Jellicle Choices: Our Review of ‘Cats’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - December 19, 2019
Jellicle Choices: Our Review of ‘Cats’

Critics have called Cats incoherent which sure, there’s a lot here that audiences have to sift through. But when finish with this sifting, we can find bare bones of something we can call a plot. Victoria (Francesca Hayward) is a stray cat who finds the Jellicle Cats, which I guess are stray cats but better. Victoria, because coincidences exist, finds these Jellicles during the night of the Jellicle Ball.

The Jellicle Ball sounds like a grand old time if it wasn’t for Macavity, who’s trying to kill off the Jellicles. The actor playing Macavity is Idris Elba, who is playing his third animal character. Apparently his life’s work is turning movie audiences into furries. Anyway, the surviving Jellicles like Grizabella (Jennifer Hudson) get to sing their song in front of Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench).

Deuteronomy chooses the best cat with the best song, whose reward is going to heaven, which they give a fancy name. So this is basically Paris is Burning, Cruising, and Logan’s Run but with cats. Clear enough, but this musical falls apart when we look into the details, which co-writer and director Tom Hooper didn’t bother himself with.

Jellicle Cats the song is an ear worm, please kill me. Anyway, apparently the Jellicle Cats are a tribe, which I wouldn’t have known had I not read other people’s reviews of the musical adaptation. Hooper made a wrong assumption that people had more knowledge about Cats other than the fact that it’s terrible, or that it’s so bad it’s good.

There also may or may not be things that are out of his control, like Andrew Lloyd Weber and Trevor Nunn’s original book. Introducing Macavity before Old Deutoronomy is a bad choice, as well as introducing characters between those core two. Those characters are mostly forgettable because the songs don’t do them justice.

There’s an irony in Cats as part of the modern musical era because there’s something classical about this. The original London and Broadway casts included Finola Hughes and Reed Jones. My theory is that their dancing abilities were good enough for Webber and Nunn to cobble a musical around them.

Hayward and Steven McRae, in turn, try to dance like Webber, Nunn, and Hooper made the musical for them. And in depicting such talents, Hooper’s visuals are, on the larger scale, competent in comparison to his previous work. His compositions aren’t as obtuse as the ones in Les Miserables. He finally figured out where his centre should be! But he cuts from his actors way too quickly for us to see them dance.

Instead of highlighting great dancing, Hooper chooses filler characters. He’s too loyal to the original musical, which has an ending that we can see even from the trailer. The trailer, by the way, features one of two songs in the musical that is actually good. Why bother paying for this movie if they’re giving out its best scenes for free?

For more information on Cats go to https://www.catsmovie.com/.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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