‘Cats’ the movie fur-rightens away $70 million

Alisa Aistrup, Feature Editor

Three good things can be said about Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Broadway musical “Cats”: it’s an impressive showcase for dancers, the costumes are ingenious and the songs, while nonsensical, are undeniably catchy. Tom Hooper’s film adaptation destroys all three aspects. It does, however, feature a fully nude Idris Elba, along with Ian McKellen licking milk out of platter, cats getting picked up and thrown into oblivion, dancing cockroaches with human faces and Jason Derulo screaming, “MILK!”

It’s worth mentioning that Webber’s original stage musical barely has a plot. For almost two and a half hours, a bunch of cats sing about themselves and then one cat gets picked to go to heaven — or, rather, the Heaviside Layer.

The movie “Cats” removes the stage show’s traditional costumes — usually leotards, leg warmers and eccentric makeup — from the picture. Although the actors aren’t made to look particularly catlike, the cast was required to go to what the directors call “Cat School” where members were taught to move and behave like cats: nuzzling and clawing at each other, meowing, leaping at random and kicking each other. On top of the audience having to hear an absurd amount of hissing, it’s even more unsettling once it sinks in that some cats are wearing clothes — coats, hats, cat-sized sneakers — and some aren’t. It’s even more skin-crawling when cats that are wearing clothes, such as Macavity (played by Idris Elba), take these clothes off.

Halfway through the movie, alarms began going off in my head; little did I know that there was a full-on acid trip ahead of me. The film suffers from absolutely no sense of scale; mice and cockroaches with poorly edited CGI faces look like a highschooler’s half-finished graphic design semester project and are about the same size as each other, but to appear to the cats as small as they typically are to humans.

The dance sequences are obscured by the fog of CGI around the performers and shots and edits that don’t do the dancers or actors justice. The cuts are frenetic, losing any sense of motion, and a few scenes even zoom out so far that the cats become dots, so the choreography — which is one of the elements that make the musical enjoyable in the first place — hardly registers. Imagine hiring Andy Blankenbuehler, the head choreographer for the hit musical “Hamilton,” to create intricate dance numbers only to tarnish its beauty by shifting the focus to characters that nobody cares about.

The songs are similarly chopped up, both in terms of bafflingly slow new arrangements and unnecessary asides and exposition dropped in to destroy any sense of flow. Even the song “Memory,” the musical’s crown jewel, is diminished in its artistic value by “Beautiful Ghosts,” the song Webber and Taylor Swift co-wrote last minute specifically for the movie.

In all fairness, Hooper’s “Cats” defies all principles of linear time or practical storytelling. “Cats” is a fever dream — a hallucination. If the audience was composed of more than 10 people per viewing and if the CGI was better executed, perhaps moviegoers wouldn’t feel as compelled to leave halfway through. “Cats” must face these facts: the film undermines itself in both editing and musical arrangement, barely has the plot to keep those not educated on the musical in their seats and is CGI-ed into oblivion.