CATS – Review
Having seen the trailer for CATS, I must admit I approached the film with some trepidation. The highly-touted CGI effects to make humans catlike actually looked unsettling rather than magical. The good news is the effect is much less disturbing in the film itself. With music by Andrew Lloyd Weber, CATS is one of the longest-running musicals of all time, so has plenty of fans.
The musical debuted in London in 1988 and it is credited with starting the “mega-musical” craze. Along with innovative staging, it featured groundbreaking costumes, makeup, and choreography that turned dancers and singers into cat-like humans, much to the delight of audience, spawning a host of similar effects in stage shows. While I’m not personal a fan of musicals myself but I did enjoy T.S. Eliot’s classic funny quirky book of poems, “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” on which the musical is based.
Tom Hooper directs this screen adaptation (it was previously adapted into a film in 1998), which features a big-star cast along with some big names from the world of dance making screen debuts. Stars include James Corden, Rebel Wilson, and Taylor Swift. Judi Dench plays the beloved old cat Old Deuteronomy, who presides over the festivities, while Ian McKellen plays Gus the Theater Cat, and is the only one in the cast to actually mime cat behavior like washing his ears.
The story is built around a newcomer cat named Victoria, played with charm by dancer Francesca Hayward. Two other dancers, Larry and Laurant Bourgeois, are featured in a segment where they and Victoria invade a house and cause a little chaos, until a dog shows up.
Of course, the big showstopper song of this musical is “Memories,” and Jennifer Hudson does the honors with that one, in fine style, as the bedraggled but once beautiful Grizabella. Idris Elba plays the trouble-making Macavity.
Corden as rotund cat Bustopher Jones and Rebel Wilson as mouse-chasing Jennyanydots handle most of the comedy, although Wilson seems to dwell a lot on contorting her cat-body into rude postures. Laurie Davidson charms as magician cat Mr. Mistoffelees, and Robbie Fairchild is appealing as the show’s narrator Munkustrap.
The visual effects do not really turn people into cats, and seem to focus mostly on ears (which always seem in motion), tails, and whiskers. Otherwise, the costume/CGI combination is less cat-like than you might expect. Actually, some of the characters could have used a bit more fur, as they mostly look look people in leotards.
Still, none of that is likely to deter fans, The story is somewhat different from the stage version with perhaps a bit more of the humor in the plot-less book, but close enough to please fans.
If you are big fan of the musical, than CATS is a must-see for you. For the rest of us, it has some charming performances and good star power, but less visual effects dazzle than might be expected.
RATING: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars