The Cats movie review you need to hear
Warning: Spoilers…kind of
Since the trailer released in December of last year, so much has been said about Cats. There have been complaints about the casting, about the CGI and about the acting. Doubts were raised on the decisions that went into the production and many criticized it as a whole.
Were they wrong to? Was everyone a little too harsh? Is there no shining light in the film? How could Tim Hooper, director of The King’s Speech, Les Misérables (2012) and The Danish Girl, release…Cats?
Let’s get the most important thing out of the way first: Cats, even in its successful Broadway run, did not have much of a story. There is a group of felines who call themselves the Jellicles, who gather once a year to attend the Jellicle Ball. It is there where Old Deuteronomy, the eldest and arguably most respected of the cats, chooses the one who will be reborn—because cats have nine lives, get it? So to get into his good graces, the Jellicles introduce themselves in song and dance.
And that, folks, is the story. It isn’t much; it doesn’t jump off the page and it won’t get you running into the theater. But that’s what we have.
Now let’s get to the traits of the film that do work.
There’s been a lot of hate thrown at the CGI and while I agree with most of it, the other visual aspects of Cats are actually pretty beautiful. The set design, the camera tricks used and the dance numbers were well executed. And once you get used to the human/cat hybrids on screen, you’ll enjoy the visuals for what they are. (Although I personally couldn’t get over the miscalculation in proportions between “cats” and “world.”)
When it boils down to it, you can’t help but look at what’s in front of you. As disturbed as you might be by the flat sides of their face where their ears should be, you won’t be able to pry your eyes away. It’s something can’t help but look at—and it’s because of this that you don’t miss the genuinely breathtaking bits, too.
Also, a shout out to Munkustrap (Robert Fairchild) because you did pretty well in tying the scenes together.
The music, however, left a lot to the imagination. Except for the fun run of Mr. Mistoffolees, the music was generally weak in moments it should have been strong and lacking in parts the audience should experience in excess. I’m sorry, but Judi Dench is just not a singer and Taylor Swift did not carry the risqué factor that is synonymous with Macavity: The Mystery Cat—okay, maybe she tried, but T Swift just isn’t the dancer we want her to be. Even Jennifer Hudson, whose rendition of Memory I severely looked forward to, left me wanting more.
The humor of the script—which had two too many literally cat jokes—needed a second looksee. Corny and in-your-face is a brand of humor, yes, but it just didn’t work in this case.
And just as a warning, here are some weird scenes you’ll come across while watching Cats: Ian McKellen, recipient of six Laurence Olivier Awards, a Tony Award and a Golden Globe Award, saying “meow, meow” as Gus, The Theater Cat, Rebel Wilson as Jennyanydots picking up a human-faced cockroach and eating it, as well as a bunch of actors rubbing their faces on Dame Judi Dench, who plays Old Deuteronomy, as she slowly walks down the cobble stone street. Also: so much awkward sexual tension. SO MUCH.
Do I think that the abundance of Cats movie reviews out there are a little too harsh? Yes, I do—maybe this one included. The thing is, we’ve certainly had worse movies litter the big screen.
When it all boils down to it, if you like musicals, then you can still appreciate Cats. And if you’re just curious to see what all the fuss is about—and believe in the saying that curiosity killed the cat (yes, I can make bad cat jokes, too)—then watching the film will definitely satisfy your itch.
Art Alexandra Lara