Cats can only be described as a hysterical, Jellicle mess.
It was always a cursed idea to think that the insane Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats could be turned into a motion picture. There was an apprehensive hopefulness in the build-up to its release, which was knocked by the disappointing trailer. Sadly, a disappointed feeling is all that is produced by the film, which fails to be anything more than an absolute disaster.
Cats suffers from being a concept musical that has not received the love and attention it purrs for. The entire point of the original production is to portray a theme rather than convey any recognisable plot. This is a huge flaw when adapted for a movie as a lack of plot – or any real purpose – will bore the audience and just leave them questioning ‘why?’. It’s not an impossibility to have a successful adaptation of a concept musical, Chicago for example, but Cats incomprehensibly fails to do this.
Despite trusted hands steering the ship, the complete lack of harmony between all elements leaves this flop stranded on a very deserted island. Even after sensational work on The King’s Speech and Les Misérables, Tom Hooper fails to give Cats competent direction and leaves it more hairy than flair-y. Unfortunately for Hooper, it is absolutely baffling how the concept itself made it past any committee, let alone his interpretation (or lack of). It is confused, disorderly and, quite frankly, an absolute disgrace.
Cats is not convincing at any point. I was not expecting to be convinced that these characters were actual cats – the CGI helped to ensure this was not the case – but I was not persuaded that anybody starring in the film actually wanted to be in it. It seems Hooper was too starstruck by his own cast, as he fails to give good direction to any member of the ensemble. Actors such as James Corden and Rebel Wilson seem to have been cast purely because of their natural charm, failing to bring anything real and fun to their roles. There appears to be too much reliance on each individual’s talent, whether or not it fits with the part or others around them. Talented people are left drowning in furballs, not knowing where to go and constantly changing their motivations. Nobody seems to commit wholeheartedly to their part, unable to effectively portray characters with more than one dimension. This is particularly embarrassing considering these are high-ranking celebrities, some award-winning actors, all pretending to be cats while simply looking like furry versions of themselves.
These shortcomings are not necessarily the case for all those involved. Taylor Swift as Bombalurina and Francesca Hayward as Victoria succeed in their roles, with Swift’s voice being the best on the soundtrack – even though her performance of ‘Macavity: The Mystery Cat’ is tainted by Idris Elba’s subpar vocal skills. Jason Derulo as Rum Tum Tugger manages to hit a few successful notes in his song. Despite Hayward’s shaky vocals in new song ‘Beautiful Ghosts’, her ballet skills are phenomenal (though they seem almost unbelievable due to the patchy CG, which makes it look as though she is not actually moving herself). Similarly, Steven McRae’s tap solo during ‘Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat’ is genuinely breathtaking, even though it is embellished by other actors who don’t know what they are doing. These somewhat enjoyable moments are few and far between, becoming completely swallowed by the overwhelming litter tray that is the rest of the film.
As you may have guessed, Cats is full to the brim with questionable and detestable creative choices. One of the most problematic parts of the film is the complete mess of special effects. The confused amalgamation of human and CGI fur is beyond comprehension. The choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler could have been spectacular due to the talented cast (Hayward and chorus), however, the wonky shots and lack of focus means the overall look is sloppy. The odd glance of human hands, feet, and breasts is disturbing to say the least. Why Jennifer Hudson is barefoot with very human veins present as Swift is in high heels, I will never know! Characters sometimes disappear in shots; the lack of care for detail is paramount from the start.
Making only $6.5 million in its opening weekend at the US box-office, with an estimated production budget of $95 million, Cats can only be described as a discombobulation of epic proportions. Shaky direction, choreography and vocals are matched by lazy attention to detail and truly shocking CGI. I’m desperate to see this film again, just to laugh outwardly about all the things I hated.
Cats, directed by Tom Hooper, is distributed in the UK by Universal Pictures, certificate U.