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Cats: Musical Turned Movie Fail

| Samantha Mah | smah21@dtechhs.org | January 28, 2020 |

Illustration of humans turning into cats. Drawing by Nicolas Gibson

The film Cats, released on December 20, 2019, has been notorious for its egregious critic and audience reviews. The musical fantasy film is based on the musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, which is based on the 1939 poetry collection Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats written by T.S. Eliot. Several well-known singers appeared in the film including Jason Derulo, Taylor Swift, and Rebel Wilson.

Numerous critics jabbed at the CGI effects, plot, and tone. In addition to having 21% on Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 2.8 out of 10 on IMDb, the film is expected to have a $100 million box office loss according to Variety. The film’s original release consisted of multiple CGI errors. Universal Studios responded to this by urging Cinema owners to replace it with an improved version. This was unheard of, and not particularly effective considering the film had already been released worldwide.                                                                    

The film begins with a cat named Victoria (Francesca Hayward) being left as a stray in an alley. There she encounters a tribe of Jellicle cats who annually attend the Jellicle Ball in order to choose which cat can ascend to the Heaviside Layer and be born anew. The name, “Jellicle,” comes from a poem written by T.S. Elliot called “Pollicle Dogs and Jellicle Cats.”

I recently watched the movie myself (and dragged a friend along with me) to see what all the buzz was about and ten minutes into the movie, I began to understand why it was getting so much backlash. Everything seemed so unimportant and extremely boring and by the second song, my friend and I had dozed off.  If I had not read a plot overview I wouldn’t have understood the point of the movie. Instead of developing a character arc for Victoria, the whole movie consists of random character introductions, lacking structure and ultimately confusing the audience. The only reason we stayed to watch was because of the strange musical numbers that never failed to crack us up. My personal favorites include ‘Mr. Mistoffelees’ and ‘Bustopher Jones.’ In addition, the CGI is very unsettling and the scale between actors and scenery shifts is off. Although the film uses cutting edge technology to give actors feline characteristics, it comes off as more disturbing than realistic, but it does not end there. There aren’t only cats in the movie, but there are also mice and cockroaches that all have humanlike features. In the middle of Rebel Wilson’s performance of ‘The Old Gumbie Cat’, a line of tiny human cockroaches march into the frame and a group of mice children sing along as Jennyanydots (Rebel Wilson) unzips her catsuit revealing yet another more bedazzled catsuit. 

 The subsequent appalling reviews that Cats has received has dragged down many well-acclaimed actors like Idris Elba who has played several killer antagonists in other well-known films such as The Jungle Book and Star Trek Beyond. His role in the movie seems so absurd and does not compare to previous roles he has played. 

A highlight from the movie was Jennifer Hudson’s performance of ‘Memory’, which was utterly breathtaking. Hudson plays Grizabella, a formerly glamorous cat who looks back to when she “knew what happiness was.” Singing with pleading eyes, telling a story of sorrow with such intensity you almost forget about the eerie human-cat hybrids.  

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