I love musicals. To me, there is rarely a more fun time at the movies than seeing a really good, or even a bad, musical. There is always so much fun and creativity to be had. Plus, singing and dancing is an extra level of difficulty for one to achieve on film. It all has to come together perfectly or it lands flat on its face. I’ll be upfront... I did not grow up with the stage version of this film, nor have I even seen it. Since seeing this movie, I checked out some clips from some of the songs from the stage show. That is the extent of my knowledge of the popular stage show. So, I was going in relatively blind to this with a basic knowledge that the stage show was "insane.” Did the movie live up to that insanity and land on its feet? Let’s find out right meow.
This is the first time I ever felt any respect for Tom Hopper as a director. I’ve never been a fan of his work. He seemed to luck into prestige with the wildly mediocre The King’s Speech and The Danish Girl. I enjoyed his take on Les Misérables well enough, but it really didn’t leave much of an impression on me outside of Russell Crowe’s “singing.” With Cats, for better and mostly for worse, he went for it. He did as good of a job as anybody could have when adapting this source material. This really felt like the movie he made that has a pulse of any kind. He made an unapologetically faithful adaptation of the stage show, while also trying his hardest to make it an awards contender. While, I don’t think he came even remotely close to hitting that mark, I respect the hustle. He made a crazy musical that is instantly memorable for all the choices he made. In my opinion, to be remembered is way more valuable than any gold trophy. So, he hit the Tommy Wiseau sweet spot of making a film that doesn’t work on virtually any level, but I was entertained so much that I can’t bring myself to call it "bad.”
There is no story. If you enjoy cats singing introductions of themselves as they make themselves contenders to be murdered and reborn, then oh boy does Tom Hooper have a movie for you. That is the story here. It’s nothing but musical numbers about various cats loosely tied together by their desire for death. But that’s the “story” of the stage show. So, I don’t know what anybody expected here. If it had a plot of any kind it would’ve been unfaithful to the source and really probably would’ve made this feel less unique.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Unlike the story component of this movie, Cats has an abundance of characters. There are so many cats in this movie that it feels like the Avengers: Endgame of felines. That being said, not a single character has much substance besides their own character trait they sing about at great length. The exception being Macavity played wonderfully campy by Idris Elba. He is the villain and is the only one that feels like a real character despite being a one note villain with bizarre motivations. Every time he would appear, kidnap a rival cat, and literally teleport away while saying his name, it got a laugh out of me. I also enjoyed Dame Judi Dench letting her hair down and having fun with a role. I am tempted to give this section a spilled ranking, because the biggest sin this movie has is that it gave the strikingly talentless James Corden a paycheck. That is saying something, considering the special effects in this movie. Which brings me to…
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The music in Cats is really good. I feel as if this was the one aspect that, despite all the internet cynicism surrounding this movie, was expected to be really good. It delivers. Not all the songs are perfect and some overstay their welcome, however the songs that work, really work. “Memory” is done well here. It mirrors the “I Dreamed a Dream” scene from Les Mis, except batshit insane. The best song in the flick though is “Macavity” sung wonderfully hammy by Taylor Swift and Idris Elba. I am such a sucker for a good villain song, and this one has shades from old noir films and I just love it to no end.
God is dead. We killed him.
I don’t know about everybody else, but I did not hate this. I don’t think it is even close to being one of the worst movies of the year. I feel like there is far more ambition and life found here than most movies released these days. I also applaud Tom Hooper for taking a chance and giving it the ole college try to make a good adaptation of an unfilmable stage show. Should Cats have probably stayed on broadway? Most likely. I think that was the proper medium for this show. However, I am not upset we got a film adaptation. This was probably as good as it could have possibly been while remaining faithful to the source. The effects are awful though, terrifying even. They don’t work on any level. I am not denying that at all. But so what? I don’t think terrible special effects automatically condemns a movie to being awful. What I saw here was a bold move and Tom Hooper taking a chance. There is value in that. Because of all of this, it is a movie that is gonna stick with me. I think this cat deserves a pat on the head.