Truly transporting children's films that treat their target audience with decency and respect are a rare commodity, and so I always approach them with a vested interest that's more protective than I do with most genres. There just doesn't seem to be as much at stake with a bad thriller or a comedy, perhaps because one more piece of adult junk for the five-dollar bin in Wal-Mart doesn't strike me as being as big of a deal as another hollow exercise teaching children dutiful consumerism under the pretense of a fable usually hypocritically concerned with pressures of social conformity. A sentimental notion for sure, but one can't help but hope that children are allowed to resist for as long as possible that inevitable settling for mediocrity (and not just mediocrity in film) that accompanies the blossoming of an adult sensibility. In short, there's room for a charming fable about a cat that turns into a beautiful woman and gets swept up in a plan to help a dweeby reporter expose a ruthless factory owner.
But Miss Minoes just isn't much of a movie. After 30 long minutes, I stopped trying to make allowances for its varying ineptitudes, and Carice van Houten's work as the spunky human cat was the only reason I held out that long. The actress gives an admirably unguarded performance; she isn't bashful about looking potentially foolish, and as such immediately wins your complicity. Van Houten, at least at this stage in her career (this was shot years before her headline-grabbing performance in Black Book) isn't much of a physical comedian, but her eyes sparkle with a certain sprightly, joyous naïveté that's reminiscent of certain actresses in silent films. Van Houten invests the world of this film with touching conviction.
The rest of the film fails her though. The staging is listless, the lighting ugly, and the editing is often off; you grasp jokes and stunts more in theory than in reality. And, perhaps worst of all, co-star Theo Maassen is a fatal drip as Van Houten's potential love interest; he doesn't remotely deserve her. To enjoy Miss Minoes you'll have to take considerable and irrational pleasure in watching cats speak with badly dubbed British voices. This cute little kitty needs a new alley.