CineMaierson: “Cats” review
January 27, 2020
Junior Bailey Maierson is continuing Eli Maierson’s (’19) movie review column, CineMaierson! In this review, she is joined by junior Gabrielle Solymosy to review “Cats.”
Bailey: Why “Cats” didn’t live up to expectations
I saw “Cats” on Broadway in 2017, and though it’s far from my favorite musical, I came to appreciate the creative dances and some of the more noteworthy tunes. Unfortunately, this show has transformed from a Broadway classic into one of the biggest box-office disasters of the decade.
As a classical ballet dancer, I was solely excited to watch Francesca Hayward, a principal dancer in the Royal Ballet. While her balletic movements were clearly graceful, Hayward’s human feet lined with cat fur were not touching the ground during her dance scenes. Each and every actor-turned-feline floated freakishly above the floor. This was not part of the so-called magical *Jellicle cat tribe; the CGI was simply awful.
As the movie trudged along, I began to devour my Sour Punch Straws to distract myself from the many awkward celebrity appearances. Rum Tum Tugger’s song was nothing more than Jason Derulo belting his signature high notes; Jennanydots the Gumbie Cat’s (Rebel Wilson) song featuring a kick-line of cockroaches was bizarre; and, Bombalurina’s (Taylor Swift) long-awaited scene was overhyped; I was bored during her song “Mccavity: The Mystery Cat.”
The most scarring scene for me, however, was when Macavity the Mystery Cat (Idris Elba) took off his trench coat; his CGI cat fur clearly was not executed properly, as he appeared more naked and exposed than any of the other Jellicles. All nine members in the audience began to laugh hysterically, and shortly thereafter, four people walked out of the theater.
There were only five survivors left.
With its all-star cast, many believed “Cats” was going to be a sure-fire hit; however, the only thing the film succeeded in doing was giving me nightmares. Of the countless Broadway shows I have seen that have then become movies, this was by far the worst one.
I advise movie-goers to not fall asleep during “Cats,” but rather to sit back and laugh with other audience members at its horrific, albeit hysterical glory.
*Side note: Even though the phrase was repeated endlessly in the film, I still have no idea what a “Jellicle cat” actually is.
Gabrielle: Why the edited version of “Cats” wasn’t an improvement
After a horde of poor reviews and critiques, a re-edited “Cats” was released to theatres just one week after its opening weekend. Allegedly, the new version fixed some of the blatant mistakes in the digital fur technology. However, after noticing bare human feet dancing over floating human-cat hybrids, I began to doubt how effective these edits were.
I am not the biggest fan of the original Broadway musical, but the eccentric songs and lack of real plot makes it a legend among musical fans. I had an idea of the overall outline of the musical and major characters because of its relevance among musical theatre aficionados.
Or at least that’s what I thought. I wasn’t so sure after the bipedal cats engaged in a ritual welcoming the Francesca Hayward cat and then proceeded to explain to her why the name “Victoria” was not an acceptable cat name. These Jellicle cats then hissed at Victoria, which somehow made it even harder to watch.
While the CGI is objectively horrid, I was mostly disappointed in the poor execution of the screen adaptation. Selecting “Cats” to bring to the movie theatres was a lofty goal for director Tom Hooper, despite having input from the musical’s original composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.
As mentioned, the beginning of the movie set Victoria as the protagonist; this was an interesting choice to bring her out of the background shadows and into the main character spotlight. In the attempt to make “Cats” have a linear plot, several cats were introduced but then abducted via magic by Macavity. The audience had a hunch that he was supposed to be the “bad guy,” but absolutely no context was given for his character besides a few tattered posters.
I wish I could say I became accustomed to the cringy cat-like behavior by the time that Grizabella the Glamour Cat emerged from a dark alleyway in a dirty fur coat (Who’s fur was that? Are the other cats naked if they don’t wear clothes?). Instantly, the Jellicles started hissing at her because apparently she had worked with Macavity previously. Later, during the iconic song “Memory,” I should have felt sympathy for the character, but I was distracted by confusion and Jennifer Hudson’s long acrylic nails on human hands.
I regret spending an unnecessary amount of money to see “Cats.” It is most definitely not the it’s-so-bad-it’s-good type of movie. I can only describe this movie as like watching a car crash: it’s horrendous for everyone involved, but you can’t look away out of macabre interest while some speedily leave.
Out of all the musicals to choose from, why was “Cats” chosen? It already is a bizarre musical, but this movie’s attempt to expand the original musical’s niche audience miserably failed.