Well, this is a doozy to kick off a new era isn’t it?
Long-time readers of my site will know that I love musicals, I’ve been a part of the theatre since I was a child, and remaining part of it is one of my great life joys; so it will come as a shock to those people that I can’t stand Cats as a show.
It’s songs are almost an afterthought in what is essentially just a dance show, all very well and good in their own right, but not when you try and market it as a musical. Frankly, the story is almost non-existent, so it is slightly perplexing that this was high on the list of choices to get a film adaptation, considering all the great stories to be found in musical theatre.
After my initial trepidation, the first trailer dropped and my expectations also dropped, through the floor. The only thing that could possibly redeem it in my eyes was the choice of director, Tom Hooper, who oversaw not only the Les Miserables film adaptation, but the King’s Speech, I find it equally galling that a director of his standing would be associated with this, it just didn’t seem to suit.
Anyway, that’s enough set up, let’s get on with the review.
I thought pre-release that Cats might be bad; turns out I was severely lacking in imagination. Cats is not merely ‘bad’ it’s pathetic, insulting, nightmarish and so utterly, utterly putrid.
All hopes I had of it redeeming itself evaporated within minutes of the films opening, when we got our first glance of the Cat CGI creations and I failed to get back on-board for the rest of the film. Not that I ever wanted to, even if the CGI was astounding, it would still be dressing for a rotten salad.
The story is non-existent, there is a very thin reasoning to string together a group of dance routines, with no rhyme or reason for doing so, often accompanied by an atrocious song that will, quite literally, also have no rhyme or reason.
Andrew Lloyd Webber is quite well-regarded in musical theatre circles, although I personally can’t see why, he ‘borrows’ his best tunes and wouldn’t have gotten half of his success had he not stumbled upon the actual genius of Tim Rice. Tim is nowhere to be seen here, instead adapting the words of T.S. Elliot to music, a brave move to use words that were never meant to be songs and press ahead bold as brass putting them to instantly forgettable tunes.
These are problems that have always been prevalent with the material, though, while the reasoning for making it into a film may seem baffling to me, I’m still here to assess its merits as a film, rather than what problems it has inherited from its stage cousin, which is a relief, because it has absolutely nothing to offer as a film.
Its flashy presentation hides the previously mentioned invisible plot, and its excruciating script, which sees fit to shoehorn in unbearable humour, I imagine to distract from its lack of direction, delivered by non-characters who were introduced in a song and then instantly put into a metaphorical cupboard to be forgotten about, only to re-appear when an unnecessary aside (not that anything about this bloody film is necessary) is called upon by the writer or director.
Speaking of direction, the film brings to mind the more divisive parts of the Star Wars prequels; you can practically see the studios the sequences were filmed in, it’s all the more galling when you realise that the dancing would look quite spectacular if it didn’t look completely false; even though they are performed by real actors, it looks like they were built in a computer program, I am unable to even assign them to the ‘uncanny valley’ as that requires that they look at least somewhat lifelike, and that’s something I can’t say about these computer-created monstrosities.
There was talk that Cats was originally to be an animated film, and I can’t help but feel that this would have been the best option, as there is more creative wiggle room in animation visuals, but even actors in visible cat suits would look better than what’s presented here, but we knew this from the outset, the fact that this project was pressed on with after they’d seen the rough cut indicates to me that this was the project was the brainchild of some truly creatively bankrupt people.
I feel especially sorry for the actors involved who look like they’re putting their heart and soul into the project, unaware of what it is to become, because they really are trying to make this material work, you can tell that they’re talented and they’re being let down by poor material and poor production choices.
So, that’s Cats. It arrived in a blaze of mockery, and that’s how it will be remembered. An occupant of the great litter tray of life.