I wanted to be a cool kid. I knew going in that a lot of people have hilariously hated this movie and have unleashed their review kraken, but I thought I could take it because I’m a veteran of seriously bizarre movies. I’ve seen Ganja and Hess. I’ve seen Zardoz and even made it all the way through El Topo. Still, I wanted to see this hilariously lampooned movie in the theater. A half hour in, I noticed I was watching with my mouth dropped wide open.
This is, hands down, one of the weirdest movies I’ve ever encountered, and certainly the largest budget mass of weirdness. Even the twenty minutes of trailers was a bundle of weirdness, with Scooby, Trolls, Call of the Wild (Harrison Ford doing a Bob Hoskins, with a dog instead of a rabbit), and OMG the Doolittle trailer. Maybe they did that on purpose, to warm us up for the main event, which features mice with children’s heads cgi’d on, dancing cockroaches who didn’t seem to mind being devoured by singing cats and a super creepy soliloquy by Judi Dench at the end. Because the filmmakers wanted to be sure we know we’re watching a movie and not a filmed stage play, all the actors and dancers have a cgi’d cat-like body. Well, they have whiskers and sort of fur. Some of them wear bits of clothes. They all have a scene stealing tail. Even the dancing of the professional dancers is “enhanced” with cgi. The convergence of these last two points seriously weirded me out when the choreography had twenty “cats” heaving up a hairball, only to freeze mid puke and have their tails go rigidly straight up. I still haven’t figured out why this was so creepy, but somehow it was.
I think the biggest problem with Cats is that they went with a slew of big name actors in the most famous roles, with the exception of Francesca Hayward, who played the central role of Victoria. She’s a Principal ballerina at The Royal Ballet and turns in a very enjoyable performance here. The actors were all busy “being” cats and it was distracting and unintentionally hilarious. Except when it was supposed to be hilarious with famously funny people Rebel Wilson and James Corden. Poor Idris Elba (who actually needed his dancing digitally enhanced) as the most evil McCavity is upstaged so much by the weirdness that the character comes off as simply annoying. My vote for best acting as a cat goes to Ian McKellen. He’s an old cat here and in real life.
The very weirdest part? I didn’t hate it.
You heard me. I’m walking the gangplank to reviewer oblivion, but I have to say I didn’t hate this movie. It’s bizarre and too earnest and has way too much theater music and the cgi is layered on with a palette knife. Anyone who takes a kid to see it should be visited by Child Protective Services. I’m glad I went to see it and while I can totally understand why a lot of people have teed off on the overweening weirdness, I think it’s important for at least someone to say the movie is not horrible. (Oh, man. That last line made me flash back to Dench’s “Cats are NOT dogs”. I got another shiver down my spine.)
CFR: In Addition: First: I haven’t seen the movie. Second: Cats the stage musical is fun. It is an experience, makes no sense, and is beautiful because wow! Beautiful dancers in fun costumes on a cool set. I don’t know if that would ever translate as a film but hey, they tried. Watch the clip below from the musical to see what I mean.
Oh and it really has no plot, doesn’t really make any sense, and is kinda ageist ’cause like Grizabella is ostracized for being old. Or is it sexist cause she is no longer young and beautiful?* At any rate, the musical is fun so do go see it when you get the chance.
The Invitation to the Jellicle Ball | Cats the Musical
* She triumphs in the end so HA! Take THAT Bigotry!