There’s been so very much written and said about Hollywood’s new adaptation of Cats, the phenomenon that premiered in 1981 and became one of Broadway’s biggest hits.
So very much.
And I have prided myself, always, as being a beacon of light, even when the world seems dark. I’m much more Superman than Batman. So I initially resisted seeing Cats, for fear that I’d have to tell you about the cat-astrophe that I assumed the movie would be, and wishing for another kind of cat for Christmas.
But this holiday season, I’m thrilled to bring you good tidings of great joy:
Cats is not the dog that critics have growled about.
I know that’s not a glowing endorsement, but for a film with a 17% Rotten Tomatoes score (I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that low!), that’s about the best you’re going to get.
Yes, the story is hard to follow, but it was actually easier than in the stage production I saw earlier this year. That was my first Cats experience, and I walked out thinking “What the hell was that, and how could so many people love it so much?” I mean, for the love of Rumpleteazer…
Speaking of Rumpleteazer, brace yourself for a barrage of cat names that are a far cry from the little tabbies you may have known. These Cats mix up the nomenclature to the point where you might want to have a cocktail before you dive into this movie, just to help you keep track of all of them.
Speaking of cocktails, I pre-medicated with a glass of vino before I headed into the theatre, and sipped a second glass during the the first half of the movie. Maybe that’s why I didn’t hate Cats.
Speaking of sipping, there’s a hysterical scene of Ian McKellen’s Gus lapping milk out of a dish that prompted some of the biggest laughs in the theatre I was in. However, I’m not sure the veteran actor meant to be funny. Not so with James Corden’s Bustopher Jones — he’s intentionally and effectively quite a comical Cat.
Speaking of veteran actors, Judi Dench, in the role that fate cost her in the original stage production, dazzles in Cats, even beneath mountains of CGI fur and a coat that looks like it was borrowed from Burt Lahr’s Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz.
Speaking of CGI fur, it’s a bit of a matted mess throughout this film. Some of the CGI is so bad that cat heads seem to be floating above their bodies instead of attached to them. In an unprecedented move, the movie studio is sending new, corrected prints of Cats to theaters this week, so Christmas weekend audiences won’t have to endure it.
Hope springs eternal, especially at Christmas time — will anyone goes to see Cats this weekend?
Speaking of hope, don’t believe what you’ve read about cat orgies and how hot Idris Elba or Jason Derulo are in Cats. I’m far from a prude, but bestiality has never been my thing. I wouldn’t have come anywhere near either of their faux-furry asses.
Well, maybe Derulo. I’d leave that kitty door open for him.
But if I’m being completely honest, I want to know a little more about Laurie Davidson, who plays Mr. Mistofelees. Shockingly, I caught myself singing the song as I left the theatre. Davidson should call me, so we can have a drink and a little cat chat.
Speaking of drinks, have a third for the film’s second half. I did.
Now let’s address the feline pachyderm in the kennel, Academy Award-winner Jennifer Hudson. Let me confess up front that I’ve not been Hudson’s biggest fan, and I planned to pan another overwrought performance of hers in Cats.
In that regard, Hudson let me down. Even beneath layers of matted CGI fur and the trademark dour, vacant expression that she often wears on her face even when she’s not in character, Hudson delivered a beautiful, nuanced performance before belting out Cats’ showstopper, “Memory,” with absolute aplomb. Cats off to her!
And speaking of the film’s musical score, it’s actually far better than worse. While nothing in it matches “Memory,” several songs, included Derulo’s “The Rum Tum Tugger” and Taylor Swift’s “Macavity” (I told you the characters’ names were a trip) are downright sexy and had me tapping my paw in spite of myself. And Swift’s original “Beautiful Ghosts” (written with Andrew Lloyd Webber) may have made me a new fan of hers.
In sum, Cats is a great reminder that we shouldn’t believe everything we’ve heard…but we should believe some of it. The film’s not perfect, but it’s far from the cat-massacre that the trailer led us all to believe it would be. I may even see it again…but I’ll do Jack Daniels shots next time.
However, I will definitely not commit to drinking a JD shot every time I hear the word “jellicle.” I’d die from alcohol poisoning before I could ever tell you about the experience. (What the hell is a “jellicle cat,” anyway??)