The Rabbi's Cat Is an Absorbing, Nuanced, and Vividly Animated Tale

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Directed by Antoine Delesvaux and Joann Sfar. 89 minutes. Not rated. Opens Thursday, April 18, at O Cinema Miami Shores.

The feline in question in The Rabbi's Cat is wily, philosophical, and devoted to a dogged and decent rabbi and his fiery, beautiful daughter. The cat desires a bar mitzvah, travels through Africa and the subconscious, and gains the power of speech. For the season of the Festival of Lights, a heartwarming tale of a rabbi and his cat might seem like just the family-friendly ticket. However, unless your kids have a working knowledge of the complex cultural patois of Algiers in the 1920s and the effect of the Russian Revolution on pre-World War II Zionism, as well as fluency in French or the ability to read rapid and complex subtitles, The Rabbi's Cat is a pretty tall order. Language, history, and cultural context aside, there's some graphic violence and pretty earthy sexual content, not to mention sustained discussions of religious practice and esoteric tradition that might baffle your average 8- to 10-year-old. If your kids do have the prerequisites and sophistication to grasp all of this, they should probably also have a TED talk planned. They'd love this movie too. The Rabbi's Cat is an absorbing, nuanced, and vividly animated tale of adventure, ambivalent morality, colonial injustice, talking animals, and the vagaries of religious zeal and colonialism.

 
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