MoviesIn Defense of Cats

whatshouldweseeDecember 22, 2019
James Corden, Judi Dench, Francesca Hayward
Lee Hall, Tom Hooper
Tom Hooper
G (Canada), PG (United States)
Running Time
110 minutes
Release Date
December 20th, 2019

Directed by Tom Hooper (Les Misérables), Cats is the film adaptation of the famous musical from the 80s and stars an ensemble cast including newcomer Francesca Hayward and Taylor Swift, Idris Elba, Jason Derulo, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, James Corden, Rebel Wilson and more.

I’m sure you all know the negative response it has gotten online both regarding the trailer that was released over the summer, and now the reviews for the film itself. But if you don’t know, this film adaptation of Cats possesses an insanely bizarre usage of CGI technology, as every character in the film is animated with the human facial features of each actor is superimposed onto the characters faces. This animation style takes after some turn of the century films like The Polar Express.

While I absolutely understand why *literally* everyone on the internet who has seen this film hates it… I didn’t. And here’s why:

First of all, Cats is aiming for a very specific demographic, being the musical theatre crowd. It’s blatantly obvious that anyone who doesn’t either know or respect the work of Andrew Lloyd Webber straight-up won’t be able to enjoy this film. His style of music is already quite inaccessible and of its time. Combined with the incredibly uncanny-valley approach to the filmmaking here, this leaves an incredibly niche and small demographic of people to enjoy this film, which I guess includes me. Did I mention I’m the biggest Taylor Swift fan I know?

Yes, Cats is insanely weird. But I guess I was able to appreciate it all, and within that found enjoyment with the filmmaking at play here. It’s true that the animation here is not good. If I were told the film was made pre 2010, I would believe you because the CGI does look that dated.

All that being said, the whimsical tone of this film is what held my interest. I can’t help but to appreciate the subject-matter (a cult of Cats gather one night every year to sacrifice one of themselves in order to live a better life) combined with the insanely uncomfortable-looking animation style. It leaves this film with such an interesting flavour, unlike any other film this year.

Hooper’s direction here is also quite funny to talk about. The camerawork was reminiscent of the visceral feel he went for in Les Mis. While the camera doesn’t necessarily get so close to the actors where you can see the shadow of the camera itself, the decision to go handheld for the entire film definitely assists the immersion.

I also really enjoyed the structure of the story. There isn’t much of an overarching plot other than what was mentioned earlier. Cats essentially consists of different musical vignettes featuring each cast member’s singular musical number in which they propose why they should be the one chosen for the sacrifice. The film moves at a breakneck pace, is almost entirely sung, and is over in under 110 minutes. There is one side-plot added to the film which follows Idris Elba (in which for the second time this year he plays a villain and is the only character in the film with superpowers for absolutely no reason) which doesn’t work at all. The catharsis of the side-plot ends in what has to be the lamest action set-piece I’ve ever seen in a film.

The performances here are also surprisingly great for what they are. Ian McKellen and Jason Derulo are both really charismatic and entertaining in their respective roles as Gus The Theatre Cat and Rum Tum Tugger. Also, shoutout to Taylor Swift, as Bombalurina, for obvious reasons. James Corden and Rebel Wilson do do their usual schtick though as Bustopher Jones and Jennyanydots and it’s not always as funny as they hoped it to be.

What can I say? I really enjoyed Cats for how insanely dysfunctional and unnecessary it is. Can I recommend it to essentially anyone? Pretty much no. Can I say I didn’t have a complete blast seeing this in the theatre? Pretty much no.

*still courtesy of Universal Pictures*

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One comment

  • Jason

    December 22, 2019 at 10:22 PM

    Good opinion on this. To me, the movie wasn’t deplorable as some are making it out to be. The cast is great (and you can tell they had fun throughout), the movie is ambitious in visual appeal, and the production quality is there. However, Hooper doesn’t really expand upon the original musical and (with the exception of Hudson’s character) I cared more about the screen presence of the acting talents rather than the characters that they were playing.

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