Still of Taylor Swift as Bombalurina in Tom Hooper's Cats

Film Review: Cats

Film Reviews

Director: Tom Hooper

Working Title Films
In Theaters: 12.20

There is not enough kitty litter in the world to cover up this mess.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, based on the poems of T.S. Eliot, is one of the longest-running musicals in Broadway history, playing from 1981 to 2000. I felt every bit of that time go by while trying to sit through the movie adaptation from director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Les Misérables). The Academy Award winner has undeniable talent, but there’s no getting around the fact that he has become far too reliant on gimmicks.

This “story,” for a lack of a better word, centers on a tribe of cats called the Jellicles who gather together over the course of a single night to make what is known as “the Jellicle choice.” They set out to decide which cat will ascend to the “Heaviside Layer” and come back to a new life. Top contenders include Jennyanydots (Rebel Wilson), The Rum Tum Tugger (Jason Derulo), Bustopher Jones (James Corden) and the villainous Macavity (Idris Elba). It’s anyone’s guess who will be chosen, though current polls indicate that Pete Buttigieg is surging in Iowa.

The visual effects in Cats are some of the worst I’ve seen in a major release since 2004’s Van Helsing, and it is all too clear that they were rushing to get this one out on time. For one, the CGI cat heads don’t always seem to fully sync with the movement of the human heads and faces. While it’s an interesting choice to make the sets larger than life so the characters appear to be cats in a human world, Hooper seems to have forgotten what size a cat actually is—the scale seems more in line with large rodents.

The cast is a mixed assortment of singers and non-singers—Rebel Wilson, Ian McKellen and Ray Winstone (what’s a musical without Ray Winstone?) really stand out as non-singers.  Wilson and Corden are meant to provide the comic relief, but instead provide eye rolling moments as they spout cringe-inducing one-liners. Elba is surprisingly grating as Macavity, and along with Francesca Hayward as Victoria and Taylor Swift as Bombalurina, is expected to be furry and feline and all too humanly sexy at the same time.

I found myself want to sing “The fuckable thing about Tiggers is Tiggers are fuckable things!” at the top of my lungs. Judi Dench and Jennifer Hudson provide the brightest spots with Dench looking regal and actually being given enough fur to look like a cat, and Hudson making the track “Memory” a showstopper.

Cats is barely even an interesting failure. It’s unlikely to please much of anyone and should probably just be put to sleep. –Patrick Gibbs