Bob the Cat returns to the big screen in this somewhat unexpected sequel to the 2016 surprise hit A Street Cat Named Bob.

Based on the biographical book series by James Bowen, that film told the story of Bowen’s heroin addiction and his relationship with Bob, a stray cat that he attributes with saving his life. It was a stirring and poignant film, which, despite having a title that might otherwise belong to a children’s book, was a moderately sombre and gritty drama, thanks in part to director Roger Spottiswoode’s pedigree (Shoot to Kill, Turner & Hooch).

This follow-up, A Christmas Gift from Bob, arrives with a different kind of director at the helm – Charles Martin Smith, whose filmography includes Air Bud, Dolphin Tail and A Dog’s Way Home. It would seem that having worked extensively with animals has been to his advantage, because while this sequel is bookended by cheesy festive tropes, it’s an otherwise sincere and engaging outing.

Picking up shortly after the events of the first movie, James (Luke Treadaway) has recently published his first memoir to critical acclaim, and while walking home from his publisher’s Christmas party he encounters a homeless man in a spot of trouble. In exchange for a warm meal, the man agrees to listen to a story, at which point the film flashes back 12 months to a time when James and Bob were still struggling, and experiencing a traumatic ordeal with a local animal welfare group.

A Christmas Gift From Bob works on several levels and is perhaps more suitable for family audiences without the depictions of drug addiction, as explored in the first film. With its prevailing Christmas backdrop, the film teeters between drama and comedy without compromising any sentiment, and the result is a heartwarming true story about a man and his cat and the people they touch.

A tamer and more accessible film than A Street Cat Named Bob, the sequel’s cheesy Christmas spirit may deter fans of the first movie, but this motif was, indeed, part of Bowen’s book series and ought to fill unsuspecting viewers with warm-fuzzy feelings. A Christmas Gift from Bob is a wonderful treat, providing some alternative festive fare for those in need of a feel-good story.

In cinemas: December 3, 2020
Starring: Luke Treadaway, Bob the Cat, Anna Wilson-Jones,
Directed by: Charles Martin Smith