The movie CATS is the perfect test of the adage “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”.
The movie has made headlines worldwide after being slammed by critics. As a result, a new version of Tom Hooper’s film adaption of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hugely successful stage musical has reportedly been distributed with `new improved’ visuals.
Having only seen the original print, it’s hard to know what difference this will make. More importantly while the new visuals may change how some of the movie looks, the story-line is unlikely to change. This story-line, or lack of it, is one of the major criticisms of the movie. Yet in many ways it’s unfair criticism.
Webber based his musical on the Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats poems written by T.S. Eliot. Written for his godchildren, Eliot describes the lives of cats as told through feline characters such as Gumbie Cat, Old Deuteronomy, Macavity, Bustopher Jones and the Jellicle cats. The poems were never intended for a book, each was an individual gift to the children.
For his stage show Webber took these individual poems and turned them into song and dance numbers. At the same time to ensure some cohesion he created a narrative. He set the musical on the night of the annual Jellicle Ball, when Old Deuteronomy, the elderly leader of the cats, chooses one cat to ascend to the Heaviside Layer to be reborn into a new life. Cats competing to be chosen must perform a song about themselves for Old Deuteronomy.
Thus, it’s only natural a movie based on the stage play would have a similar story-line. The difference in the movie is the introduction of Victoria (played by Francesca Hayward, a principal dancer in the Royal Ballet), a young `abandoned’ cat who provides a kind of narration.
More understandable is the criticism of some of the CGI effects. As a result of these effects the stars of the film, including Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Jennifer Hudson, Rebel Wilson and Taylor Swift, have cat-like bodies, including fur (dubbed digital fur technology), while their faces, hands and feet are untouched. As a result, disconcerting, twitching ears and expressive tails abound! Even more unsettling are cockroaches with human heads and mice with children’s faces.
At the same time the digital recreation of 1920s London, the backdrop for the movie, is impressive.
As is the case with the movie itself, critics are divided on the performance of the star-studded cast. Dench as Old Deuteronomy, McKellen as Gus the Theatre Cat and Rebel Wilson as Jennyanydots have generally won over the critics. Jennifer Hudson, as Grizabella, has been praised for her rendition of CATS’ best known musical number, Memory.
Other stars of the movie include Idris Elba as Macavity, Laurie Davidson as Mr. Mistoffelees, James Corden as Bustopher Jones and Steven McRae as Skimbleshanks. As well as a cameo appearance as Bombalurina singing Macavity, Taylor Swift, together with Webber, also wrote a new song for the movie –Beautiful Ghosts.
If you’re not a fan of musicals then CATS the movie is definitely not for you. For those who are fans of Andrew Lloyd Webber and/ or the stage show then it’s worth considering. And, of course, there’s also the draw of seeing one of the most talked above movies in recent times.
CATS is now playing in cinemas around Australia.
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