You’ve dreaded it! You’ve anticipated it! You’ve made fun of it! Now you’ll be able to see it. From Academy Award Winner Tom Hooper; CATS!
The rumors are true. They’ve made a movie version of the “beloved” 80’s musical CATS. Tom Hooper puts his Tom Hooper-ness into the proceeds. Much like his adaptation of Les Miserable, this is an exercise is boredom, uninspired set pieces, and a film that feels rushed and incomplete.
A random night in the Gaslamp Victorian City of England a stray cat is thrown into an alley. This Cat Victoria (Francesca Hayward) becomes a part of, willing or unwilling no one is sure, the Cat gang Jellicles. The Jellicles (think Evangelicals) that are in the midst of choosing a Cat that will ascend to what they call the “Heaviside Layer” to be reborn. Over the course of the night various, we meet Cats with names like Bustopher Jones (James Corden) and Rum Tum Tugger (Jason Derulo) and Jennyanydots (Rebel Wilson) all giving Victoria, and the audience, a glimpse into the strange world of Cats.
Make no mistake this isn’t some cutesy “so bad its good” film. Like Hooper’s last musical effort, this is a dull and uninspired mess. The film feels unfinished in large swats. The FX work is stunning as long as the footage is in the form of a Medium static shot. Any other shot of Cats performing a musical number or scattering around the alley-ways and corners of the city look like hundreds of hours of rendering time is still needed. The film feels at times as though you are watching it on a streaming service with internet connection issues.
Worse, still is the fact that the sound mix is one of the worst heard on a musical in recent memory. Many of the songs are almost intelligible, including the finale, which I challenge anyone that is not familiar with the musical to tell me what they are exactly singing about. Hearing Jennifer Hudson’s Grizabella sing “Memory” is one of pain, not because of the delivery but because most of her peaks are a garbled mess. There are songs that do come through clearly but none of them are the stand out numbers of the show.
This is not the Christmas gift that fans of this musical were anticipating. In fact, it’s quite the opposite of a gift. Better still read TS Elliot’s Book of Poems it was based on. Watch the 1998 BBC TV Production. Just avoid CATS at all costs.