It was initially touted as an “out of this world” all-singing, all-dancing camp extravaganza to rival the best musicals of the century. Instead, Tom Hooper’s new adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats (itself an adaptation of a collection of poems by T.S. Eliot), soon became the butt of every social media joke when its first trailer revealed some seriously creepy CGI human-cat hybrids.
That first trailer kept the social media discourse going for days on end. Which, it has to be said, worked like a charm for the PR team behind the film. After all, who doesn’t like free publicity?
With increasingly ludicrous theories being thrown around, excitement reached fever-pitch when it was revealed that Cats would be released on the same week as the latest instalment of the Star Wars saga. On top of of everything else, it also transpired that Hooper was still working on finishing the film a mere 12 hours before its world premiere a few days ago. Which meant that this whole project became the must-see “car crash waiting to happen” of the year, even if some of us had secretly hoped that Hooper might actually pull it off.
Alas, it gives me very little satisfaction to tell you that Cats takes the prize for being one of the most excruciatingly boring films of 2019. And I say this as someone who had to sit through the awfulness of comedian Chris Addison‘s directorial debut, The Hustle; an alleged comedy so devoid of any laughter, that even its cast appeared to spend the length of the film wondering why they were there.
The premise goes a little something like this: over the course of a single night, a tribe of cats calling themselves the Jellicles must show newcomer Victoria (Francesca Hayward) the ropes as they make what is known as “the Jellicle choice” and decide which cat will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new life. To succeed in their quest, the cats must steer clear from master trickster Macavity (Idris Elba) who seeks to eliminate them one by one.
While a select few might see the film as some sort ironic “so bad it’s good” production, for me Cats just doesn’t have enough of a strong hook to be anything but utterly pedestrian. Having said that, the film’s saving grace comes in the shape of a brilliantly diverse cast, which includes Rebel Wilson and James Corden, who are both rather surprisingly quite good here.
Elsewhere, a couple decent musical renditions courtesy of Jason Derulo and Taylor Swift add some much needed light relief from this decidedly incoherent and downbeat adaptation.
Overall, Cats not only suffers from the absence of a coherent plot, but its downfall also resides in its lack of universally known musical numbers. Having said that, and as terrible as it may be, I suspect many will learn to live with its imperfections and see it as some kind of outlandish experiment gone wrong, but in a good way. As for me, it just didn’t work, and even worse, it bored me half to death.