Well… Cats surely is something.
It’s very easy to pick on Cats and everyone has stormed the Internet in masses to do so ever since the first trailer aired many months prior to its release. At the time, I had held out hope that Cats was going to be a good movie. Tom Hooper directed Les Miserables (2012) and that was very good, so maybe this would be too. Cats seemed to have potential. The trailer, although not perfect, showed some promise and was enhanced by Jennifer Hudson’s powerful voice.
The hate coming from the first trailer could be attributed to its somewhat new technological approach (cats, but with human faces!) which made it easily meme-able for Internet trolls and other people farming for impressions. And people wonder why Hollywood never tries anything new. However, leading up to its release, like Dolittle (2020), the more dialogue you started to see from the movie, the worse it looked. Therefore, when the movie was finally released and critically panned, it didn’t come as much as a surprise to me. What I wonder though is, if it was actually good, average, or even intended for a very, very small audience to be enjoyed, would the hate had still been there because it’s so easy to make fun of and hating things is the Internet’s favorite pastime? I guess we’ll never know…
Cats has many, many problems and it deserved the criticism it deserved. I’m not denying that, but there are some good moments in it. Cats isn’t the total dumpster file you were led to believe. Sure, the first thirty minutes might be the worst thirty minutes of a movie I’ve seen in a long time, but the film is not all bad.
I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen so many things done so bad and so well in one movie. They had high quality actors and some of them give poor performances. Cats signifies a career low for James Corden, Rebel Wilson, Ian McKellan, and Ray Winstone. The only actors who come out fully unscathed (in my opinion) are Francesca Hayward and Jennifer Hudson. Most of the musical numbers and songs are lame, but there are two that are compelling and one that is a blast. Francesca Haywood singing “Beautiful Ghosts (Victoria’s Song” (a song that deserved an Oscar nomination more than other songs nominated this year) and Jennifer Hudson singing “Memory” are the emotional high points of the movie. Steven McRae singing and tap-dancing “Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat” is just pure fun. Third, for the most part, the visual effects are very impressive, but there are other times they look awful.
Just to keep it simple, some of the actors are good, but most of them give performances below their talent. The visual effects are great the majority of the time and bad all the other times. I guess you could say consistency is the main problem for Cats. I think Tom Hooper may have bitten off more than he could chew in regards to how much time he had to make the film and the amount of money he was allotted. It’s possible that the technology to make Cats is not yet at the level it needed to be to fulfill Hooper’s vision. Nevertheless, I respect him for taking a risk.
I find it hard to understand how Cats is even a compelling musical because although Cats feels like a film and not a recording of stage performance, the film still feels very theatrical. This is partially due to the difficulty – I’m sure – of the visual effects for the settings as well as the actors themselves, but even as a film it feels very much like watching a play, which doesn’t work for it. Cats does have its moments and breaks from its minimal locations, but the story, performances, and conversations that take place are not compelling enough to sustain its low number of settings.
Yeah, Cats is bad, but it’s not the worst movie you’ll ever see. At the end of the day, at least we got to see Hayward and Hudson sing, as well as Steven McRae dancing and singing along railway tracks.