CATS

Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical arrives on the big screen, but can it overcome that trailer?

By Jonathan Reed

20 December 2019

RATING:

Director: Tom Hooper | Cert: PG | Runtime: 2h

It’s hard to even know where to begin with Cats. The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, which has always been seen as one of his least creative, was mocked from the moment the first trailer was released. The humanoid catlike CGI looked more frightening than most horror movies today, so our first look at the movie adaptation didn’t bode well for the Tom Hooper directed musical.

Sometimes trailers can be unflattering (take the all-female Ghostbusters reboot, for example), and yet the movie can somehow redeem itself. This isn’t the case with Cats. To put it simply – it is a complete mess.

Before diving into the cat littered monstrosity, there are some positives. The production is magnificent, managing to transform the bland stale sets from the stage show into a vibrant, energetic backdrop of London. The iconic musical score of Andrew Lloyd Webber will always be a hit irrespective of the craziness which surrounds it. Not all the performances are abysmal, Taylor Swift feels like the only cast member which makes it out with some of her nine lives intact. Yet from the moment the movie begins, none of these points matter. Instead you are dragged into a strange, existential muddle of a movie with a shockingly simple plot which lacks any gravitas or sense.

Based upon the T.S. Eliot poems, the original stage show always faced the criticism that it lacked any coherent plotline – a talent competition for cats whereby whoever wins is gifted a transportation into the afterlife. Tom Hooper has closely followed the same narrative and suffered the same problems. With a lack of substance, the style of Cats fails to pave over the many cracks, and the characters threaten to widen them into chasms.

© Universal Pictures

With each song, a new cat is introduced with a singular character trait – magic, fat, train obsessed, sad, seductive, great dancer – they feel completely unrelatable or even likeable. And that’s just the start of the problems.

Jason Derulo delivers a cockney-accent which would make Dick Van Dyke proud. There are dancing cockroaches – yes, dancing cockroaches. Dame Judi Dench wears a coat which looks frighteningly like its been made from her own fur. The breakdancing cats wear trainers. There is a definitive moment where one of the lead actors sings blatantly out of tune and finally, Memory – the only iconic song from the musical – is sang by Jennifer Hudson with a face distractingly covered in her own snot. Worryingly, that is just a small selection of problems Cats coughs up.

© Universal Pictures

But perhaps the biggest question which will face director Tom Hooper will be: why on earth do they look like that?

CGI is a wonderful thing, it can bring alien worlds to reality like Pandora from Avatar, inject life back into extinct dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, but there are limits and turning Taylor Swift into what can only be described as a mutated human/cat with the superstars face is a furball too far.

And its not as if you eventually get used to it or feel as though the CGI fur is believable. Instead you are left checking your popcorn wondering if instead of sweet or salted, the stall attendant meant drugged.

© Universal Pictures

Cats is bad, I mean really bad. So much so, that those involved will come to look upon their part in this movie in the same vain Ryan Reynolds observes Green Lantern. It is a bizarre, fur infused nightmare that has no other impact but one of horror. Yet there is a glimmer of enjoyment that a movie like this can even exist. It’s so crazy that you feel compelled to watch.

Although it is hard to know where to begin with Cats, its much easier to know where to end - with a sigh of relief and a stiff drink that it’s all over.