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Movie Review: Cats is a Feline Fiasco

Cats the musical
Movie Review: Cats is a Feline Fiasco
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About the Author

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins is a thespian and performer who has worked with theatre, film, and TV across Ontario. He comes from Campbellton, NB, and has lived in North Oakville over 20 years. He is a graduate of Journalism and Performing Arts from Sheridan College. Twitter: @MrTyCollins

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If you’ve read anything about the multiplex this holiday season, you’ve probably heard that Cats is quite the experience. If you haven’t, rest assured Tom Hooper’s adaptation of the once-megabit musical about, well, cats, is colossally confusing, and not in an entertaining way.

Simply put, the already warped concept of Cats doesn’t effectively translate to the screen. It’s visually unappealing, the story is uninteresting, the scenes are gimmicky and the choreography is inappropriately sexualized. Worst of all, most of the musical numbers aren’t fun.

Like the musical, the basic premise is a group of stray cats in London called Jellicles find a new member. Victoria (Francesca Hayward) join the Jellicles at the Jellicle Ball, something of a weird concert/talent show. The prize is tribe leader Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench) will choose a cat to be the Jellicle choice and start a new life.

An endless list of strange choices hampers the film from start to finish, distracting moviegoers from enjoying themselves. Humans dancing in cockroach costumes and a hilariously inaccurate sense of scale on screen are just the beginning.

The list continues with confusing details in the character designs. Why do some cats where shoes while others don’t? Why do some wear clothes while others are apparently naked? Even those we’re supposed to believe these are fully realized, non-human cats, how come they all have human hands?!

Because none of these questions are answered or addressed, aghast confusion is the best case scenario for most audiences. It’s unclear if the movie is supposed to be about the human-like qualities in cats or the cat-like qualities in humans.

Photo: Universal Pictures

The brief celebrity performances range from talented and occasionally charming (like that of Ian McKellen and, surprisingly, Taylor Swift) to painfully unfunny and unpleasant to watch. James Corden, Rebel Wilson and Ray Winstone are the tip of the iceberg here; not one joke got a single laugh at my well-attended screening.

It’s worth saying the un-celebrity cast is the best part of the film. The unknown soloists and fabulously slick ensemble of singers and dancers would be breathtaking if they were on stage instead of being hidden behind the grotesque design of this movie. (Steven McRae’s tap-dancing Skimbleshanks is particular knockout.)

There’s a niche genre of movies that are so bad it’s fun to laugh at them or chuckle-inducing to see ironically. Cats is so confusing and directionless it takes all the amusement and throws it to the curtsied and into the alley with the strays.

It’s especially wrong to pay money to see this with so many other great options now in theatres. You want a musical? See the smarter Frozen II. You want spectacle? See the glamorous Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. A funny, family-friendly animal adventure? How about Spies in Disguise?

I could write a graduate thesis on all the insipid, moronic choices Hooper has made in mistranslating. But why should I ruin the last remaining possibility of fun for anyone unlucky enough who’s forced to watch it?

Though I’ll admit despite it’s lack of all purpose, once you have seen it, it’s totally un-fur-gettable.

Cats
2 out of 10

G, 1hr 50mins. Fantasy Musical Disaster.
Directed by Tom Hooper.
Starring Francesca Hayward, Idris Elba, Laurie Davidson, Robert Fairchild, Judi Dench and Jennifer Hudson.
Now Playing at Cineplex Winston Churchill & VIP and Cineplex Oakville & VIP.

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