Sam Raimi’s wife directs this dull “comic” mystery

Producer Sam Raimi must have called in some very big favors to sign this talented cast on a movie with such a tedious script. Greg Kinnear, J.K. Simmons, Nikki Reed and Blythe Danner all appear in the mystery Murder of a Cat. The limp comic whodunit is meant to be funny on some level but the cast is given very little to work with in this dull, uninspired comedy. Director Gillian Greene’s campy direction does not help matters in a film that earns few laughs. It is hard to tell if that is an indictment on Fran Kranz as leading man; his central character is fundamentally unlikable.

Clinton (Fran Kranz) is an adult man-child, a socially inept twenty-something still living in his mother’s basement. He lives in a typical suburban neighborhood crafting his own action figures and walking outdoors in a bathrobe. The film infers he is living completely off his mother and her kindness, played by Blythe Danner. The offbeat murder mystery gets started when Clinton’s beloved cat, Mouser, is found dead with an arrow through its chest. After a sheriff played by newly-minted Academy Award winner J.K. Simmons blows off Clinton’s demand for a murder investigation, Clinton takes things in his own hands. That leads Clinton on a winding investigation where he meets Greta (Nikki Reed), a young woman with a surprising connection to his murdered cat.

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The tepid mystery comes together in a completely unsurprising way if you are over the age of ten

Clinton and Greta both despise Fords Megastore for different reasons, a local retail superstore that drove Clinton’s failed comic book store out of business. The store is owned and managed by Al Ford (Greg Kinnear), Greta’s former boss. Clinton’s ridiculous murder investigation continues unabated as Greta and him meet a host of characters that are meant to be colorful and kooky, but are neither in reality. Some shady business going on at the store is ultimately connected to the cat’s murder. The tepid mystery comes together in a completely unsurprising way if you are over the age of ten. The “shocking” twist is a sloppy move stolen from dozens of police procedurals over the years.

When push comes to shove the real problem in this film is its main character, Clinton. He is just about the only character fleshed out in any depth. Which might work if Clinton was likable on any level, but he’s not an entertaining figure. Clinton does not have a driver’s license and his obsessive devotion to solving the silly murder mystery comes off as childish. Time after time he shows an almost autistic-like ability to ignore the people he’s dealing with on a level-headed basis. Most comedic protagonists in this mold have some endearing quirks in their personality. Clinton is simply a jerk and his moronic behavior makes it hard for the audience to sympathize with his quest.

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Clinton is both irascible and clueless, repeatedly showing he doesn’t care what the consequences of his actions mean for his mother or Greta. This is a role that a dynamic comedic performer may have invested more life into than Fran Kranz. His Clinton is played far too seriously for what should be a lighter comedy. There is a moment when you think Clinton and Greta might overcome their problems together in solving the mystery. The story then goes in a much less interesting direction that ends up feeling cheap by the end.

The talented cast around Clinton does their best with the limited script. J.K. Simmons and Greg Kinnear add as much as they can to their supporting roles but it’s not enough at the end of the day. Nothing can save Murder of a Cat from its tepid story and lack of humor. It is a dull, directionless movie that I recommend skipping.

Movie★☆☆☆☆

Murder of a Cat is unrated and runs 101 very long minutes.

 

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