Director: Tom Hooper
Writer(s): Lee Hall, Tom Hooper
Cast: Jennifer Hudson, Idris Elba, Francesca Howard
Synopsis: A film adaptation of the broadway musical by the same name from Andrew Lloyd Webber.
I am going to be in the minority on this film. Actually, I am going to be in the strong minority on this film. Not only did I not hate this film, but I also did not think it was at all that bad. I mean, it was bad… but there was something that I kept clinging to throughout the film. The songs were performed so wonderfully and the inclusion of “Beautiful Ghosts” was perfect for this story (it is a shame the Oscars left it out entirely from shortlists). There was something about this film that really was appealing in sort of a “cult classic” sort of way. I could not take my eyes off the screen in a way where when the finale of this film was reached, I loved it.
Now, from a pure film standpoint, this movie is awful. The CGI really is awful, and at times it looks like the cats are floating down the street. There is absolutely no sense of characterization, structure, or plot of any point. This film does not work on any real spectrum of filmmaking. Many of the songs worked for me, but there were easily a few that did not. In a movie where there is an extremely small amount of dialogue and the film is geared by going from song to song, every song needs to hit its mark. That was not the case, but for the most part, they worked. Francesca Howard performed beautifully in all of her dances, and her rendition of Taylor Swift’s “Beautiful Ghost” was wonderful. Jennifer Hudson, who is just so immensely talented, absolutely nails the pivotal song in “Memories”. Many of the supporting casts were fine but with the fast-moving style of the film, we never were forced to stay with too many characters for too long.
If this was an original story and not a recreation of the broadway musical, then I would be doing the same and calling this one of the worst movies I have ever seen. Luckily though, Cats has the musical to fall back on. Why this works for me is because this is nothing the musical isn’t. It would be basically the same as if you were in New York on Broadway about to see the performance live. This story has no plot and has no structure, but that is what the musical Cats is. It is a marvel for the absolutely wonderful and energetic songs, the overblown set designs, and the creepy-looking humanoid cats.
This film did not steer away from what CATS is supposed to be. The human-looking CGI of the cats feels weird, but strangely fits and the overblown sets provide some of the best production design I have seen all year. Could they have taken this film in a different and new direction to try to bring something a little more structured to the screen? I do not believe so, because in doing so you lose the magic of the cats. This movie is very cut and dry like the musical is. You will show up and listen to beautiful songs, see amazing choreography and dancing, and leave the theater having witnessed basically nothing. But the thing is… that is Cats.
The energetic and enigmatic nature of this film is what drew people to see the show for over 18 years. This musical became such a classic one because of the weirdness and the brevity of the story, and I believe the film will do the same. Maybe not now, as everyone will probably need some time to recover from what they saw, but down the line, this could enter a status only a few films have. This is not one of the issues where it is “so bad it is good”, but one where “what you see is what you get”. It is up to the audience to decipher if that works for them or does not.
For me it did work. The music was absolutely wonderful and the song and dance numbers were so energetic and full of life. I was able to go in and step back and whole-fully enjoy every moment on screen. I was able to get past the CGI and just enjoyed myself. The sets and the movement throughout them were done in an almost magical way. This film is a wonder it ever got made, but that adds to the weirdness of the film that I absolutely gravitated towards.
Final: Honestly, other than the abysmal CGI, I did not think this was entirely awful. It basically IS the musical just put onto a screen instead of performed live. The songs were wonderful and sung with such cheer and were performed with just the amount of charm I had been hoping for. Tom Hooper and the cast really do their best with such little this story and musical actually has. Jennifer Hudson completely delivers with her version of “Memories”. No, I’m not going to act like this is some cinematic masterpiece, but I’m also not going to act like it is the worst thing imaginable. Honestly, this should probably never have been a film, but I’m glad it was. I could easily see this being a major hit year’s from now as we might be witnessing an instant cult classic. A very what you see is what you get film, and I kind of loved what I got.
Current Tomato Score: 20%
Current Metacritic: 39
Current IMDb: 2.7/10
Jacob is a film critic and co-founder of the Music City Drive-In. He is a member of the Music City Film Critics’ Association and specializes in the awards season. You can find him on Twitter @Tberry57.