Whisker logic: Does ‘Cats’ make any sense?
The day is finally upon us. The controversial entry into this franchise is coming out on December 20th, and the reviews are finally in. It’s time to finally discuss: Cats.
In a shocker to anyone without eyes and ears, Cats has not been well received by critics. First initial reviews left the musical sitting at a 7% on Rotten Tomatoes, but as of writing, that score has clawed its way up to an 18%. While this leaves it ranked higher than After, a movie that literally started as a One Direction fanfiction, it’s still not great.
At least critics have been a bit apologetic to director Tom Hooper, as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s controversial musical was going to be difficult to turn from stage to screen. It was an insurmountable task, and the final product shows. The original musical is often criticized for not having a plot, and it sounds like the film follows that trend based on the reviews.
How do you make a movie with no plot?
Clearly, Tom Hooper knows about as much as you and me when it comes to that. Cats has always been a musical that focuses on its performances and music, not the story. This works in a live setting, where the whole reason you’re going to see a show is for the performances. But in a full-length film? Not so much.
To try and fight this, the cast is beyond star-studded. Both traditional theater-trained actors and more contemporary artists have been cast together, to give into each individual Jellicle’s personality and wish. There’s no denying Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, James Cordon, and Idris Elba are talented singers, but that doesn’t make up for a lack of story.
The entire point of Cats is each one of these stars gets a chance to say why they deserve to be reborn into a new life during the Jellicle Ball. That’s literally the whole plot, with a minor break for a fight between a few cats during act two. Each song is each cat giving their reasons for getting the miracle of death. There’s no way to make a plot out of cats singing about why they should be killed.
Does anyone in the cast or crew have experience with Cats?
Not that it shows, but some people involved in the production have worked on previous productions of Cats. Steven Spielberg was set to create an animated version of the musical in the 90’s through the defunct Amblimation, and helped produce this version. Choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, while being advertised as “the choreographer of Hamilton” also choreographed the 2016 Broadway revival of Cats.
Most significant is the casting of Judi Dench, who was supposed to be the original Grizabella (Jennifer Hudson) and Jennyanydots (Rebel Wilson) in a dual role when the show opened on the West End in 1981. Famously Dench injured her Achilles tendon during a rehearsal a week before previews and had to back out last minute. Hooper purposefully rewrote Old Deuteronomy as a female so Dench would be cast.
Who let this get into the movie?
Depending on what review you look at, there’s a lot of things that filled the stinky litter box known as Cats. Most cited is the CGI cats themselves, but this shouldn’t be surprising anyone. Since the first trailer dropped in July, no one was happy with the designs of the cats, and no changes were made before release.
Plus, with a film so focused on being CGI, mistakes are going to be made. But there are points where the rendering messes up, and for a brief second, someone gets a human arm or leg. Another moment where the fur texture on a cat is lost, and the cat perched on a building looks like a statue. For a movie with so many effects, it’s disappointing that so many graphic mistakes somehow made it into the finished product.
Don’t worry fans of the sexually deviant original though, the cats are still extra horny in the film. Which makes the CGI even more disturbing as these cats lick their digital fur and shake around their fake tails. Plus, the weird cleavage that everyone freaked out over in the trailer is much stranger in context when no one has genitals, and only some of the cats have cleavage.
Final thoughts: see Cats if you dare
The only thing we haven’t touched on is the performances, as they’re all decent, though some more than others. Taylor Swift is walking away with the most praise, though plenty is going to Jennifer Hudson since she’s the lucky one performing “Memories”. Some of the performances fit with the rest of the movie, others are a bit too serious compared to the movie they’re in.
Overall, as one of our writers Bec Heim has said, Cats is “the last great trainwreck of the decade.” So if you dare to get your paws on some tickets to Cats this holiday season, know what you’re getting into. If so-bad-its-good movies are your thing, then Tom Hooper gave you an early Christmas present.
Cats hits theaters December 20th.