We live in a world where cat videos are not only a form of amusement and a source of cuteness but a profitable business, so suggests this admittedly strange but, at heart, well meaning film. Lil Bub & Friendz looks at a selection of internet cats, with a particular focus on Lil Bub, and their owners to tell a story. What exactly that story is perhaps becomes clouded. One wonders what the real story here was but by the end it seems that the real intention was just to revel in the modern world where cat videos have outgrown the simple classification of ‘fun’ and become something more.
Opening with a strange narrative-driven alien intro and punctuated with equally bizarre scenes that see the cats sat on colourful sets with spaceships and volcanoes, this is not business as usual. At just over 60 minutes though, this film does not have chance to outstay its welcome and on its journey there are genuine moments of affection. Bub is undoubtedly the star of the film, with her misshapen toothless jaws, extra toes and bone structure issues; she is far from the norm. In this world a cat like this cannot find a home (an admittedly sad truth) but this film shows how Bub is one of life’s exceptions. Her owner Mike is one of the film’s more relatable individuals, likable enough and genuinely caring for Bub. Bub’s story is uplifting in the respect that it has seen an animal plagued by health issues, not only survive but thrive.
There are undoubtedly odd ways that Andy Capper and Juliette Eisner use to tell this story of feline fame but the film’s heart seems to be in the right place. More problematic is a few of the more obsessed owners we meet, there is never less than love shown for their animals but this idea of dressing cats up to excess and living through them opens up moral and ethical arguments of its own. Indeed, certain aspects of this documentary may do certain cat owners no favours when it comes to representation. There is also the pervading feel that this short feature may be more suited to television, as the film occasionally lacks depth. The feature superficially looks at cat videos and their popularity (at one point taking us to a cat video festival) but doesn’t quite get to the heart of its subject matter.
That said, one couldn’t deny that, although aspects come off strange, Bub’s story has affecting turns and for animal lovers it is hard (nigh on impossible) not to take to her. Whether or not this is the right life for this cat many can, and will, debate but on the flipside a life like this will ensure the best medical care and genuine affection. Lil Bub & Friendz is not as deep or well rounded as it could be but there are interesting matters here to consider. The instrumental backing music is as odd as some of the onscreen sequences but by the end there is a fitting validation of this. By the film’s end you get the idea that although sporadically scrappy, odd and superfluous in certain parts, there is a pretty simple story here of human beings finding the most loyal companions have four legs and fur.