by H. Thomas
‘To fans of the musical, this film is almost an insult to the original story, and to first-time viewers it simply comes across as strange.’
Director: Tom Hooper
Starring: Jennifer Hudson, Dame Judi Dench, Francesca Hayward, Laurie Davidson, Sir Ian McKellen
Plot Synopsis: A CGI-infused retelling of the Andrew Lloyd Webber play originally inspired by T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, Cats tells the story of a tribe of cats known as the Jellicles, and their yearly ceremony to decide which cat deserves a chance to be reborn and live their new life differently to their last. Each cat must perform a song of their life so far. However, there is one cat determined to cheat the system – Macavity (Idris Elba) is determined to become the Jellicle Choice despite his rejection from the tribe, and the other cats must avoid his magic while fighting for their new lives.
Review: The anticipation of this film’s arrival, as a long time fan of the original 1998 movie and a regular attendee to live performances, was incredibly exciting, but upon watching it, the retelling of this usually interesting and emotional story was, in fact, incredibly disappointing. To fans of the musical, this film is almost an insult to the original story, and to first-time viewers it simply comes across as strange. Almost every change made to the characters was detrimental to the plot, not least the decision to hire highly talented American singers for certain roles only to make them feign half-hearted British accents. Fans of the original rock-and-roll cat Rum Tum Tugger will be upset by the Jason Derulo remake, and the wonderful magical Mr Mistofelees (Laurie Davidson), while having an exaggerated role in the plot compared to his original purpose, is portrayed as a shy character where his attentions are more focused on a forced love story than his magic.
Some parts of the plot are completely nonsensical – why the famously identical twin cats, Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, have two different accents, for example. However, the film is all but saved by a few performances – the ever-brilliant Jennifer Hudson sings her heart out as one of the most emotional portrayals of Grizabella ever seen, and Dame Judi Dench and Sir Ian McKellen are sure to never disappoint. In addition to this, the debut of Francesca Hayward as Victoria is surprisingly impressive, as she sings the heart-wrenching song Beautiful Ghosts, written by Taylor Swift exclusively for the film. The original score is also performed throughout the musical, and any old fans will still sing along all the way through, but at the cost of the strange half-human, half-cat CGI, the gutting of the original plot and the rewriting of so many characters, it is easy to wonder if it’s worth the trouble at all, and if it would be more enjoyable simply to watch the 1998 alternative – a live performance, authentic, and, thankfully, unedited in appearance.
Cats is currently available on Sky Cinema and was rated U by the BBFC.