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