Imagine, you’re seated in a dark theater, the final previews have come to a close and the screen lights up with the outlines of a cat’s face in the clouds. Suddenly the evil magic cat Macavity appears beside you and in a flash you’ve been transported to a barge on the river Thames. Sure Macavity and his evil henchman (henchcat?) might force you to walk the plank, but this is still certainly a better fate than sitting through even a moment more of Tom Hooper’s ‘Cats.’
‘Cats’ is not a new phenomenon. Before it was a deeply disturbing movie, it was a deeply disturbing — and award winning — play about a feline cult deciding which of their own they would kill. The cult, known as the jellicle cats, believe that the sacrifice will be resurrected into a better life, but still its basically a death cult for cats.
Hooper’s adaptation begins with a human woman abandoning her cat Victoria (Francesca Hayward) in a London alley. Thats about the last moment that the film makes any sense. Victoria is taken in by a bunch of cats with names like The Magical Mr. Mistoffelees (Laurie Davidson) and Munkistrap (Robert Fairchild.) These cates regale Victoria with songs that are mostly unintelligible about what a jellicle cat is and how one gets its name. That latter song is sung in a graveyard while Victoria does ballet on a tombstone.
From there we meet a seemingly never ending stream of cooky kitties, each of which sings about who they are. In between those songs are an intolerable amount of bad cat puns. Some of the cats are good, some are evil, most sing terrible songs and none of them are interesting.
Ultimately the problem with ‘Cats’ isn’t that it’s ugly and poorly conceived — spoiler, Judi Dench isn’t the only character whose hands weren’t properly rendered with fur — it’s that the underlying story and characters aren’t interesting. There are well over a dozen different cat people in the film and none really gives any reason for a viewer to care about them. By the end of the film, as Old Deuteronomy sings about how we’ve learned that cats aren’t dogs, ‘Cats’ has accomplished nothing. It leaves the audience with no insight gained or wonder observed.
2/10 Cats may not be dogs but the film adaptation of ‘Cats’ certainly is one.