The event of the year is finally in cinemas, and therapists around the country are ready and waiting for the influx in clients who have been traumatised from seeing it.

It’s Tom Hooper’s Cats, a film adaptation of the infamous stage musical about (you guessed it), cats. Starring a wide range of Hollywood stars, in truly terrifying computer generated fur suits, it follows a group of cats across one night as they compete to ascend to the ‘Heaviside Layer’ and begin a new life.

I’m going to do you all a favour and get all of the puns out the way at the start: Cats is a cat-astrophe, purr-featly bad, a just plain cl-awful/ p-awful, litterbox of a film.

The question on everyone’s lips is “why?”. Who asked for this film?

The public has always been a weird fascination with Cats the musical, which is evidenced in it’s title as the fourth-longest-running Broadway show and the sixth-longest-running West End show. It’s been off stage since 2017 however, and I don’t think anybody is missing it, particularly in the renaissance of epic musicals we’re in now with the likes of Hamilton, Dear Evan Hanson and Heathers (all musicals with excellent music and solid plots).

And yet, Tom Hooper decides to follow the success of his 2012 Oscar winning film adaption of Les Misérables with none other than Cats. I was sceptical to start with (we all were, and time has shown us we had right to be), but I hoped perhaps he had an exciting vision for the film. Unfortunately, Hooper’s hope for this film is completely unknown to me.

It is nothing but utterly bizarre. Let’s talk about why.

Disregarding everything that I’m about to get into, Cats has a very dull story. The plot is very weak, and on the stage I can see that not being such a problem with the live talents dancing to admire, but when it’s all obviously special effects it’s glaringly obvious.

The computer generated detracts from the story – and when that’s the whole selling point, that’s bad news. If it were more physically real, it might have some redeeming qualities but it feels like a facade instead of a display of talent.

It is a wild cast. From ballerinas, to pop stars, to Hollywood’s finest; this cast has it all. According to Taylor Swift, they all attended “cat school” for preparation; though as far as I can tell the only thing they were taught was his to awkwardly rub their faces on each other instead of hugging.

The protagonist of the story, Victoria is played by The Royal Ballet’s Principal ballerina, Francesca Hayward. It’s her debut film acting role, and she really is beautiful to watch: so delicate and intriguing and does carry the film convincingly.

The rest of the cast is so monumental that I’ll only be able to touch on a few briefly: Rebel Wilson and James Cordon both appear, and both as overweight cats that are the butt of every joke, which seems wildly unnecessary to me; Idris Elba as the bad guy gets barely any screen time and Taylor Swift as his sidekick has essentially one scene that’s over an hour into the film; Jason Derulo has a lot of fun with the role and is impressive as Rum Tum Tugger; Laurie Davidson makes a sweet little magician cat though I think his character is hammed up to the max; and Jennifer Hudson cries convincingly (she doesn’t get the chance to do much else).

Of course the highlights are likely Judi Dench and Ian McKellen; who are there to have fun, and it’s enjoyable to watch them for it. Dench in the role marks the first time Old Deuteronomy has been represented as female – she was cast in the original 1981 London stage production as both Jennyanydots and Grizabella, but was forced to withdraw from the show due to an injury and never made it back. It seems fitting that she’s here, and it makes for a sweet story too.

The plot is based on the poetry collection Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats  by T. S. Eliot; which creates more questions instead of answering, I think. Was Andrew Lloyd-Webber okay when he wrote this?

I have so many questions. Here are just a few:

  • Why is there real magic? Why do some cats have special powers? Is this like X-Men and some cats are mutants??
  • If cats, mice and cockroaches have the same human faces, does every other animal too? What do actual humans look like???
  • I am so wildly disturbed by Rebel Wilson’s cat having a cat skin suit?? Does every cat have it & only she shows it, or is she the only one? I honestly don’t know which is a more traumatising concept.

Victoria as the new addition, acts as a guide to the Jellicle Cat world for the audience. The film is essentially a series of minute segments into the very tiny world, with each minute segment being really milked for all it’s worth (sorry, I had to get one more pun in). There’s pointless songs along the way, which I’ll get into in a moment, and there’s a supposed bad guy who doesn’t really do much and doesn’t really want much yet is supposed to be threatening?

Then, potentially the worst moment of all: the film ends with Judi Dench (in cat form of course) breaking the fourth wall, looking dead into the camera and instructing us how to address a cat. It’s just…. I have no words.

Okay, the story may not be so sound. But the effects can surely redeem it, right? Like Avatar, maybe?

Wrong. This is some of the worst CGI I’ve seen on the big screen in recent years. It really is just so, so bad. I can’t even just call it disappointing: the fact of the matter is that it is, unfortunately, bad.

The designs of the cats is not what I would have expected at all. 

There’s no cohesiveness with the cats. The shaggier cats, like Judi Fench and Jennifer Hudson were most effective, but the skinnier the cat, the worse it looked. Unfortunately, the worst looking cat I think was Victoria – and as the lead character, that is really a problem. It seems really simple to correct – the ears are too on the top of her head and her face is so smooth. 

The faces didn’t even sync with the cat bodies on so, so many occasions – and their collars bounced and floated around like nobodies business.

Twitter user @lightlybow came up with some creative alternatives for how the animation could have looked:

This could have been weird, but with potential to be interesting if it were practical effects makeup and costumes as seen in the stage show. Hell, there even could have been a couple of Oscar nominations for hair and makeup.

What I think happened here is that the CGI artists were given an unreasonable amount of time in which to complete complex work. It’s mostly common knowledge that edits were being made after the release date, with a re-lease with supposed updated effects being issued to cinemas not one week after the original release date. It really is unheard of in the business.

The editing was shoddy, I’m sorry. It’s comparable to Suicide Squad, with so many easy and avoidable mistakes happening repeatedly. The continuation was ruined – in one shot Rebel Wilson’s arm was up, the next it was down; a cat hugged a disguarded coat twice etc. etc. Just repetitive, avoidable things that are un-ignorable and therefore constantly take you out of the film.

We’ll move on. Let’s discuss the music. 

I have a confession: I have found myself singing some of the songs as the days have gone by. I hate myself for it, but a few of them are so dumb that they are catchy. I’ve found ‘Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats’ to be particularly prominent in my head, though it has served me well to wind my family up with.

The thing with the songs here, is that there is no point to them. It’s literally one cat after another performing a number about themselves, almost always including their name and when you don’t care about the characters it makes the songs so, so dull. Memory, however is of course the stand out piece, and for good reason as it’s the only song with any shred of power to it. I do think Jennifer Hudson performed it very well, and manages to make it almost poignant despite it all which I can’t imagine was an easy feat at all.

I disagree with almost every choice made in this film.

Cats is a wild ride, and not in a good way at all. I am struggling to even fathom how a film like this came about. I cannot comprehend how a huge $95,000,000 budget culminated in this.

I’ll leave you today with my Mum’s genuine review of the film:

I can vouch for this: she took four wrong turns on the way home from the cinema.

Cats is in cinemas now


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