A key piece of miscasting neuters this fluffy children's comedy.
"When you're 11, you believe in magic," proclaims Jed Martin (Michael Caloz), a shy new kid in town with no friends at school and timid around girls. Jed's constant companion is the mischief-making family cat, Whiskers. When he suspects, mistakenly, that his parents plan to get rid of the feline,
Jed makes a wish on a museum statue of the Egyptian cat goddess Bastet for Whiskers to be turned into a kid instead, so he won't be sent away. Jed doesn't realize a three-year-old cat is the human equivalent of an adult, and both are startled when the pet awakens one morning in Jed's room to find
himself a 30-ish guy (Brent Carver) in dark sweatsuit. Somehow, Jed manages to hide from his parents the presence of a strange man around the house. Whiskers gives Jed a cat's-eye-view of life and asks the boy to help look for Whisker's long-lost mother. Jed and Whiskers--who keeps backsliding
into cat behavior at awkward moments--paw through animal shelters and medical records, and when they seem to have reached a dead end, Bastet herself (Monique Mercure) materializes and directs them to a country farm that takes in abandoned cats. There, Whiskers resumes his true shape to rejoin his
mother, and Jed realizes that he's got to grow up and leave Whiskers behind.
Brent Carver, a Canadian thespian with many awards for his stage work, was cast in WHISKERS with the notion of bringing a dancer's agility to the material (Gene Kelly was producer Tierney's stated inspiration). But even though Carver gained a Tony for Kiss of the Spider Woman, the
anthropomorphized aspect of the part eludes him. Obviously trying to play a once-graceful creature now uncomfortable in his own skin, he just comes across as a twitchy goofball. One wonders how a slapstick comic like Martin Short or Robin Williams could have performed the character's odd body
language. Young lead Michael Caloz plays his role straight and brings off the farewell at the end with surprising pathos.
The morale-boosting lesson of the plot is that Jed learns survival skills and wisdom from Whiskers ("A cat is the master of every situation"), but since the man-cat is generally an impulsive, clumsy, cocky coward, the mentoring routine is a bit, well, fuzzy. The feline Whiskers, portrayed by an
animal named Namy, suffers from badly-overdubbed meows and not much camera presence compared to a scene-stealing kitty named Minou in a brief, funny bit as Whisker's wealthy, chauffeur-driven brother, Hairball. Suzanne Cloutier, a Quebec resident who played Desdemona in Orson Welles's OTHELLO,
makes a rare cameo as a sidewalk passerby. A Canadian theatrical release, WHISKERS crept in like fog--on little cat's feet--to cable and video in the USA.
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- Released: 1996
- Rating: G
- Review: A key piece of miscasting neuters this fluffy children's comedy. "When you're 11, you believe in magic," proclaims Jed Martin (Michael Caloz), a shy new kid in town with no friends at school and timid around girls. Jed's constant companion is the mischief… (more)