Monday, December 30, 2019

Movie Review: "Cats" (2019)

Director: Tom Hooper
Year: 2019
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

A group of Jellicle Cats competes to see which one will be selected by Old Deuteronomy to be sent to the Heaviside layer.

In "Cats," Rumpleteazer (Naoimh Morgan), Victoria (Francesca Hayward), and Mungojerrie (Danny Collins) get into all sorts of mischief as they sing their titular song.
In "Cats," Rumpleteazer (Naoimh Morgan), Victoria (Francesca Hayward), and Mungojerrie (Danny Collins) get into all sorts of mischief as they sing their titular song. (Image Source)
Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Cats" is the fourth highest-earning Broadway musical of all time. It has outearned productions like "Les Misérables," "Mamma Mia," and "Jersey Boys," and it has more than quadrupled the box office earnings of "Chicago." All of these previously mentioned theater productions went on to become very successful film adaptations. When Universal decided to make an adaptation of the play "Cats" and tapped Oscar-winner Tom Hooper to direct it, dumping nearly an astounding one hundred million dollars into the project, it seemed like a safe enough bet. Then, three words ruined it all: "Digital Fur Technology." What we are left with is not so much a narrative feature, but an incomprehensible living nightmare that would be best described as an Avant-Garde body horror rather than a feel-good family musical that's perfect for the holidays. The story is based on a series of children's poems by T.S. Eliot called "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats." These poems were adapted into a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber in 1981, and then once again into a screenplay by Lee Hall and Tom Hooper this year. As best as we can surmise, the story is about a religious cult of cats called Jellicle Cats. They dance in the light of the Jellicle Moon, and once a year, they gather at the Jellicle Ball where their leader, Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench), chooses one cat to be sent to the Heaviside Layer (an ionized gas layer approximately 56 and 93 miles above the surface of the earth). The Jellicle Cats believe it is a great honor to be chosen, and upon reaching the Heaviside Layer, they will not suffocate and die but will be reborn into a new life. K, sure. A Jellicle Cat named Macavity (Idris Elba) wants this honor so bad that he uses his magical powers (yes, he is a cat that knows magic) to kidnap the other candidates to ensure he is chosen over everyone else.
Bustopher Jones (James Corden), Victoria (Francesca Hayward), and many other Jellicle Cats dance through London in one of the worst movies of 2019, "Cats."
Bustopher Jones (James Corden), Victoria (Francesca Hayward), and many other Jellicle Cats dance through London in one of the worst movies of 2019, "Cats.(Image Source)
"Cats" is not a good movie, and you've probably heard this sentiment somewhere already. Sometimes, however, you just have to see for yourself and make up your own mind. We did, and we agree, "Cats" is absolutely (p)awful. From the moment the first trailer dropped online (and united all of the internets for one brief moment in history), people have been making jokes about how offputting and creepy the "Cats" CGI looked. The implementation of said "Digital Fur Technology" is not only nightmare-inducing but is also horribly executed, especially considering it, to reiterate once again, cost one. hundred. million. dollars. to. make. HOW?! The CGI is so bad that Universal bit the bullet and sent a patched version to theaters post-release with updated visuals to make it look better. DIDN'T HELP!!! Animals with human faces have never been a great idea cinematically speaking, but that's not all that's wrong here. We seriously question some of the other behind-the-camera decisions as well. Why do the Jellicle Cats have human fingers? Ian McKellen's character sings a song about how he has to scratch himself with his claws, then he stretches out his HUMAN FINGERS to itch himself, and it. is. NOTICEABLE. Why do some of the Jellicle Cats retain their human anatomy while others don't? Why did Jason Derulo's gigantic penis get edited out but Rebel Wilson's breasts didn't? Why is Idris Elba simultaneously muscular like a human man but hairy like a cat? Why do cockroaches and mice have human faces, too? Why is there an overtly sexual, horn-o-riffic nature to all of these horrid human-animal-hybrids as they dance and purr all over each other and nuzzle and gyrate and stiffen their tails in the moonlight?! IT'S ALL TOO MUCH. How did "Cats" get a stamp of approval to be released in its present capacity with a ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLAR BUDGET??!!

It might be okay if the visual effects were the only problem. They aren't. This movie is a goddamn mess. One of the most prominent issues is that there's no real narrative thread. It's mainly a collection of songs where the characters sing their names over and over while the writers decided to see how many cat stereotypes and cat puns they could fit into a 110-minute movie. "Oh look, this is a fat cat, this is a lazy cat, this is a theater cat, this is a train conductor cat who wears tap shoes?????????, and this cat is magic"...ok, great, WHAT ABOUT THE STORY??? And sorry to any die-hard theater lovers out there, but we didn't find the music even slightly appealing. Almost all of the songs are unmemorable with the exception of "Memory," which I have seared in the back of my MEMMMMMMMMORRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRY because I heard it ad nauseum during my choir days in high school. All of the lyrics are difficult to understand except for the word "cats," which is uttered repeatedly throughout each and every song in case we forgot for one brief moment that this film is about frightening felines, not precious pooches. The only pawsitive about "Cats" is Jennifer Hudson, who gives it her all and sings the hell out of "Memory."
Jennifer Hudson and Judi Dench star as Grizabella and Old Deuteronomy in "Cats" (2019).
Jennifer Hudson and Judi Dench star as Grizabella and Old Deuteronomy in "Cats" (2019). (Image Source)
Maybe "Cats" was a lost cause to begin with. Maybe Tom Hooper's Digital Fur Technology is ahead of its time. Maybe "Cats" only works on stage as a collection of song and dance numbers for theater audiences. Maybe the story isn't substantial enough to be translated into a film for mainstream moviegoers. Maybe it's because audiences didn't get to see Jason Derulo's unretouched penis in all its glory. Whatever the reason, and we suspect it's all of the above, Universal is going to be licking its wounds for a long, long time after this critical and monetary flop.

My Rating: 1.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 2/10
IMDB's Rating: 2.7/10
RT Rating: 20%
Do we recommend this movie: AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE!!!

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