TheCats Movie is now out in theaters and there are so many reviews panning it that I feel obligated to write my own review because I thought it was ineffably purr-fect. I think a lot of people who are lucky enough to spend their time with real-life cats will probably agree.
For those who don’t know much about the plot, Cats is based on the original poems Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot and the Broadway musical produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Victoria (Francesca Hayward) is dumped on the deserted streets of London’s West End. She is then adopted by a group of Jellicle Cats, i.e. a group of cats with very big and distinct personalities. They are preparing for the Jellicle Ball where they will each perform a musical number about themselves and the winner will be given a new life. It seems pretty clear to me that this is a metaphor for abandoned rescue cats vying to “win” a new life with a new family.
That’s it, that’s the entire premise. There are also a lot of songs as each cat has their own song that describes their personality. The movie has a little bit of action and romance added in, and the villainy of Macavity (Idris Elba) is expanded upon, but the main point is the same as the musical: all cats deserve to be treated well by their humans and have a home, they all have their own distinct personalities and cat people love them for it. Even when they are being creepy furry little jerks.
As Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench) breaks the fourth wall to explain, cats are not dogs, they are ineffable, and that’s why we love them. So if you are not a cat person then perhaps this movie isn’t for you, but I guarantee that cat lovers will recognise all of these characters in cats they’ve known. This movie has taken the universal cat characters that have been so well developed by the original poems and previous productions and created some really lovable and universally relatable cats.
I particularly loved Jennifer Hudson’s portrayal of Grizabella, the former glamour cat who is too scared to let anyone close, Taylor Swift’s sexy femme fatale Bombalurina, Ian McKellen’s Gus the ancient theater cat with regrets, and James Corden as Bustopher Jones, the funny fat cat who wanders the neighbourhood looking for treats.
Now, there definitely are some problems with the CGI of this movie. It seems to me that they wanted to keep the theater like feel of Andrew Lloyd Webbers’ original musical, as well as the gritty feel of the setting of the 1930s era London streets. This seems to have caused some very strange decisions in terms of the CGI and a lot of the time it just didn’t work.
I particularly hated the scene with the CGI mice and cockroaches with human faces. It was unnecessarily creepy and looked like something out of a movie from the 1980s, which is a shame because it took away from Rebel Wilson’s otherwise fine Jennyanydots, the lazy gumbie cat. I was also uncomfortable with the fact that they kept the human hands and feet, whatever it was that they did to their faces, and I thought the tail and bottom areas were unsettling sexy at times.
Speaking of unsettling sexy moments, I’m still not sure what to think or say about Rum Tum Tugger‘s (Jason Derulo) “Miiiiiiilk” scene. But I have definitely had to shoo away horny female cats from my desexed indoor boys, and cats can be real creeps sometimes, so I guess it tracks? It was certainly an experience and everybody in the theater seemed somewhat dazed and confused at this point, until we all decided to laugh and didn’t really stop for the rest of the movie.
In fact, I was in stitches laughing at the ridiculous, over the top, and absolutely bonkers portrayal of cats, which is exactly how cats are in real life. I’m not sure what other people were expecting going into this movie, but I was expecting a funny, crazy and somewhat creepy portrayal of cats with lots of big musical numbers and that’s exactly what I got. The jokes and funny cat behaviours are universal and mostly funny, the songs are catchy and recognisable enough to somebody who has never seen the musical (although many fans of the original seem to have issues with some of the changes to the music), and I was thoroughly mesmerised and entertained.
I know the reviews canning it are very funny, but if you are cat person and you go into it knowing that it’s going to be silly and ridiculous, you just might like it. I predict this movie is going to become a cult classic, just like the musical, because all of the reasons why this movie shouldn’t work apply to the original too.