Lil Bub & Friendz: Tribeca Review

Lil' Bub and Friendz Tribeca Film Still - H 2013

Lil' Bub and Friendz Tribeca Film Still - H 2013

Amusing doc shows just how big a deal viral-video fame can be.

Vice Media introduces us to the humans behind the web's most famous felines.

NEW YORK — An eye-opener for those of us who've managed to stay out of the email-fowarding vortex of viral cat videos, Andy Capper and Juliette Eisner's Lil Bub & Friendz suggests the phenomenon is much more than an office time-killer -- that, in fact, some of these furry celebrities enjoy a degree of fame successful indie musicians would envy. One naturally wonders about the commercial appeal of a film whose stars' antics are so freely available online, but crowd scenes here suggest a larger-than-expected number of enthusiasts might pay for a look at the households these too-cute felines inhabit.

The filmmakers spend most of their time with the eponymous Bub, whose freakish cuteness derives from a perfect storm of birth defects: an underdeveloped lower jaw leaves her tongue permanently dangling, stubby legs force her to drag herself around. She's cared for by Mike Bridavsky, an amiable recording engineer whose Bloomington, Indiana studio is full of less famous cats.

Mike, who clearly adores Bub, is less opportunistic than some pet owners we meet here, a few of whom pursue YouTube fame (and the surprisingly lucrative merchandising it enables) instead of having it thrust upon them. But the doc offers a plausible non-commercial explanation for the cat-vid phenomenon: While dog owners have daily walks and dedicated parks as a social outlet, cat lovers are isolated in their homes; if they want to prove how adorable their four-legged roommates are, they have to document it online.

In between showing some of this genre's greatest hits, Capper and Eisner follow Bridavsky as he takes Bub to meet some fans in the flesh. Their most surprising encounter may be the one in which a tattoo parlor full of tough-looking dudes stops to fawn over Bub (and offer Mike a free tattoo). But the sequence that's most indicative of this film's commercial prospects is one in Minneapolis, where the Walker Art Center draws over 10,000 attendees to an outdoor festival of cat videos. Organizers recently announced that their second year will see events in both Minneapolis and New York City, offering even more enthusiasts a chance to convince themselves that, even if they are "crazy cat people," many others share their illness.

Production Company: Vice Films

Directors: Andy Capper, Juliette Eisner

Producer: Juliette Eisner

Executive producers: Shane Smith, Suroosh Alvi, Eddy Moretti

Director of photography: Danilo Parra

Editor: Devin Yuceil

Sales: Christine D'Souza, William Morris Endeavor

No rating, 62 minutes