Released in 2003 as a made-for-TV special, this film was originally titled Mrs. Ashboro’s Cat. After airing sporadically on different channels over the years, the film is now being repackaged and given a new life as Ghost Cat – thanks in no small part to Ellen Page’s recent stardom. And though it’s very likely that this film would not have seen the DVD shelf without Ellen Page’s impressive career, it manages to hold its own as an entertaining and enjoyable family film – a genre I’m not typically fond of.
A young Page stars as 15-year old Natalie Merritt, who with her father (Michael Ontkean) relocates to the small New England town where her recently deceased mother grew up so that her father can do research for a novel on new England ghosts that he’s working on. While visiting the town, the two stumble upon the previously titular Mrs. Ashboro (the always pleasant Shirley Knight) and her money hungry nephew, who attempts to sell them the house his aunt lives in. This is also where we meet the lovable feline (Margaret the cat) that gives the movie its name. Cut (or commercial break) to a few weeks later and Mrs. Ashboro (along with her beloved cat) has passed away, leaving her nephew free to sell her house. The Merritt’s move in and immediately some eerie (as far as PG eeriness goes) things start to happen. The piano appears to be playing itself, books fall off shelves, and Natalie keeps seeing Margaret the cat wandering around. Meanwhile, down the street, a woman running a safe house for animals is having trouble making her mortgage payments and a greedy land developer is trying to take advantage of the situation and by her out of her property. So, is Margaret the cat here to help save the day or just to knock things off the shelf?
Overall, Ghost Cat is better than its made-for-TV credentials might lead prospective viewers to believe. The acting is fairly grounded, and though the script makes things like arson, real estate purchases and wills seem a little simplistic, the story is engaging and entertaining. Director Don McBrearty, who’s worked on numerous television projects over the years, clearly knows how to do a lot with a little, and screenwriter Larry Ketron successfully covers budding romance, grief over a recently dead loved one, father-daughter relationships, and, well, a ghost cat without making the story feel to stilted or annoying. Ghost Cat is no masterpiece, but it’s a perfect film for a family looking for a light-hearted ghost story.
Zach’s (made for TV) Rating: B+
Perfect For: Watching with the family
Stay Away if: You’re looking for anything too realistic
To purchase Ghost Cat, visit Amazon