two cads, courtesy of Margaret and her phantasmal paws of justice, but I am not in the business of publishing spoilers.
I admit I’m having a bit of fun with this review but overall the movie is pretty solid family fare. The cast is strong from top to bottom and Miss Page defies teen girl stereotypes, coming across as an actual human being. As I stated earlier, there are some nice suspenseful moments and even a few spooky thrills (but nothing too intense for younger viewers). If you have young kids and are looking for decent evening’s entertainment, by all means fill up the old milk bowl and spend an evening with Ghost Cat. See what I did there?