Cat-astrophic or Purr- fect? The film version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage version of TS Eliot’s book of poems has Victoria a cat, played by ballerina Francesca Hayward, abandoned in a back alley where it seems all the stray cats in central London befriend her. The gang of stray cats calling themselves Jellicles tell Vitoria (really, who calls a cat Victoria?) about an annual competition where one is chosen by top moggy Old Deutromony (Judi Dench) to go to the Heaviside Layer and return to a new Jellicle life. Except there is the feared Macavity (it’s never revealed if his first name is Phil) wants to be chosen for the Heaviside so along the way as we meet a whole bunch of cats out to be chosen for a new life but before that dream can come true Macavity (Idris Elba) whisks them away to a barge in the middle of the Thames captained by a laugh out loud Ray Winstone. Now to that end Macavity whisks away two Cats cast members that includes Rebel Wilson and James Cordon and the film misses out on an ideal opportunity to put them both in a sack with a brick and throw them in the Thames.
The Cats trailer was met with open jaw amazement when it first dropped because whilst the stage version was a bunch of actors in leotards and face painting this film version of Cats goes full CGI with animated tails and ears and furry figure hugging costumes that gives the film a queasily bestial nightmare look about it especially when a sultry Taylor Swift descends from the ceiling scattering Cat Nip everywhere without the hilarious results seen in South Parks’ Cat Orgy episode. In fairness the costume and make up are impressive as heavily backlit production design with scaled up sets to give the cast cat proportions.
So whilst there are a number of pluses there’s an equal number of negatives. The songs are not especially memorable despite the theatre acclaim and its show stopper, ‘Memory’ is a disappointing let down. Cats has attracted an impressive cast of actors but Judi Dench here looks like the unholy conflagration of The Wizard Of Oz’s Cowardly Lion, an american football player and a bag of demarara sugar, Idris Elba as Macavity would look more at home in Black Panther, James Cordon is James Cordon and continues to puzzle as to why producers cast him when so many in the UK have an aversion to him that he’s had to go to America, and Rebel Wilson spread eagled is a sight that no one wants to see, not even Rebel Wilson and several of the numbers play a bit like a drama and dance workshop.
Cats never really escapes its stage origins but this is camp, star studded, spectacular and well…just bizarre. Director Tom Hooper has been editing this right up to the last minute but whereas his version of Les Miserables was an excellent adaptation Cats is sure to divide audiences and won’t convert those not familiar with the stage show whereas fans of its theatre incarnation will…….um……lap it up.
Here’s the Cats trailer…….