Cats is directed by Tom Hooper and it is the cinematic adaptation of the Broadway musical Cats. Every year, a Jellicle Ball is held where a cat is chose to go to the Heaviside Layer and be granted a new life. The movie stars an ensemble cast including Francesca Hayward, Judi Dench, Rebel Wilson, Jason Derulo, James Corden, Jennifer Hudson, Idris Elba, Taylor Swift and Ian McKellen.
Let’s get this out into the open, Cats, no matter what medium it uses whether that be a Broadway Musical or a cinematic movie, there is no denying that it is incredibly weird. The music is weird, the concept is weird, the “story” is weird, everything about Cats is turned up to an eleven and understandably it makes for an interesting experience. I actually tried to watch the 1998 recording of the play and I couldn’t get past twenty minutes. Watching this movie, those first twenty minutes felt exactly the same but just with off-putting CGI cats but in terms of music, tone and the overall look of Cats, the movie does a great job of replicating it for the movie but even if the cats looked better, even if they used the leg warmers and fur, would this movie really change? No. Do you know why? Because Cats is a show made for Broadway and not for the movies, not everything can be turned into a movie.
The opening scene of Cats lets you know immediately the type of movie this is. The creepy and mysterious, synth but iconic score blasts in the theatre and from there we see some Jellicle Cat silhouettes and as the score progresses we see more of them in the neon lights of the gorgeous sets. Then the weird dancing kicks in and you start to realize that the cat/human hybrid is very weird and then it hits you, the fact that there is another two hours of that. Now I am a massive fan of musicals and I even like some Broadway but damn the characters from A Quiet Place have more spoken lines than the characters in this movie. Cats is 99% musical which became tiring incredibly fast. Honestly if you were to ask me to name five songs from the twelve in the movie, I wouldn’t be able to. The movie felt like one long song. That being said I did revisit the songs when I re-listened to some of the songs and I do like some of them, the actors do a great job with the singing.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, the CGI humanoid cats are distracting, once you think you’ve gotten used to it, you notice they have human hands or their face looks like the Genie’s from the Aladdin (2019) trailer. It’s bad, it’s stupid, everyone knows that let’s move on. The biggest gripe I have with the movie is the lack of plot or characterization. I couldn’t tell the characters apart most of the time. None of them have a distinct character, they’re all just weird. This resulted in me caring little to nothing about the characters. That being said, the cast is fine, they give their all to it and it helps to sell the “illusion”. Jennifer Hudson who delivers an emotional performance when she sings Memory. UnFURtunately it was too late for me to care by that point. Especially since her character LITTER-ally appears, cries for a couple seconds, disappears and comes back for her number. Idris Elba is hilarious and for the wrong reasons. Taylor Swift is here because cats and she does her thing. Francesca Hayward is good in her role. The acting is good, it’s the writing which fails them.
While having a ton of PAWS, Cats does have some redeeming qualities. FUR instance, the sets and lighting are great. I love the cinematography, there are some really gorgeous shots in this movie. I also liked how it embraced it’s weirdness with the synth music and overall look of the movie. You can’t deny that this would make for an interesting experience at the cinema. It’s too much of an insane, other-worldly movie to not see it at some point, no matter your view on the movie. My favorite part of the experience was the running commentary the two older women in front of me provided. It was just them and me in the audience. One of them fell asleep halfway during the movie and at one point they started laughing so hard because they noticed that the humanoid cats don’t have genitals. They kept repeating ‘it’s not that bad’ to the point where I think they had to convince themselves that it wasn’t that bad. At least we went to a Thursday screening so the ticket was half off.
Overall Cats was a CLAW-ful attempt at making a movie out of something which never should have gotten the big-screen treatment in the first place. Not everything can be translated into a cinematic movie and this movie is one of the best examples in recent memory. It’s non-existent plot makes for a very FUR-gettable movie. The cast is fine and the music can make you tap your toes at times but besides that and some beautiful sets, this movie is a CAT-astrophe. It’s not going to connect with casual movie-goers or critics. The only audience it maybe has going for it is, you guessed it, Broadway fans.