Hot Docs 2024: ‘American Cats: The Good, the Bad, and the Cuddly’

Mixing humour into a documentary about a serious subject can be a dicey move.  American Cats: The Good, the Bad, and the Cuddly, the second runner-up for the Hot Docs Rogers Audience Award pulls off this challenge despite some close calls.

Writer/star Amy Hoggart has a fascination with cats that borders on obsession.  Her interest turns into curiousity when she focuses on the popularity of declawing, a cruel cosmetic surgery that issues a handicap to kitties in favour of protecting furniture.  Hoggart doesn’t agree with the procedure, but she wants to know more about why it’s an option for pet owners.  Soon, her animal-loving lark develops into a legitimate investigation as she sifts through a web of connections expanding on the booming industry.

American Cats: The Good the Bad, and the Cuddly may not be as innovative as other feline-oriented docs like Kedi or CBC Docs’ Catwalk series, but it has the charismatic appeal of a recurring segment on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show;  which adds up considering director Todd Bieber has worked with former correspondent Samantha Bee (his Emmy-nominated work on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, a show Hoggart also contributed to) and current Daily Show co-host Jordan Klepper (on standalone projects). The tongue-in-cheek news magazine format works: the documentary moves along efficiently, Hoggart and Bieber discover the comedy within a specific tragedy, and the audience ends up learning more than they expected to.

However, with the funnier material being planned for the interviews, not all of the set-ups pay off.  There are plenty of awkward moments where the passionate interviewee is getting wrapped up in an explanation, which leads to Hoggart interjecting with a wry observation, and resulting in an embarrassed speaker having a transparent reaction while reminding themselves that they’re being interviewed for that kind of documentary.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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