The business model for commercial movies nowadays is the remake or adaptation of known properties. Case-in-point are the constant reboots, remakes and re-imaginings seen in summer tentpole movies (from STAR WARS to HARRY POTTER, POWER RANGERS and even MAGNIFICENT SEVEN). The general rule of thumb is that Hollywood has never cracked the formula in making a successful videogame-to-film adaptation with a historical string of flops ranging from SUPER MARIO BROS to the recent ASSASSIN’S CREED.
We now live in the age of apps-to-film remakes (ANGRY BIRDS!). In Japan, trends are no different with every other film a remake of a manga, TV series, or anime. So, it’s inevitable that the popular mobile phone game “Neko Atsume,” which means “cat collector” is now a live-action feature film. The notoriously addictive game involves players populating a virtual backyard with food, cushions and toys to attract cats, who leave behind silver and gold fish as thanks.
The film stars popular Japanese film and TV personality Atsushi Ito who plays a young author, Katsu Sakumoto. After reaping accolades and success from his hit debut novel, he is struggling with writer’s block, suffering from the inevitable sophomore slump. After moving house in an unsuccessful attempt to reinvigorate his creative side, he spies a cat in his garden. He leaves food outside overnight in an effort to befriend it and a new obsession is born. Before he knows it, his writer’s retreat in a quiet hamlet becomes a cat haven.
NEKO ATSUME breaks the trend of bad remakes from videogames and the result is a film where an artist finds creativity in the animals, nature and the environment around him. Cats are particular creatures, allowing Sakumoto to find his way creatively and to also interact with his fellow humans in a meaningful way as the film unravels eloquently how only Japanese films do.
— Anderson Le