If you've known someone that's loved musical theater and Broadway, then at some point, Cats has been brought up. Some people love it and some just don't get it. I'll admit that I've seen the stage show twice (neither which were my idea) and it's not my thing. It's interesting to see the makeup and junkyard design for something that's still abstract and light on story. In fact, all I can say about it is that it centers around a tribe of cats and several of them do a song and dance to be chosen for another life. And given how it's sung through its entirety, that’s either going to make it or break it for most.
I know that Cats had been one of Broadway's longest running shows and continues to play at a lot of community theaters and touring groups. Naturally, this was also something that had been attempted as a movie. Cats is already hard to do on stage and would never be easy to translate. I know that when the first trailers popped up, it got a lot of negative feedback for its choice of CGI animation on the human-like cats. Does Cats translate to the big screen?
A white kitten Victoria (played by Francesca Hayward) is abandoned in an alleyway by its owner and is discovered by a group of street cats called the "Jellicles". Some include a magician Mr. Mistoffelees (played by Laurie Davidson) and Munkustrap (played by Robbie Fairchild). They take a liking to Victoria and take her to the Jellicle Ball where they say that their leader will select one for the chance to be taken to the Heaviside Layer and be granted another life. Brown cat Macavity (played by Idris Elba) badly wants the honor and will try to sabotage the other cats.
Storywise, this is all you need to know. Like the stage show, the rest consists of other cats singing and dancing their songs on why they should be chosen. Such cats include Bustopher Jones (played by James Corden), Rum Tum Tugger (played by Jason Delrulo), Gus the Theatre Cat (played by Ian McKellen), Jennyanydots (played by Rebel Wilson) and Bombalurina (played by Taylor Swift). Also in the mix, and ostrasized by the other cats is Grizabella (played by Jennifer Hudson). Who will Old Deuteronomy (played by Judi Dench) chose?
So who was Cats made for? It seems like that only fans of the stage show are going to get much out of Cats. The rest, including myself, get something that may have a lot of ambition, but comes out in a giant mess. I'll start by saying that there's little focus on story (again, like the Broadway show). I'm normally fine with a movie that’s more loose with story, but you better make sure the characters are at least interesting. The ironic thing is even with a lot of characters getting songs, I know very little about them. Many of them have few scenes (sometimes only one) and the main cat herself, Victoria isn't that interesting.
It made me realize that the stage show broke the forth wall and took the audience on an abstract journey. I kind of wished the movie would have done something similar. It tries by having a cat fill in the role of the audience, but that gives us without a character to latch onto.
Let's talk about the CGI. I knew that something different was going to be done for the movie, but along with it not looking finished, the human-like design is so freakish, that I could see children having nightmares. It's ugly, gross and I hate looking at it for nearly two hours!
As a musical, some of the songs like "Rum Tum Tugger", "Bustopher Jones" and "Jellicle Songs for Jellecle Cats" are entertaining. The rest are fine, but nothing that I'm going to remember. I didn't even care for the way "Memory" was rearranged, making small moments big and vice versa.
In addition to the set design, it is at least impressive to look at. But even as a movie that’s so bad that’s good, I still can't recommend it as its still too boring.
I'll give this one stage cat out of five. I'm not sure what Warner Brothers was thinking with the story, visuals, music, and even overall concept. Cats doesn't deserve a second life and let's just leave it at that.