Review: Cats

Cats Movie

Ever since the first trailer was released during the summer, Cats has been criticised for its unflattering and wrongly used special effects. Director Tom Hooper (The Danish Girl, Les Misérables) decided to use the comments from the public and critics to change his film, even until the last moment. Now that the movie is finally released, we can see the result. Sadly, we wish we could unsee it right after we watched it.

The search for a new life

She’s still very young but she has already been through so much. Victoria ( Francesca Hayward) is being abandoned by her parents and now finds herself in London all by herself. At first, she’s being looked at with a lot of contempt by other cats. They doubt if she’s one of them, one of the “Jellicles” cats, but after accepting her (until a certain degree), they invite her to the Jellicle Ball. During that annual ball, many cats can compete to go to a place known as the Heaviside Layer to undergo reincarnation. The winner is being crowned by the leader of the tribe, Old Deuteronomy (Dame Judi Dench). A whole new world is opening in front of Victoria. One that she discovers alongside magician Mr. Mistoffelees (Laurie Davidson) and guardian of the “Jellicles” cats Munkustrap (Robbie Fairchild).

She meets many cats who each have their unique talent. You have Jennyanydots (Rebel Wilson), Rum Tum Tugger (Jason Derulo), Bustopher Jones (James Corden) and Gus (Sir. Ian McKellen). Sadly, not everyone is welcome as Grizabella (Jennifer Hudson), who once was a well-respected cat, is now being treated with a lot of fear and disgust. The big evening is about to arrive and so everyone’s ready to show off their talent but that’s not to the liking of the “Moriarty amongst the cats” Macavity (Idris Elba) as he wants to be the winner himself. He will do everything in his power to get rid of his competitors…

Jennifer Hudson as Grizabella in Cats.
(source: Universal Pictures)

Cast by name and not by the (right) talent

When watching a film that’s based on a musical, you expect the performers to dance and sing their hearts out. Well, let us tell you. That doesn’t happen at all in Cats. We’re not saying that the cast isn’t talented (respect for both the A-listers as well as the newcomers) but most of them were cast for the wrong reasons. The two biggest casting mistakes are without a doubt Dench (Murder on the Orient Express) and McKellen (The Good Liar). They’re both esteemed actors but they just don’t fit in Cats. Their voices don’t match the songs and due to the terrible special effects, they can’t put their great acting on display. The result: Cringing moments and a waste of talent.

That putting celebrity names on the poster was more important than finding the right actors for the job is being proved by casting Elba (Molly’s Game) as Macavity and Taylor Swift as Bombalurina. In the original work, Macavity is a ginger cat that oozes evil and danger. Certainly not a dark-skinned (no offence here) one that brings even more funniness to the work. Oh and didn’t Swift her character hate Macavity in the poems? Well, not according to Hooper and his team.

There were some great casting choices in the film as well. The best one is certainly Fairchild as Munkustrap. He brings emotions, elegance, and class to this movie and it’s clear that he already had musical experience from his days when he performed in An American in Paris – The Musical. More magic and fun is brought to the screen by the very charming and delightful Davidson (Will). That Magical Mr. Mistoffelees song is one of the most captivating moments of the film. Cats also introduces us to the ballet dancer Hayward and she shines in her first full-length feature film. Hudson (All Rise) is the only one that could give us goosebumps during this film by signing Memory.

Special effects that aren’t special

The reason why the story, its touching vibe and the acting performances don’t come through is because of the special effects. It’s just too weird to see Dench as a cat (especially because it seems she’s wearing a collar) and making from the coloured Hayward a white cat just doesn’t do the trick at all. Also Wilson her cat taking off an extra layer of skin by unzipping it? Nope, Cats isn’t always eye-candy.

Not totally cat-astrophic

Do you need to see Cats or not? The question isn’t that simple to answer. They’re flaws when it comes to the characters, special effects, and casting but it’s certainly not like you waste one of the nine lives watching this film. The dancing, the signing of Hudson and that little spark of magic are the few elements that keep Cats alive.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

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