Squirting lemon juice in one’s eyes would be a more pleasant experience than watching “Cats.” This computer generated hairball will make dog lovers feel proud of canines and cat lovers feel ashamed. “Cats” is a cinematic blunder that shouldn’t exist but, because of some cruel twist of fate, does.
The film’s plot, or lack of one, revolves around the Jellicle Cats, played by an ensemble cast including Jennifer Hudson, Judi Dench and Idris Elba, a group of London alley cats who meet to decide which one of them will be reborn into a better life.
In reality, the plot is just an excuse for musical sequences which would be fine for a Broadway musical, but it is a poor excuse for a film. Until the third act of the movie, “Cats” just meanders in and out of musical numbers. On the stage, the audience is so mesmerized by the dances, singing and make-up happening in front of them to care about plot. Because a film doesn’t have this power and the actors have been swapped out with computer generated abominations, the film isn’t as fun to watch.
Speaking of which, the motion capture effects on the actors, in order to make them look like humanoid cats, are terrifying. Not only do the actors have to convince the viewer they are cats, but the effects have to convince the viewer that these cats are realistic. The film fails on both fronts. It also appears, at times, that these cats aren’t touching the ground but instead are levitating an inch off of the ground.
Don’t be fooled by the PG rating. The film is definitely not for young children. This is because the cats, one played by Rebel Wilson in particular, move in an uncomfortable, almost sexual manner. “Cats” really isn’t meant for anyone.
There are a few positive attributes to “Cats.” One of them is the singing of the cast. The songs are fantastic and catchy with talented singers. Even people that, ordinarily, wouldn’t be fantastic vocalists do well with the songs they’re given such as Gus, played by Ian McKellen, when singing “Gus: The Theatre Cat.” Hudson’s rendition of the iconic “Memory” as the old cat Grizabella is impeccable and makes one excited for her upcoming role as Aeretha Franklin in the upcoming biopic “Respect.”
Unfortunately, not everyone delivers a strong vocal presence and Judi Dench, who plays cat leader Old Deuteronomy, is a perfect example. Her vocals are horrible to listen to and she couldn’t carry a tune if it weighed two pounds.
The song “Beautiful Ghosts,” which has been nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Original Song, is a wonderful addition to the soundtrack of “Cats.” Even those who despise this film, which will be many, will find themselves attracted to the film’s soundtrack.
Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography also deserves praise for its elegance. Blankenbuehler is well-known for choreographing “Hamilton” and his work clearly shows in “Cats.” It’s a shame that the beautiful dancing is masked by such hideous effects.
Director Tom Hooper is a talented man having directed “The King’s Speech,” “The Danish Girl” and “Les MIserables,” another Broadway adaptation. Unfortunately, “Cats” is a series of blunders cultivating in a mess of a film. It has effects that are uncomfortable to look at and is based on a play that didn’t translate well to film. Not all good musicals can be good films and “Cats” is a purr-fect example of this. It’s a film that needs to be neutered so it can’t reproduce.