Tom Hooper returns for his second musical adaptation of Andrew Webber’s stage musical Cats which was also based on T.S. Eliot’s poem Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.
Cats is a catastrophe. Its direction is aimless, devoid of any magic that I expected from a bunch of cats called jellicles performing and competing for the purpose of being chosen by Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench) to ascend into the Heavyside Layer and be reborn again. To question the purpose of each cat’s desire to be chosen is to question the essence of a cat. It is ineffable. The desire to be new in another form must be embedded in each living creature, but the very existence of this film is a reminder of our capability to create and entertain horrors of our own.
Somehow, one must give merit to the people who worked tirelessly into producing whatever was going on with Tom Hooper’s vision. The cast gives their all with the absurdity, including Jennifer Hudson who in between all the mixed emotions can move you with her voice; Jason Derulo’s occasional harmonizing and grimaces were enough of an entertainment and how my theater crowd was silent as Steven McRae’s Skimbleshanks tap dances his way along the railways of London, was truly enough of an experience for my brain to comprehend.
How we find awful ways to be entertained however, is still a question I continuously find answers to, but watching Idris Elba shedding his coat to reveal his big cat body are just many of the things I am too terrified to think through. Don’t even get me started with Rebel Wilson eating human faced cockroaches or Ian McKellen licking his paws.
Still, one can’t help but be entertained by the music, along with Taylor Swift’s Oscar-ready penned song “Beautiful Ghosts”. I must admit that I was smitten by its words and almost teared up had I not been horrified by the bad production design and CGI cat bodies.
A film like this would have worked better in an animated medium that could have allowed the absurdity and magic to be executed well without feeling mechanical. Instead, this is what we get: rushed CGI humanoid cats played by known actors doing things that Yorgos Lanthimos would probably have a ball with.
In the end, while Cats is another manufactured product that seems to pride itself with its horrifying absurdity, it doesn’t take away the entertainment of seeing things you’d never thought to be hilarious and terrifying all at the same time. Just try not to think about it after the screen goes dark.