We’ve all seen the now infamous trailer for “Cats.” We’ve all asked the same questions, shared the same doubts and made the same jokes. As someone who was completely unfamiliar with the show, I was confused and bewildered. After having now seen the big-screen adaptation, I am even more confused and bewildered.
“Cats” is based on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage musical of the same name. Taking place on a single night, the movie follows a group of cats named the Jellicles as they await to see who among them will be chosen to be reborn into a new life.
Directed by Tom Hooper and featuring an all-star cast that includes Judi Dench, Idris Elba and even Taylor Swift, if this were any other movie, I’m sure it would have been sensational. However, I’m afraid the inherent ridiculousness of “Cats” holds it back from being the spectacle Universal Pictures hopes it’ll be.
While at times one might be able to appreciate the scale and artistry of the sweeping set design, I’m afraid the nightmarish cats themselves are too jarring to take seriously. Granted, they don’t look quite as bad as the trailer made them out to be, but that doesn’t change the fact that each performer, an unholy combination of cat and human body parts, looks like a video game character that’s still rendering. Which is a shame because the atrocious CGI distracts from the cast’s marvelous dancing, the only thing in “Cats” worth purring about.
The bizarre CGI only adds to the confusion of “Cats.” Despite a glacial two-hour runtime, it’s shocking how little of the plot is explained. Somewhere around the hour and 20-minute mark I had to turn to my friend and admit that I had zero idea what was going on. Some cats perform magic, some have jobs and every last one of them is impossible to take seriously when they hiss using their human faces. Perhaps that’s the main flaw with “Cats.” None of the characters give us a reason to care about them or the plot itself, making for an inconsequential story padded with nothing but forgettable musical numbers and unforgettable CGI. Unforgettable as in, I only wish I could erase the “Memory” of the perplexing movie I had just sat through.
Though it’s possible it might find some affection amongst fans of the musical, most movie-goers are going to find “Cats” more difficult to stomach than a furball. However, if you’re still as curious as a cat, I’d recommend going to see “Cats” for one reason: Jason Derulo. Surprisingly, the feature film debut of the singer turned out to be the best part of this movie. Who would have thought?
Universal Pictures releases Cats in theatres on Friday, December 20, 2019
Review by Luke Elisio