Catch Ellen Page before she joined the X-Men in Ghost Cat

Ghost Cat is a gentle and charming family movie that's just now been released on DVD, starring Ellen Page as Natalie Merritt, a 15-year-old New York City girl who moves with her father (Michael Ontkean) to a small town. Page won a Gemini award—the Canadian equivalent of an Emmy—for her performance in this 2003 made-for-TV film from Canada.

But don't expect Juno. In fact, Natalie is the polar opposite. She embraces her girlhood with a sweet and gentle nature. At the same time, she bears the burden of her mother's untimely death.

When house hunting, Natalie and her father stumble upon the perfect house, shown to them by Boyd Ashboro (Tom Barnett), who says he's selling it on behalf of his Aunt Ruth (Shirley Knight). Her cat, Margaret, usually shuns people but takes an immediate shine to Natalie. When Aunt Ruth unexpectedly enters the scene, everyone's in for a surprise. She has no intention of selling her home and is horrified to find uninvited strangers poking around. After kicking everyone out of her house, Aunt Ruth takes $50,000 out of her safe deposit box to give to her friend Brenda (Lori Hallier), who needs a helping hand to save her animal sanctuary.

Soon after hiding the cash in her house, Aunt Ruth passes away of a heart attack. Heartbroken and elderly, Margaret the cat dies on the day of Aunt Ruth's funeral. What soon comes to light is Boyd's true intent. He's embezzled money at his job, and there's an investigation underway. He needs a fast way to come up with cash to cover his tracks, and he knows Aunt Ruth had a lot of it tucked away. He's determined to find that cash and stay out of jail.

Margaret the cat—or rather the cat's ghost—keeps an eye on Natalie and eventually makes its presence known. There's some poltergeist activity as Margaret strives to make contact with Natalie. After all, Margaret is the only one who knows where Aunt Ruth hid the cash intended to save the animal sanctuary. But can Margaret help Natalie find it in time?

Ghost Cat is a DVD that children will enjoy. Scenes at the animal sanctuary include lots of puppies, kittens and lambs. At times the movie is a little spooky, but the only horrific element is the very real danger that kids and animals face as the consequence of decisions made by human villains. Natalie talks about her mother's death and still feels the pain of missing her, but she's also on the verge of finding a boyfriend. At times Ghost Cat reminded me of Disney's live-action movies from the 1960s, like That Darn Cat or The Love Bug. While Ghost Cat doesn't have the same degree of humor as those Disney flicks, I think it can fit comfortably in that niche of fun family films.

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