I should start by noting I’m not a fan of the Broadway musical. Cats, while having an absolutely stunning soundtrack, has always been creepy -- and moving it from the stage to a live-action version on the big screen only seemed to amplify the creepiness… at least it did for me. As I had very vivid nightmares since seeing the film. Nightmares involving detached faces floating in front of small creatures. If that sounds weird to you as well, then you’re likely going to have a similar reaction as I did to this film.
For those of you that haven’t seen the award-winning Broadway play, here’s the premise. The play, and hence the movie, is based on Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot. The film reimagines the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical for a new generation with spectacular production design, state-of-the-art technology, and dance styles ranging from classical ballet to contemporary, hip-hop to jazz, street dance to tap.
Check out the trailer below.
Cats Movie Review: What I Didn’t Like
Let me start off by saying, I simply don’t understand how everyone signed on to this project. Director Tom Hooper is a great director and Steven Spielberg is… well Steven Spielberg (and an Executive Producer on this). And then you have the star-studded cast -- James Corden, Judi Dench, Jason Derulo, Idris Elba, Jennifer Hudson, Ian McKellen, Taylor Swift, Rebel Wilson, and introducing Francesca Hayward. I mean they’re all fantastic… I guess the paychecks must have been just that good… because the film certainly isn’t.
Cats is one of the longest-running shows in West End and Broadway history. It first debuted at the New London Theatre in 1981. It played there for 21 years and earned the Olivier and Evening Standard Awards for Best Musical. In 1983, the Broadway production won seven Tony Awards -- including Best Musical. It’s been estimated that over 81 million people have seen the show in more than 50 countries and in 19 languages.
There is no doubt that Cats is insanely successful, but the bigger question is why? Seriously, why is this play so successful? Why do people love it? I ask that genuinely and not to start riots -- as I know there is a massive fanbase for this. Is it a play that appeals more to individuals with cats? Is it just because of the music? Do I not get it because I’m more of a dog person?
The Floating Faces of Your Future Nightmares
The debate over the stage show aside, apparently the media screening I saw yesterday was only finished 36 hours before we saw it. The fact that changes are still being made less than a week before the film releases is not a good sign. Those are warning flags if I’ve ever seen them. And they’re absolutely warranted -- as the special effects are haunting and nightmare-inducing.
The digital fur technology paired with the “floating faces” appearance of the cast doesn’t do much to help downplay the creep factor. Why couldn’t they have just done this film with practical effects and makeup? I mean, I’m sure they would have likely picked up an Academy Award for makeup had they gone that route, and then half of the negative buzz the film is getting would be eliminated.
Honestly, I find myself with more questions than answers with this film, as you’ve probably noticed.
Cats Movie Review: What I Did Like
While I wasn’t a fan as a whole, I do have to say I’ve always been a fan of the music. “Memories” is one of the most beautiful songs to ever be sung in a stage show. And the cast, for the most part, gave lovely vocal performances.
There’s also a new song “Beautiful Ghosts” that’s been added as well, written by Taylor Swift and Andrew Lloyd Webber, and it fits in seamlessly. The addition of the song was a play at being nominated for Best Original Song during the award season. However, I can already confirm that won’t be happening with the Oscars, as they’ve already revealed their shortlists in the running for Best Original Song -- and Swift didn’t make the cut. Why? Some fans have speculated it’s a flat out snub, while others have pointed to the film’s late release. With the final cut of the film not being ready until this week, I think the latter is more likely -- as it’s a beautiful song.
One last thing I have to comment on, I loved the lighting of the scenes and overall coloring of the film. That might sound odd, but the coloring is really quite stunning- and very reminiscent of the colors/mood of Moulin Rouge.
Overall: My Thoughts
Overall, this wasn’t my cup of tea. The music is lovely, the visuals are terrifying and unforgettable. Furthermore, I don’t think we’ll see a strong debut for Cats this weekend. You can’t release a movie like this (or honestly, any movie) the same weekend as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and expect not to get crushed at the box office.
If you enjoy the stage show, I’d be willing to bet you’ll enjoy the film. You’ll probably be less likely to get hung up on the special effects as I did. If you do go to see this one -- please leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts. I’d love to know if there’s anyone out there who wasn’t bothered by the effects.
Cats Movie Review: