Film Review – Cats (2019)

Sincerely, dear reader, we just do not know where to start. In a year where we have had ups and downs, shocks and twists, disappointments and surprises, we come to the closing week of 2019 and the arrival of two already polarising film experiences. The biggest, of course, is Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker which despite its usual bravado and intergalactic shenanigans, has left many disappointed by its finale. Then, opening alongside it, is the long-awaited film adaptation of one of the most revered musicals of all-time.

Cats, the celebrated brainchild of Sir Andrew Lloyd-Webber, was supposed to be an all-singing, all-dancing, mostly CGI rendition of a classic. Instead, it’s both utterly bonkers and a total and complete misfire that you’d rather spend two hours watching your own feline friend licking its backside. And, of course, it features James Corden so by default it’s already a bit of a dumpster fire but to our huge shock he isn’t the worst thing in this insipid, perplexing film that made this writer’s brain whisper “I’ll be in the back sleeping” after only 20 minutes in the company of these un-jellicle cats.

Brought to the screen by Oscar winning director Tom Hooper, who successfully brought Les Miserables to the big-screen in 2012 despite a few groans for its overly intrusive style, the decision to make the actors perform in motion-capture suits and them digitally make them into the famous felines – Bombalurina (Taylor Swift), Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench), Macavity (Idris Elba), Victoria (Francesca Hayward) and Grizabella (Jennifer Hudson), to name a few – will forever be a perplexing and baffling decision for it fails miserably right from the off.

There’s great performances in there that could flourish but such is the restrictive and frankly jarring nature to the CGI that it just never ever functions properly and takes you out of the story almost immediately, with its emotion and spectacle failing spectacular and never comes close to resuscitating itself. Dench, as she is in everything, is wonderful as Old Deuteronomy but messers Elba, Hudson and Swift try in vein to penetrate through the novelties whilst Corden and Rebel Wilson outstay their welcome seconds after coming in the fray. Thankfully, both aren’t around for too long so, you know, small mercies.

Would complete CGI photo-realistic cats with those aforementioned performers provide the voices only worked better? Of course, but even the theatre production versions of part-costume would have allowed Hooper and co to fully realise Lloyd-Webber’s spectacular, off-kilter vision without all the unnecessary obstacles they have put in front of themselves.

What could have been a soaring, magical, toe-tapping experience that we could all do with right now, Cats is a total and utter disaster that only gets worse as the time ticks away. Misjudged misguided, it’s one of the worst of the year and now rivals The Apple (remember that? Of course you don’t) as the worst musical of all time. Who would have see this coming a year ago?


Musical, Drama, Comedy | UK, 2019 | U | 20th December 2019 | Universal Pictures | Dir.Tom Hooper | Taylor Swift, Francesca Hayward, Idris Elba, Jennifer Hudson, James Corden, Rebel Wilson, Jason Derulo