Everyone’s giving Cats a bit of a hard time. The musical itself is whimsical – it’s based on a book of poetry about cats, after all. The premise is thin – a group of cats gather to tell their stories so the head honcho can decide who gets to reincarnate and go on to a better, different life. It’s essentially a storytelling session expertly weaved together by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s orchestration and some incredibly clever choreography.
So it’s no wonder the film version doesn’t appeal to everyone. Director Tom Hooper’s given the plot an extra dimension, adding bits of narrative to beef up Macavity’s villainous role. The “new” elements of the plot are great and I think it helps differentiate the film version from the theatrical version we’re all used to. Changing things up gives an element of intrigue and I love that we follow the story through the eyes of our heroine, Victoria the White Cat, who is essentially just a quiet dancing role in the musical version.
Francesca Hayward is beautiful as Victoria. We all knew her dancing would be sublime but her acting abilities and ingenuous characterisation is lovely and we really root for her character. Add in some tender moments between Victoria and Mr. Mistoffelees (played with a shy vulnerability by Laurie Davidson) and it’s a really interesting take on the characters.
Big names scatter the cast list with ferocity, including Idris Elba stealing the show as Macavity (though someone really needs to keep him in that fur coat throughout), Dame Judi Dench as matriarch-like Old Deuteronomy, James Cordon bringing in the laughs as Bustopher Jones, Rebel Wilson as Jennyanydots, Jason Derula as the sassy and sublime Rum Tum Tugger, Taylor Swift as the sassy new cat on the block Bombalurina (though someone needed to remove her boobs from the cat suit, please…) and Jennifer Hudson as the down-and-out much-hated cat Grizabella. But of course hats off to the mighty Ian McKellen as the glorious Gus the Theatre Cat. His part is relatively small but yet he commands the screen, and showcases exactly why he’s granted the status of theatrical icon and acting legend.
Yes, I agree the CGI is a little weird. I think it would have worked so much better if everyone had been in real-life costume, like the theatre version. But once the poor souls realised that, it was far too late. Filming was done.
The cat’s proportions are weird, too. They’re the size of rats in some shots and human-like in others. It seems the production team couldn’t really decide what they’re meant to be. It’s a shame because every other aspect of the musical is fantastic and I really enjoyed it!
I think critics are being unnecessarily harsh because the bizarre cat/human hybrid gave people a reason to make jokes and seem witty. I don’t think it’s as bad as people make out at all – it’s an inventive, unusual take on an already quite whimsical and wacky musical.
If you get chance, do go and see Cats at the cinema. I don’t think you’ll regret it!