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Film Review: Cats (2019)

Cats (2019) is a film adaptation of the stage musical of the same name, with music from the legendary Andrew Lloyd Webber. Directed by Tom Hooper (who previously adapted the stage musical Les Miserable to the big screen), this film has a major cast list including James Corden, Rebel Wilson, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Idris Elba and introduces Francesca Hayward. A stray cat (Hayward) is dumped onto the streets with a group named the Jellicle cats on the night where their leader (Dench) must choose one cat to ascend and live another life.

No matter how much we as audience members can laugh and be in shock of this final result, it is clear to me that a lot of hard work went into this film. Certain members are giving it their all here, including Taylor Swift and Jennifer Hudson who are clearly the strongest cast members here. I do also admire the effort went into the production design and the hard work that did go into the CGI. It may not be a style that I like, but credit goes to those who worked tirelessly for months and months to get this released.

Some of the musical numbers aren’t horrible. If I were to highlight musical highlights, Memories easily stands out as the greatest piece. The original song for this adaptation, Beautiful Ghosts, fits in very well in the sequences it is used in and actually sounds quite strong as well. However, if you do not understand or care for the songs, then you will not get into the film in the slightest. Even if you do care for the songs here, you will probably struggle to get into the film.

The CGI style is very bizarre and one that I absolutely hate. I was hoping that the huge cinema screen would help suck me into this weird world of Cats, but it only exaggerated how weird this experience was. From the minute I saw the first cat pop up with his human face, I knew I was never going to enjoy the film. The film continued to become even more bizarre, with other animals soon having the same sort of face. Yet, we know dogs exist (potentially without the weird human face) and human legs are shown at the start of the film as well. This film has no idea what lure it wants to use and that sucks you straight out of the film.

Usually, a film has some sort of plot to keep you enthralled in the story and sticking for the two-hour average runtime. Here, I actually struggled to write down a plot synopsis for the film. What this film truly is is two hours of character introductions. Even in the last third of the film, we are introduced to brand new characters that have nothing to do with anything shown before. Nobody gets a true character arc, there is no real development of relationships, the main cat (played by Francesca Hayward) seems to be turned on by every single cat she immediately meets and it is all a complete mess.

I am not sure whether this is a CGI issue, lighting issue, cinematography issue or a blend of them all, but this film is hard to watch at some points. It can be difficult to actually see what is on screen, which is a shame because there are actually some great moments of cinematography and production value that could be highlighted and make the film feel somewhat aesthetically pleasing within the mess. Alongside the technical issues, the sound mixing is completely off here. There is no balance between the backing sound and the speech, making it sometimes incredibly hard to hear what the characters are saying.

There are some performances here that feel like caricatures of their actors. This is clear in James Corden and Rebel Wilson in particular, who have showcased in previous musical-related films (see Into the Woods and Pitch Perfect for examples) not only their musical capabilities but their comedic performances. This film just felt like they brought those two actors in and just got them to play stereotypical versions of themselves. not only does that add to the parody nature of the film, but certainly does not help establish a tone to this film. This film tries to go for drama and comedy, and it dramatically fails in both departments.

This film is a catastrophe (had to get one pun in there) to say the least. I knew after the first two musical numbers that this would be bad, but it was getting worse and worse by the number. With little plot to hook you in, forced performances and creepy CGI styles used, I seriously hope this film does not mean the end of musical-inspired films for a while. This was just the wrong musical to adapt and everyone knows that.

1.5/5

Did you drag yourself down to go and see Cats? Are you a fan of the original musical, and if so how do you feel about this adaptation? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section and let’s have a discussion.

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