Cats review: 'A silly and sloppy offering of irredeemable codswallop'
Holy moly. Every now and then a film comes along that requires a level of strength, courage and, indeed, patience, the likes of which I am simply unequipped for. It is during these harsh and brutal times that we are reminded that the job of a critic isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. You take the good with the bad. You do your best to stay open-minded. But with Tom Hooper’s Cats, we are presented with a cinematic undertaking like no other.
Indeed, Hooper’s film – a noisy, big-screen upgrade of the beloved Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, based on a collection of poetry by TS Eliot – is already something of an internet sensation. The notorious trailer provided enough stunning, meme-worthy moments and hysterical, CGI gifs, to last us a lifetime. From the outset, it looked as though Cats, with its frightening energy, unsettling enthusiasm and bonkers effects, was destined for cinematic infamy. We weren’t half wrong.
Existing in a gloomy, neon purgatory of its own ill-advised creation, Hooper’s film concerns a beautiful, delicate feline named Victoria (Francesca Hayward) who, after being tossed in pile of alleyway garbage by her cruel owner, is quickly introduced to an underground kitten world, in which a rowdy tribe of ‘Jellicle Cats’ prepare themselves for a midnight, ritualistic ball. Or something.
Much like the panic-inducing stage show, Hooper’s film seems to take enormous pride in confusing its audience. If you’re looking for a clean, crisp and coherent story, you’re in the wrong place. Seriously, I’ve had an easier time filing my tax returns than I have trying to work out just what in the hell is going on in Cats.
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The only things that matter are big intros and widescreen close-ups. Resembling more of an eerie, late-night catwalk (sorry), than a proper motion picture, Cats is, essentially, two hours of famous people, pretending to be cats, singing about their lives as, erm, cats. James Corden is the cat that eats everything. Idris Elba is the villain cat, with magical powers. Judi Dench is the wise, elderly cat. Jason Derulo is the Jason Derulo cat. Taylor Swift is the Taylor Swift cat. We could go on.
I’d like to think of Cats as more of a thinly plotted and outrageously disturbing, horror fantasy, than a dazzling song-and-dance show. It is astonishingly ugly to look at. It is outrageously overwhelming to listen to. It is also completely devoid of joy, wit, charm and dramatic impact. The operatic musical numbers are as flat as they are frightening, and the performances, provided by a dead-eyed A-list cast, that are supposed to look like cats, but instead look like actors in CG cat suits, are staggeringly awful.
It is, I’m sorry to say, a painful, thundering bore of a film - a silly and sloppy offering of irredeemable codswallop, with nary a hint of regard for structure, musicality or, indeed, basic human decency. Hands down, the worst experience I have ever had in a movie theatre.
Read Paul Whitington's review: Cats review: 'What, you may ask, the f***?'