PIFF 2021: The Big Kitty – Review

Release Date – TBC, Cert – N/A, Run-time – 1 hour 10 minutes, Directors – Tom Alberts, Lisa Barmby

When Russian princess’ (Lisa Barmby) beloved cat goes missing a private detective (Tom Alberts) is called in to search the city for the valuable feline.

An homage to the noir films of 40’s Hollywood, husband and wife duo Tom Alberts and Lisa Barmby’s feature The Big Kitty feels right at home amongst classic ZAZ comedies such as Airplane and The Naked Gun. It’s script packed full of wonderfully silly gags from one-liners to quick visual jokes there’s plenty to keep the viewer amused and entertained over the 70 minute course of the film. Sewn in amongst the comedy is the story of a Russian princess (Barmby), who after visiting the Catabianca club finds, in a brief cut of the lights, her beloved cat – “Oh, the fuzz” – stolen. Luckily, “no, I’m a private detective” Guy Borman (Alberts) is on the case. Questioning the frequent patrons of the club and bar for any trace of the valuable pet.

His journey takes him not just to the streets and dark alleyways of the city, but to seances to communicate with the “spirits of the nether regions”. Such lines are delivered with such bluntness or brevity, or even both, that the humour naturally finds its way to the viewer. And while in a number of films a line such as this might not work there’s something about The Big Kitty, perhaps the attention that it plays to its setting, that allows for it to work and be a consistently funny film. Raising many chuckles and laughs along the way. A low budget appears to have been used effectively to properly make the most of the 40’s style and setting, in fact it works to the films advantage in a number of cases, especially when it comes to a handful of the visual gags, that do also feel as if they could have been pulled from a noir film of that era – again linking back to that ZAZ feel. Yet, the film never feels like a rip-off, parody or even copycat (no pun intended) version of such piece. It is very much its own piece that has been carefully made by a small team, who also all appear to have had a lot of fun making this.


Their work has more than paid off, also allowing for the viewer to have an enjoyable time watching the finished product. The hit rate of the gags, even for a number of the running jokes, is high. Never feeling flashy or in your face, perhaps the use of the budget adds to this? Instead simply happening and moving on, adding to the feel of the film and helping with the flow and pacing that it establishes early on. Even with a short run-time the film doesn’t feel as if its missing anything or that it could do more to extend itself, it doesn’t even feel as if it wants to be over and done with, it simply seems to know what it wants to do and does it in a highly entertaining way. Far from spoof or parody, particularly of the kind that we have become used to in the 21st Century, The Big Kitty is a fond look at genre, adding humour and friendly nudges (although never exactly towards the viewer in the hope they recognise a joke) of conventions and clichés within it. Utilising setting, tone and story for effective laughs and homage paying.

Very much in the style of classic ZAZ comedies The Big Kitty is a well utilised feature that while being consistently funny with plenty of silly gags pays homage to Hollywood noirs of the 40s.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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