Some months back, something rather remarkable happened, for one night, the internet united. This unheard of moment, thought impossible, occurred on the 18th July with the reveal for the first full trailer for Tom Hooper’s Cats.
Adapted from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s unusual but successful stage musical of the same name (which first played in 1981), itself based on the poetry collections of T.S. Eliot “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats”, Hooper’s film really looked like something.
Unified in their shock, terror and confusion, viewers of the trailer were immediately flabbergasted and come the film’s release in December, those feelings and that trailer perfectly displayed the Cats experience.
‘Experience’ is precisely the right word too, in fact it is the only one, as the English language (or any other) has not yet created the right word to perfectly summarise the cinematic experience that is Cats.
As the stage show comes crashing - and I mean crashing - to the screen, oscar-winning director Tom Hooper’s film is the single most misguided and yet perversely must see mainstream offering to come along in decades, maybe since Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin.
The plot, such as it is, sees an abandoned white cat (played by Royal Ballet star Francesca Hayward) taken in by alley cats known as “Jellicles”, as they prepare for their traditional Jellicle Ball, where cats compete to be granted a new life.
Despite swipes at a story about soul and belonging, this film adaptation of the musical phenomenon is one that is quite honestly impossible to review, unless it is with GIFs.
This is a shockingly, embarrassingly (the film was stunningly re-released while still playing in theatres to amend numerous mistakes thanks to its production and rushed finish) and confusingly bad movie.
The plot makes not a lick of sense, the scene transitions are random to hilarious lengths, the characters are plentiful and hardly ever properly introduced or developed, the script is jaw dropping in all the wrong ways and the CGI and designs are nightmarish and even the rules of the film’s feline world are so wildly at opposition that you find yourself sat in absolute amazement.
And yet, despite all this, Cats is a film that simply must be seen on the big screen.
The music, which often veers into extremes, is actually the film’s strongest suit.
The renditions of “Memory” by Jennifer Hudson and “Beautiful Ghosts” by Francesca Hayward are genuinely powerful and the sound is often punchy, even when you cannot comprehend it.
For instance, the score from Webber feels sometimes like a full on horror movie, at other times its a beat-dropping party and altogether maybe this would have been perfectly fine as a curio music video or starry soundtrack cover release rather than a fully fledged movie musical but that being said, this is one musical I’ll certainly not forget.
They used to call happenings like this a water cooler conversation and I’d wager a great number of people will talk about and remember the story of Cats for a very very long time.
Be it the film’s almost psychotically sexual vibes, sinister symbolism, mind frying imagery or acting that seems like every line is uttered as though all the A-List-a-thon of actors are at the point of orgasm, this is just a dreadful and yet twistedly essential motion picture.
One that sees Judi Dench’s Old Deuteronomy openly discussing the film’s baffling nature (in a weird final scene), Jason Derulo play someone called Rum Tum Tugger, Idris Elba play the most underwritten and baffling villain perhaps ever in Macavity, a predatory Taylor Swift drug an entire room, James Corden spit trash in someone’s mouth, Ian McKellen lap water from a bowl and Rebel Wilson unleash her most Rebel Wilson performance ever!
However did they conceive this? Somewhere within maybe a genuinely spiritual tale could be told and it is fair to say that if you know and love the stage musical, you may be more open to this vivacious movie vortex.
Perhaps an animated movie would have been the better form? Perhaps Hooper was on a catnip high? Perhaps only luvvies might get it? I’ve no idea what the answer is but whatever the case may be, this is one movie that ultimately renders reviewing completely pointless because for everything wrong with it (and nearly everything is), I was not bored for a single moment.
Some films are often watched and enjoyed ironically, Cats might be the biggest example of this in cinema history. Destined for cult status and for future use at parties as a drinking game to get people hammered insanely quickly, this is Cats. Let it sing, let it dance, let it in. You may not get it, you may not love it, or you may not comprehend why you do love it but you cannot look away and even may start humming the music (as I have…I think I have been brainwashed) days on.
This is Cats and there are no rules and certainly no boundaries for this thigh rubbing, bottom flaunting, head nudging, fetishistic feline-fillled fever dream. Go see it…if for no other reason, just to believe they actually made this.
Terrible but crucial. I genuinely cannot believe it exists.
Director: Tom Hooper
Starring: Francesca Hayward, Judi Dench, Jason Derulo, Idris Elba, Jennifer Hudson, James Corden, Laurie Davidson, Rebel Wilson, Ian McKellen, Taylor Swift
Release Date: Out Now