By Adam Brannon
Film Reviewer from Movie Metropolis for What’s On Hub
It’s hard to think of a better director to helm a live-action adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic stage musical, Cats, than Tom Hooper. Already with 2013’s Les Misérables under his belt and receiving critical acclaim (and an Oscar no less) from 2011’s The King’s Speech, he’s adept in this field of film-making.
Nevertheless, Cats has been under much scrutiny since its trailers debuted earlier this year, with criticism being levelled at the unusual choice of CGI to render a roster of famous faces as the titular felines. But is the finished product a new classic or a cat-astrophy?
A tribe of cats must decide yearly which one will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new life, but villainous feline Macavity (Idris Elba) won’t let them go without a fight.
Unfortunately, despite Tom Hooper’s best efforts behind the camera, Cats is a disaster from start to finish, with its only saving grace being a powerful performance of Memory by American Idol alumni, Jennifer Hudson.
The much-discussed special effects which allowed an incredibly talented cast (which we will come onto later) to leave the traditional costumes of Cats on the stage are an unnerving mix of human and feline which are simply not up to par. While it’s true that they’ve been improved upon since the film’s first trailers, they are still laughably bad.
During numerous dance sequences, the camera editing is choppy, probably down to the fact that studio executives knew that audiences simply wouldn’t fall for this claptrap; I mean, there are times when the actor’s faces and bodies don’t marry up properly for goodness sake. It’s a crying shame as these talented performers never really get a chance to shine, and these special effects, if we can call them that, are sure to haunt youngsters for generations to come.
It’s clear that director Tom Hooper has tried to make Cats look as much like it’s set on a stage as possible, but the abundance of intrusive green screen and some bizarre scaling choices mean that everything looks cheap, like a high school production.
Assembling a cast that includes Dame Judi Dench (Old Deuteronomy), Idris Elba, Sir Ian McKellen (Gus) and Ray Winstone among others is no easy feat, so one can only assume they have been paid rather handsomely, and these veterans of the acting game perform as well as they can in the circumstances.
And then you move onto the other half of the talent on offer. Jason Derulo, James Corden, Rebel Wilson and Taylor Swift are all dreadful. From singing out of tune (we’ll leave you to find out just who that is) to not being able to understand the words coming out of a performers mouth (looking at you here, Jason), these famous faces should know much better.
Thankfully, newcomer, and trained ballerina Francesca Hayward is reasonably engaging as Victoria, and Jennifer Hudson’s aforementioned performance of Memory is absolutely astonishing, but the atrocious special effects pull you right out of the illusion from beginning to end.
An animated film adaptation of Cats had been planned as far back as the 90s, so it amazes me that studio executives over at Universal and Amblin (the two studios that brought us Jurassic Park and E.T. among others) greenlit a live-action adaptation when the technology clearly wasn’t ready.
In conclusion then, Cats must be one of the worst films of the decade, never mind just of 2019, which has already graced us with some truly dreadful assaults on the senses. With some truly bizarre editing and grotesque design choices, it’s a cat-astrophic misfire that will litter the resumes of everyone involved for years to come.
What’s even more frustrating is that this will be the last film many individuals will see as 2019 rounds to a close.
Our score: ★
Cats is showing now at Odeon Luxe Cinema, Hull