ONE FRESH STEP FOR MAN

Movie: Tamala 2010: A Punk Cat in Space

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Our Rating: 2.00

Welcome to the Feline Galaxy of six years from now, where a 1-year-old kitten in a space suit just wants to get to Orion to meet her real mother. But furry heroine Tamala's quest of self-discovery meets with any number of obstacles, including centralized corporate control of just about every lifestyle choice and the underground machinations of a centuries-old religious cult. These and other maneuverings come to a head when Tamala makes an unplanned landing on Planet Q, where terrorism reigns: "low-life dogs attacking cats at random" is what we're prepped for, and that's exactly what we get.

More Dali than Disney, this anime offering from Japanese arts outfit t.o.L revels in anachronisms. Though her vocal delivery leans heavily toward baby talk, the title kitty has a foul mouth and a short temper; in certain scenes, she pads past a Colonel Sanders-like figure with an ax embedded in its head. Sadistic impulses rub elbows with sight gags aimed squarely at cat owners. Though Tamala's trip to Orion has the potential to determine the fate of a multitude of innocents, she still isn't above curling up on a computer keyboard when she needs a nap. Which is often.

Too bad the movie is rarely as clever or interesting as it sounds. Animated in black-and-white with sporadic spot-coloring, it's mundane to look at, especially when one realizes that the intermittent, highly detailed views of urban dystopias will be the only respites from a drawing style that's otherwise as flat and primitive as a webisode. The t.o.L. folks are obviously trying to goose Tamala's iconic status by associating her visually with Japanimation's past. (Remember shows like Gigantor?) But that approach only obscures the story's layered sophistication, and it renders the main characters unsympathetic: Open-mouthed stares are about it as far as expressions go.

Your own feline curiosity will carry you as far as the 1:07 mark, when the plot stops dead for a convoluted, Matrix-y expository monologue that's rendered impenetrable by inferior subtitles. And it goes on for seven fucking minutes. What's left after that is naught but Kubrickian metaphysics, complete with inconclusive finale. Feel free to make like Tamala and treat yourself to a nice snooze instead.

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