Basically: It’s… quite an experience.
Summary: A gang of stray cats, known as the Jellicles, are to make their annual sacrifice of one cat who will be welcomed into living their best life..?
Anyway, remember when I said I would watch any musical? I can make lots of excuses for mediocrity when I feel like there is genuine attempt and hardwork (I will forever defend The Greatest Showman and even La La Land). Cats has none of that going for it. I don’t really have a defense for this one- it’s bad.
At one time, Cats was the longest-running and most popular show on Broadway, for reasons I never understood- I just didn’t grow up with it- so I was looking forward to using this as an attempt to “get it.” After I see a musical (or any medium, really), I can usually understand the hype behind it or what aspects people are drawn to. When I saw the trailer to this and read up on the synopsis, I knew I was in for an experience so I did the rare thing where I listened to the Broadway soundtrack first and came to the conclusion that it’s just weird. It’s a weird premise, it’s a weird plot, there are weird songs- it’s just odd. Something in the music is pretty engaging (most of it is one lyric or melody repeated over and over and over again- the songs do get stuck in your head after a while) and I can see how this would be a choreographed spectacle- but ah. This movie. After seeing the movie, I’ve listened to this soundtrack a few times, and now having seen the movie- nope. Still don’t get it. I’ll need to talk to a Cats fan or someone who loved the stage version to understand how. Like, how much of the money is made from people trying to understand it (me) versus people who actually love it?
The only reason I’m going into all that is because I really want to demonstrate that I, a musical lover, really tried to get into this and gave up. There is nothing here for you to understand, no overarching message, no commentary on society- it’s just Andrew Lloyd Weber, probably getting high and reading some T.S. Eliot, who was also probably wasted when he wrote his short stories.
To be fair, if you’re going to take a musical where the actors are CATS in leotards with the above summary, yeah, dial that shit up to 120%. Why not. Magic Cats! Make the tails have lives of their own, dancing children mice, Rockette roaches, SIR Ian McKellen drinking from a puddle- sure. But at least film the things that made the show famous- the dancing- at a respectable distance. This was a chance to really be creative with camerawork- you know, to complement the weird. Hire a director who understands the oddities. I’m not sure who decided Tom Hooper, fan of super close ups, had any business doing this scale of musical. I’m sure Les Miserables had something to do with that but that being more of an opera, it didn’t need someone who had an eye for choreography. It’s a shame- I think I can appreciate some of the dancing in this (Les Twins!), but I’d have to watch it again and I kind of don’t want to. Nope, I really don’t want to.
Did I mention this movie had a budget of $90 MILLION!? You could have made two Little Womens! Universal, what the hell did you spend your money on!? Big names? CGI that didn’t reach to people’s hands or feet or certain parts of their faces? I saw the hands version and I’m so glad I did. I can never unsee human-cats with human hands.
Also dang, if you are going to play around with scaling, do your math. See the above picture and ignore the fact that cats don’t have thumbs- there is no way that a watch could fit around a cat’s neck that snugly or rings around a wrist. Those things fit on the same human being in day to day life? Then that napkin holder can fit around her entire body! There’s another moment when James Corden is the size of a lobster and half the size of a trash can.
Yet, I can’t say I had a bad experience. My theater was packed and when the lights dimmed, people started meowing at the screen. We were all laughing at the same parts, specifically, whenever we got to Dame Judi Dench. People were audibly asking “WHAT?” during several moments and we all supported each other. It’s a little rare to get a movie-going experience like that nowadays and I fully enjoyed myself. I’m not sure if this was meant to be taken seriously or meant to be a comedy or if Universal seriously thought they would get any nominations for this, but it’s been a wild ride the whole way through.