Cats

Chin up, Victoria
Verdict: 
4/10 - Not even a couple of superbly entertaining musical numbers can save Tom Hooper's baffling use of CGI in his adaptation of Cats.
Release Date: 
Friday, December 20, 2019
Written by: 

Cats follows a tribe of felines who have to decide which of them will ascend to the "Heaviside Layer" and come back to a new life.

4

Andrew Lloyd Webber is no stranger to giving his musicals the Hollywood treatment.

Previously, the composer has successfully adapted the likes of The Phantom of the Opera and Evita for the silver screen.

But now, for his latest project, Lloyd Webber has revamped perhaps the most surreal of them all - Cats.

Based on the sung-through musical which debuted on the West End in 1981 and the poetry collection Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot, the film is directed by Tom Hooper - marking his second feature musical following 2012's Les Miserables - and sticks very closely to the original plot.

Set in central London, the story opens with a middle-class woman dumping Victoria (Francesca Hayward), known as the white cat, onto a grimy street.

She's soon befriended by a tribe of cats known as the Jellicles, who gather once a year to decide who will ascend to the "Heaviside Layer" and come back to a new life.

Among the core cast of cats is the wise Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench), veteran performer Gus the Theatre Cat (Ian McKellen), villainous Macavity (Idris Elba), gluttonous Jennyanydots (Rebel Wilson), humorous tomcat Bustopher Jones (James Corden), magician Mr. Mistoffelees (Laurie Davidson), suave entertainer Rum Tum Tugger (Jason Derulo), and former glamour cat Grizabella (Jennifer Hudson). All of the cats join in for key numbers, such as the toe-tapping opener titled Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats.

 

But what you're probably wondering is how exactly Hooper and Lloyd Webber transformed all of these big-name stars into cats?

Well, quite honestly, the performers actually appear as some sort of human-cat hybrid, complete with fur, ears, whiskers, and tails thanks to the magic of CGI, while also retaining their human faces, hands, and feet. The overall effect is quite disconcerting, to say the least, and may scare young children.

Sure, partway through the 110-minute runtime, it is possible to get distracted by the film's many, many plot quirks, baffling use of magic, bizarre experiments with teleportation, and halfhearted attempts at delving into redemption themes, but those cats are always there, clawing their way through the back streets of Soho and, most likely, into our nightmares.

There's quite a lot about Cats that requires one to suspend disbelief. Despite this, the main musical numbers are pretty good.

Derulo pulls out all of the stops for his moment in the spotlight and captivates with his signature dance moves, while Taylor Swift also makes a nice little cameo as the flirtatious Bombalurina.

Corden and Wilson have the most entertaining choreography, yet Elba, Dench, and McKellen are all landed with the most serious of pieces.

Quite unexpectedly, one of the most memorable aspects of this flick comes in the form of Davidson's rendition of catchy tune Mr. Mistoffelees.

Not only a talented dancer, Hayward hits all the right notes with Beautiful Ghosts too, with the new song actually written by Swift.

Yet, as always with Cats, Memory is the standout performance of the entire show, and it's no different here.

Hudson gives a virtuoso rendition, which certainly helps to ground the other bewildering elements of the narrative - though it's hard to know exactly why Hooper insisted on giving her such a snotty nose for the duration of the piece.

So much of Cats has to be seen to be believed, and with just days left in 2019, it is quite possible Lloyd Webber and Hooper have succeeded in making the oddest flick of the year.

But, and it's a big but, there's always a chance this catastrophe of a feline flick will turn into what can only be described as a guilty pleasure one day in the future.

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