Cats, the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical you’ve been clammering to have made into a big budget CGI musical blockbuster is coming to the big screen. You’re excited, right? right!? Well it’s here now whether we like it or not and guess what? It is not good!
What can I say about Cats? Well it’s surprisingly boring. This is due to the surprise, surprise, plot. Many people will remember when they first saw Cats that it was a celebration of the unique and fascinating types of felines out there. Webber created quite a fantastical setting in his musical inspired by the poems of T.S. Eliot so when it came to Tom Hooper and his scribes creating a story we come to the obvious conclusion that it would clash with the source material.
So the plot, the felines of this particular area in London are all vying for the chance for a new life and the only feline who can do that is Old Deuteronomy (Dame Judi Dench) who paw picks (thank you) the best act from the X-Factor style cavalcade of performing felines. This brings me to Francesca Howard a new cat on the scene. She has been recently abandoned and so she is shown around town and along the way meets all the felines in line for the coveted prize.
Now this was director Tom Hooper’s opportunity to show off stunning new singing and dancing talent and what does he do? Introduce Rebel Wilson as a singing fat cat who’s “song” is about how she has trained mice and cockroaches to be better for society. It feels more like a political message than a song and it is woeful in both visual and audio design. I say this because Rebel Wilson is not good at singing, or dancing or comedy as she’s doing the same schtick she’s been doing since Pitch Perfect, being fat, clumsy and awkward and I say this because she points it out at every opportunity she gets. Then there are the visuals of her song.
Not the Cats Pyjamas
When we all first saw the trailer to Cats we were terrified, whatever combination of deepfake technology and furry fusion they were doing was in that uncanny valley that always unnerves audiences, I can say thankfully it’s not as bad as we thought. You get used to it. Unfortunately there are pockets throughout the film where the CGI quality drops drastically and Wilson’s song is one such pocket. The design of the cockroaches and mice is terrible and looks like little to no effort was put into it and it standout like a sore thumb. This happens throughout the course of the film several times and each time it pulls you out of the film and that doesn’t help when you have to reacclimate yourself to such an unusual world like Cats.
Now I will say there are some impressive talents in Cats, Francesca Howard the eyes into this world is magnetic. I found myself charmed by her and then when she sang I was transfixed. She was a definitive highlight. She also accompanied each of the other characters in their musical numbers very well. She’s incredibly talented and I look forward to what the future holds for her. There are also the other feline performers that hold quite a soft spot in my place, in particular Mr. Mistoffelees (Laurie Davidson) who is charming, and quirky and just all around fun. It is these figures that hold the film up not the top name actors who’ve been drawn in. Judi Dench, Jason Derulo and James Corden are competent but they feel like they got the role just by flashing their name badge.
The world these feisty felines live in is surprisingly mundane. Everything is bigger so as to show the size but that’s really it. There are no interesting visual elements save for the weird magic abilities of Macavity played by Idris Elba who is having way too much fun. This character breaks the already tenuious logic of the film with his Nightcrawler-esque teleportation abilities and uses them to try and win the new life for himself. Why does he want this new life? Reasons I guess because if I was him and I had these godlike abilities I’d being running that town of rifraff cats.
Ultimately your enjoyment will come down to two things – 1. Do you enjoy the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber? If so you will be impressed by the performances (for the most part) by this cast and 2. If you are not distracted by the CGI on screen. I fall somewhere in the middle, the pageantry and singing was at times quite fun but between haunting design choices for the cast and the poor storytelling on hand this is nothing special.
Stay tuned to Scannain for more reviews, news and interviews.