REVIEW: ‘Cats’ (2019) is a Complete Misfire on Every Level

A failed adaptation of an already absurd and nonsensical musical.

Cats is a complete misfire on nearly every level. It was anticipated to be unlike anything we’ve ever seen on the big screen, after we saw the “digital fur technology” revealed in the film’s trailers, but nothing can prepare you for what director Tom Hooper has unleashed unto the world.

Attempting to recount the synopsis is a struggle in itself: newly-abandoned cat Victoria (Francesca Hayward) joins the Jellicle cats; a group of felines who compete at the Jellicle Ball to earn their place in the Heaviside Layer and live a new life. . The thing about Cats is that there isn’t much story at all, and nothing makes any sense in this film. For almost the full 110 minute run time, each scene is a musical number dedicated to introducing a new cat who is a one-dimensional shell of a character determined to win a ticket to the Heaviside Layer. The only narrative strand that ties the cast together is feared criminal Macavity (Idris Elba) who whisks away each character competing in the hopes of winning the Jellicle Ball himself by default. No reason why. That’s how one-note it gets in this film.

I’ll give credit where credit is due: clearly a lot of passion went into this project. It is truly admirable how committed the cast are in this film; highlighted by rubbing their faces against each other, licking milk out of bowls and randomly shouting “meow meow meow!”. The super-sized sets and production design works well but it’s the choreography that should draw the most praise. It was genuinely quite refreshing to see so much thought and effort put into exciting dance sequences, but alas there is no escaping the giant shadow cast by the visual effects.

Never has bad CGI dragged a whole project down like Cats has. It seems the artists have put a lot of time and effort in trying to make it work but the mistake lies in green lighting the visual design in the first place. There is no escaping how down right terrifying and absurd the cats look. Yet somehow the style becomes normalised over time, that is until one of the cast does something completely absurd; like Ian McKellan meowing out loud after cleaning his cat ears.

It is a rare sight to see such a failure from a big-budget feature. The cast and crew have taken the material seriously and have committed themselves to bringing the original source to life on the screen, but it simply does not work. The biggest problem is undoubtedly the lack of story and character development, but the terrifying character design and absurd performances are a close second. Cats will undoubtedly become a cult classic adored by hardcore fans asan adaptation that failed on every level but remains enticing to watch for all the wrong reasons. Cats should be abandoned, much like its main character, but I fear it will be adopted and loved by many in the future.

Dir: Tom Hooper

Prod: Tim Bevan, Jo Burn, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, Tom Hooper, Ben Howarth

Cast: Taylor Swift, Francesca Hayward, Iris Elba, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Rebel Wilson

Release: 2019

Available: In cinemas