Main cast: Francesca Hayward (Victoria), James Corden (Bustopher Jone), Judi Dench (Old Deuteronomy), Jason Derulo (Rum Tum Tugger), Idris Elba (Macavity), Jennifer Hudson (Grizabella), Ian McKellen (Gus the Theatre Cat), Taylor Swift (Bombalurina), Rebel Wilson (Jennyanydots), Jaih Betote (Coricopat), Les Twins (Plato and Socrates), Jonadette Carpio (Jemima), Danny Collins (Mungojerrie), Laurie Davidson (Mr Mistoffelees), Robbie Fairchild (Munkustrap), Steven McRae (Skimbleshanks), Naoimh Morgan (Rumpleteazer), Daniela Norman (Demeter), Bluey Robinson (Alonzo), Freya Rowley (Jellylorum), Ida Saki (Electra), Zizi Strallen (Tantomile), Mette Towley (Cassandra), Eric Underwood (Admetus), Ray Winstone (Captain Growltiger), Cory English (Maître D’), and Po-Lin Tung (Admiral Genghis)
Director: Tom Hooper
Cats, just like Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables, is another cinematic adaptation of a popular musical, only this time he has the testicular fortitude to tackle something that is even less cinema-friendly. This one isn’t a movie as much as it is a spectacle, and people are most likely to be watching it for the set pieces and music rather than the story.
The story, basically, revolves around bunch of miniature cats called the Jellicles who are getting ready to compete in the Jellicle Ball, for the opportunity to be sent up to heaven in a hot air balloon in order to be reincarnated. Through a foundling Victoria’s point of view, the viewer will be treated to exposition songs explaining what they are all doing, while the mean Macavity and his agents try to kidnap the contestants in order for him to win the thing.
If the story sounds like a surreal acid trip to you, well, you are in luck because Cats is one of the most colorful yet ghastly things I’ve had the misfortune to see on the big screen this year. The set pieces are gorgeous, of course, but oh my, the Jellicle cats all look like the tragic results of Momo going on a raping spree among the cat community. The uncanny valley effect is on full amplification here, and worse, we also have realistic human faces transposed onto clearly unrealistic fur suits, hence I feel like I am watching something that is more at home in the Cthulhu mythos than anything else. The Jellicle cats look really wrong somehow, and the overall effect is more body horror than musical. Furries may have a different opinion, though – this one may be the closest thing they will ever have to their idea of a mainstream kind of pornography.
As for the songs, they have been modified to suit the range of the cast, and some of them have also been adjusted and tinkered with to come off as…. I don’t know, more modern or urban, perhaps. I personally have no issues with this, although I also feel that the original cast performances are much better in comparison, but I have a suspicion that fans of the musical may balk at the treatment of the songs here. Me, I cringe at Jennifer Hudson’s strained performance of Memory. I also sigh because, just like previous cinematic adaptations of musicals, I have a feeling that all my searches of the songs on YouTube will from now on give me the inferior movie ones instead of the stage ones that somehow always sound better. That last one is probably my biggest grumble about the existence of this misguidedly terrifying movie. Sure, I can always get drunk or high to enhance my enjoyment of this surreal horror flick, but there’s nothing I can do about the annoying lyric videos or clips from the movie version that will show up each time I search for the songs on YouTube.
By the way, lucky me, shortly after I’ve viewed this thing – I actually paid to watch it, mind you – they announced that they would be distributing new versions of this movie that would contain “updated visuals”. No way am I going to watch the “updated” version, so don’t even ask. Think of this one as a missed opportunity: the ghastly sight of Rebel Wilson tumbling around would have been glorious had Cats been, say, a body horror fantasia directed by David Cronenberg or something!
Oh yes, one more thing: there isn’t anyone here that is as awful as Russell Crowe was in Les Misérables, for what that is worth.