Producers: Dave Boyle, Mye Hoang and Robert E. Bennett Director: Mye Hoang Screenplay: Mye Hoang Cast: Chris Alese, David Durst, David Giovanni, Jeff Judkins, Nathan Kehn, Jordan Lide, Peter Mares, Ryan Robertson and Will Zweigart Distributor: MFX
Challenging the proposition that when it comes to pets, men are naturally dog people, Mye Hoang’s documentary offers the stories of guys who definitely prove otherwise. “Cat Daddies” will appeal most to feline fanciers, of course, but even those who prefer canines should find it a charming, sometimes touching, survey of nine men and their cats.
The humans are a varied assortment, and so are their animals. One, Nathan Kehn, is a publicity-savvy actor who turns his four pets into co-stars in his videos, but another, Peter Mares, is a schoolteacher who serendipitously finds that his cat Keys has a curious way of stretching that eventually goes viral on Instagram under the nickname “Goal Kitty.” (Keys also, as is the case in several of these episodes, brings the owner into contact with a cat-loving girlfriend.) Then there’s David Durst, a bearded trucker whose travels with his chubby feline Tora gain a social media following; he and his girlfriend not only go wild buying outfits for him but regularly meet with fans on the road.
Most of the others are just ordinary guys who are themselves surprised to find how much their cats have added to their lives. South Carolina firefighter Jordan Lide, for example, adopts a stray that becomes the firehouse mascot Flame. Atlanta-based stuntman Ryan Robertson adopts a kitten that grows into “big boy” Toodles—and is key to his bonding with a girlfriend, too. California software engineer Jeff Judkins gets a cat that, to the incredulity of his backpacking companions, joins their hikes. Brooklyn advertising man Will Zweigart becomes an activist, helping to found a volunteer group, Flatbush Cuts, whose aim is to rescue feral felines—something Robertson also gives time to.
Then there’s David Giovanni, who becomes a subject of special interest to Hoang and her able collaborators, cinematographer Robert E. Bennett and co-editors Carlos Sanches and Dave Boyle. He’s a homeless man on the streets of New York City who saves a kitten that becomes his virtual child, Lucky. The film follows his story as he falls ill and has to go through cancer treatments, determined not to lose Lucky in the process; fortunately Chris Alese, a policeman, has befriended him, and a woman volunteers to care for Lucky while Giovanni is in the hospital. These segments add a sense of poignancy to the documentary that mean that for many it will induce sniffles as well as smiles. In the end we find that Alese has become an unlikely cat person too, fussing over a feline called Pez.
As a whole “Cat Daddies” emphasizes the effect the cats, as distinctive as their owners, have on the men who, sometimes intentionally but often accidentally, choose to share their homes with them. They admit the extent to which the animals have taken over their lives, for the better—enhancing their sensitivity and their compassion for others. The film, shot over the last couple of years, also considers how the cats have helped their owners get through difficult times—Durst’s illness, or course, but also catastrophes (if you’ll pardon the pun) like the wildfires that threaten Judkins’ home and the pandemic that threatens everyone. Naturally it closes by bringing us up to date on the men and their furry friends.
Sweet but not saccharine, with a unrushed, meditative pace that’s nicely complemented by Micah Dahl Anderson’s smooth score, “Cat Daddies” will resonate especially with cat owners, whatever their gender, but even those who are allergic to the real thing should find it a pleasant, heartwarming watch, one that can be viewed without sneezing.