Updated: Dec 22, 2019
Films based on stage musicals are frequently a disappointment. Robbed of spontaneity and the adrenaline of live performance they become sterile imitations of the breathing equivalent. If you loved the musical you'll love the film is an adage that rarely follows; particularly when both mediums are so very different. Cats is based on the phenomenally successful Andrew Lloyd Webber musical that ran for twenty one years in London's West End. Based on the poems of T.S. Eliot it spawned Memory, a massive hit single for Elaine Page. In the hands of Tom Hooper it should stand a fair chance as he directed Les Miserables. However, Les Mis had a strong narrative drawn from the original Victor Hugo novel. Cats has a non-existent storyline; which can be easily overcome in musical theatre, but the film version needs a proper narrative; this is primarily where it falls down.
Our story begins with the abandonment of Victoria (Francesca Hayward). She is befriended by a gang of Jellicle cats led by Munkustrap (Robbie Fairchild). She learns of the annual Jellicle Ball, where a cat is chosen to ascend the Heaviside Layer and return to a new life. Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench) must decide who receives the honour but is stymied by Macavity (Idris Elba), who has already made Grizabella (Jennifer Hudson) an outcast.
For a film that was brutalised before release it's really not that bad. Just in case anyone with an I-Pad now think they're experts in CGI - it's adequate and a damn sight better than anything featured in The Irishman. People apparently got the creeps watching humans with twitching ears and fluffy tails. I can't say it affected me in the same way, but is that seriously all people can talk about? A strong cast perform solidly and the cameos were good fun; particularly Ian McKellen as Gus the theatre cat and James Corden as Bustopher Jones. Jason Derulo also puts in a useful turn as ultra funky Rum Tum Tugger. There was a fine vocal from Jennifer Hudson on Memory, perhaps not Dreamgirls vintage but close enough. Nevertheless it's the CGI jibes that will endure; so much so we can't move for really bad feline puns. It might not be the greatest film in the world, but its a pretty long way from being the worst.