Director: Tom Hooper
Cast: James Corden, Judi Dench, Jason Derulo, Idris Elba, Jennifer Hudson, Ian McKellen, Taylor Swift, Rebel Wilson, Francesca Hayward, Robbie Fairchild, Laurie Davidson, Les Twins, Mette Towley, Steven McRae, Bluey Robinson
Runtime: 1 hr 50 mins
Released By: UIP
Opening Day: 26 December 2019
Synopsis: Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper (The King's Speech, Les Misérables, The Danish Girl) transforms Andrew Lloyd Webber's record-shattering stage musical into a breakthrough cinematic event. Featuring Lloyd Webber's iconic music, an all-star cast and world-class dancers under the guidance of Tony-winning choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler (Hamilton, In the Heights), the film reimagines the musical for a new generation with spectacular production design, state-of-the-art technology, and dance styles ranging from classical ballet to contemporary, hip-hop to jazz, street dance to tap.
Les Miserables. Phantom of the Opera. And now, Cats.
What do they have in common? They are original musical productions that has been adapted into films. The success of these three musicals on Broadway have given film producers a reason to market them onto the big screens. Cats is the latest to enter the bandwagon.
And, seriously, what could possibly wrong with Cats? With such strong musical numbers, interesting storyline and stunning choreography, Cats should be able to stun audiences like its musical counterpart had, the latter being one of the world’s longest running musical, with numerous runs in over 30 countries in roughly 15 languages.
Well, sad to say, Cats did not exactly live up to its hyped expectation. And, boy did it go so wrong.
Let’s start from the very thing that made the headlines for the wrong reason. The CGI.
The world was shocked to see a trailer full of human faces on cats’ bodies (rather deformed, I must add), leaving a strange and disturbing outer appearance. One would not be able to decide between using the word ‘revolting’ or ‘creepy’ to describe the grotesque walking crossbreeds.
The film also suffers from a lack of proper direction, as it seems unsure if it wanted to be a full adaptation or a film adaptation of the original musical. While Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera have managed to fully ultilise elements of cinematography and space that is usually limited through theatrical productions, Cats did not push far enough, leaving one feeling that he or she might have watched a recording of the Cats musical with added CGI effects.
This is peculiar, as director Tom Hooper had directed a few award-winning films, including The King’s Speech, The Danish Girl and Les Miserables.
Nonetheless, it did try to use elements of film-making and CGI effects to create scenes that were not entirely possible through the limitations of a physical theatre. Seeing Mr Mistoffelees’ magic, together with Macavity’s mysterious demeanour and other random dancing elements, creates a rather stunning effect that would wow the viewers.
The only possible redeeming factor of this film adaptation of the musical is the music. Cats iconic music score is evident throughout the film and fans of the musicals and those who are new to it cannot escape from the infectious iconic tunes. And we are not just talking about “Memory”.
Each and every cast member seem rightfully selected for their roles and they did well, emulating their cat role to the best of their ability and embracing the character like it was their own, although for most parts, it did feel a little like some of the cast members were selected purely for their ability to sing and dance only.
The biggest highlight, of course, would be Jennifer Hudson’s portrayal of Grizabella, the Glamour Cat that we all know who gave us “Memory” (everyone knows Cats for this song). Her rendition of this well-known classic reminds one of her soulful rendition of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” in Dreamgirls, evoking the same strange sense of immerse emotions from the latter film.
Sadly, even Jennifer’s soulful voice, along with James Corden’s and Rebel Wilson’s class humour, Judi Dench’s and Ian McKellen’s acting experience and Jason Derulo’s and Taylor Swift’s youthful performances, could not save this classic from falling from grace.
Overall, Cats feels like that one funny customer who cannot decide between having hot chocolate and black coffee for the morning and decides to have them both together, creating a nasty concoction that is bitter but sweet at the same time. And eventually maybe you will get used to it, but maybe not eventually. It is a little sad that Cats went down this line.
Eventually, this Jellicle Ball does not seem too fun, after all and the past balls will only be memories for us to hold on to.
(A real pain for generations to come. Even hardcore fans may not fancy this offering. You might want to watch this film after having half a bottle of wine. Or save your money for the actual musical performance. Or maybe get future producers to use animated cats instead)
Review by Ron Tan