Other Media Review

Movie Review: Miss Minoes

B+

Title: Miss Minoes
Written By: Annie M.G. Schmidt (novel), Tamara & Burny Bos, Vincent Bal (screenplay)
Publication Info: 2001
Genre: Contemporary/Other

Miss Minoes - a movie about a cat who turns into a woman.Friday nights in my house are “Dinner & a Movie” night. We all eat dinner in the living room and watch a movie together- and the movie part can be tricky. I have two boys, ages 6 and 4, and their idea of awesome entertainment often does not match mine. Tonight we watched a movie that was so charming and adorable, I had to share it with you. 

Miss Minoes is a Dutch film from 2001 – no, wait, don't stop reading – that was dubbed into English (English English not American English) in 2011 and released in the US and elsewhere. I had not heard of it until Netflix listed it among the new releases for instant viewing, and I shoved it onto our queue thinking maybe my younger son would like it. My older son, known hereabouts as Freebird, heard the description and said that he totally wanted to watch a movie about a cat that turns into a woman. 

The film is based on the 1970 book Minoes by a Dutch children's writer named Annie M. G. Schmidt, who, according to Wikipedia, is one of the Netherlands' most celebrated writers. (I tell you, I am learning all kinds of cool things tonight). 

Miss Minoes, as I mentioned, is about a cat who one night stumbles upon some spilled chemicals, drinks some (oops), and wakes up the next morning as a woman. A woman, I might add, in a really spiffy green coat that I totally covet. She meets a young newspaper reporter, Tibbe, whose shyness is preventing him from writing good news stories, leaving him in danger of losing his job. Because Miss Minoes is fluent in cat and of course hooked (hur) into the cat gossip network, she's able to feed Tibbe news stories which he then writes up for the newspaper.

Tibbe allows Miss Minoes to sleep in his very small flat, and feeds her, and she sets him up with all the gossip and news from the town. Tibbe's journalism work is all good and awesome until Miss Minoes tells him about the awful things the town's benefactor and local celebrity, Mr. Ellemeet, has been doing. Tibbe doesn't want to write about him, because the whole town thinks Ellemeet's a stellar guy, but Miss Minoes and all the cats in town know that he's a truly wretched person, and they prevail upon Tibbe to expose Mr. Ellemeet for the crap he is. 

As a film, the story is very simple – my 4 (nearly 5) year old, Baba O'Riley, had no problem following along and absorbing the narrative. The story focuses on taking risks – Tibbe and Miss Minoes encourage one another to “be daring” and take risks to get over the things they are afraid of, whether it's dogs or jumping into conversations with strangers – and on telling the truth and standing up for yourself. The message is very clear, but it's not hammered into the viewer over and over; it were very simply and clearly presented. Tibbe is awkward and bumbling, and Mr. Ellemeet is sneering and two-faced to the point that in his finer moments of awfulness, you expect him to twist a point on his (nonexistent) moustache. Tibbe's landlady's daughter, Bibi, secretly helps Tibbe and Miss Minoes, and instead of being treacly and sweet, she's stubborn and sneaky when she needed to be. 

The best part was Carice van Houten's performance as Minoes. She had the mannerisms, posture, and physical reactions of a cat mastered. It's really hard to explain, but she was a cat. She was brilliant. 

A few things that may alarm parents: two uses of the word “shit,” one audible (and from Bibi, bless her heart), and Mr. Ellemeet's violence against cats is portrayed in a way that doesn't involve visual gore but the sound effects indicate that he's trying to hurt the cats. This might be disturbing for some viewers. Spoiler: He doesn't kill any of them, so fear not. In many novels, the villain who is dastardy and OF COURSE cruel to his horse or dogs is something of a cliche. In this movie, it's cliched, and Mr. Ellemeet is very stiff and an obvious bad guy, but because it's a children's film, the directness of the cliche fit. It is not ok to abuse animals (especially if you're president of the Pet Lover's Society of Killendoorn) or to lie and cheat and hurt people and get away with it. The dispensing of justice is overdone and silly, but very satisfactory, according to Freebird.

I usually don't expect to enjoy children's movies so much, so tonight's film was a very happy surprise. If you have young children who love animals – especially cats – this film might appeal to them. The dubbing can be distracting, but it didn't bother my children as much as I noticed the lips not matching the dialogue (this is probably because they watch a lot of dubbed Japanese cartoons).

Miss Minoes is simple and charming, funny and sweet, with outstanding examples of trained cats (I was shocked!), and a fantastic performance from van Houten, who seemed in every way to be a cat. Expect to rub noses with your loved ones after you see it. 


This film is available on instant streaming video from Netflix and Amazon, on DVD from Amazon, BN, and iTunes. The book Minoes is available in used copies at Alibris

 

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Nicole Hulst says:

    I now feel like I have to watch this now just to remember it when L will be old enough to get anything out of it (she’s only 2 now). She LOVES cats.

  2. 2
    DreadPirateRachel says:

    I don’t know what it says about me that I added this to my Netflix queue as soon as I finished your review, and Netflix rates it at four stars based on my preferences.

  3. 3
    SB Sarah says:

    I think it means that you have good taste! I hope so anyway. Either that or Netflix and you and I need to go drinking. Which would be fine.

  4. 4
    GhengisMom says:

    Queued up! Thanks for the recommendation!

  5. 5
    Christine Denham says:

    D’aw! That sounds adorable! Totally adding it to the queue. Along a similar vein, though, can I recommend Cattitude by Edie Ramer? It has that cat-turned-to-woman thing going on, and even thought it wasn’t without flaws, I really, really enjoyed it.

  6. 6
    DreadPirateRachel says:

    How about I have good taste and we go drinking? Scheduling might be an issue, though, considering my stubborn refusal to leave the PNW. I’ll raise a microbrew in your general direction.

  7. 7
    Lia says:

    Annie MG Schmidt really is a Dutch icon. As a child my mom used to read her stories to me, and I know read them to my children. Not sure which are translated into English, but you should definitely try and look them up in your local library.

    Miss Minoes is awesome!

  8. 8
    Natalie says:

    Well, my background is Dutch, my children love cats, and their (and husband’s) last name is Van Houten: I think we *must* watch this movie.

  9. 9
    The Fairy Godmother says:

    I remember reading the book in grade school. I’ll try and track down the movie with the original language and english subtitles

  10. 10
    Kris Bock says:

    Sounds delightful. We don’t have children as an excuse, but my husband and I love children’s movies. One more for the queue!

  11. 11
    JaneDrew says:

    I have read good reviews of this, and was excited it’s up on Netflix. Will have to add it to the list!
    (also, if you have not seen “Secret of Kells,” that’s another excellent film for various ages; great animation, including an excellent cat character! Possibly a couple bits which are a bit scary for 6 and 4, but keep it in mind for a couple of years down the road if not now…

  12. 12
    Laurel says:

    I heartily second “Secret of Kells.” Gorgeous animation and a really good movie. We all liked it, from That Boy I Married down to the youngest, Princess Peanut.

  13. 13
    Niki says:

    Thanks for reviewing this.  My P is also only 2, but she is crazy for cats, and I know there are only so many good movies out there.  I have added this to my instant queue.

  14. 14
    SB Sarah says:

    If I’m ever out west again, we shall carouse.

  15. 15
    Karin says:

    This is excellent, I am on the lookout to buy film DVD’s for 5yo twins.

  16. 16
    DreadPirateRachel says:

    Agreed.

  17. 17
    MissB2U says:

    If you’ll allow an interloper…may I propose a meeting in Portland, OR?  They have the Deschuttes brewery right there, and more importantly, Powells Books!  Any excuse to fly up to the PNW from the Bay Area is a good one!

  18. 18

    Sounds like something to watch here on our next movie night.

  19. 19
    Maggie Dyer says:

    Secret of Kells is amazing, my 6 year old has been obsessed with it since she was 4. Also, she is a HUGE fan (as am I) of My Neighbor Totoro, Castle in the Sky, Kiki’s Delivery Service and anything else by Hayao Miyazaki.  Your boys might prefer Castle in the Sky of those I listed the most.

  20. 20
    DreadPirateRachel says:

    I’m down with Portland, though we would technically have to head over to Bend to go to the actual Deschutes Brewery. The one in PDX is just a brewpub. Pedantic, I know, but we PNWers take our booze seriously! :-) Portland, though, has a whole set of attractions that would make it a fabulous location for Bitches*Con West.

  21. 21
    daffiney says:

    Ditto everyone who has recommended Secret of Kells. The subject matter may be a bit tough for younger kiddos (Viking raiders attacking a defenseless abbey, the power of the written word, friendly and unfriendly spirits), but it’s some of the most gorgeous animation ever—particularly the lush forest scenes that begin around 25 minutes in. You’ll swoon.

    Bonus: I just noticed that it’s available for free on Hulu right now. You’re just two 15-second commercials away from awesomeness!

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