Monday, December 30, 2019

Cats, 2019 - ★★★

I know. Everyone HATES this movie. I'm sure this will sweep the razzies this year, but let's all pump the breaks a bit. Tom Hooper tries to recreate the magic of Les Miserables with this Andrew Lloyd Webber adaptation of the Cats musical. The movie is not awful and works in a variety of ways. The issue here is that those who are seeing this musical for the first time will probably hate it and the CGI effects will just become a barrier to prevent them from enjoying the music.

I came into the screening having just seen Cats at the Kennedy Center two months earlier. I saw this musical several times as a child and was fully aware of the plot, costuming and all of the music in the film. Tom Hooper takes the existing story and adds in a white kitten named Victoria (Francesca Hayward) to lead the audience through the story and to participate in many of the musical numbers. I thought this was an interesting choice and not quite necessary but Hayward is very good with both her facial emotions and her singing.

The real issues I had with this movie were some of the casting choices. Rebel Wilson in particular is god-awful as Jennyanydots. This is a role that in the stage musical is not played like a bumbling bafoon acting crass and ridiculous as all of Rebel Wilson's performances are. Her sequence in the film is horrible with tons of forced practical "comedy" featuring dancing rats, mice and cockroaches that falls on its face. James Cordon as Bustopher Jones is also overly comical and not as endearing as the character in the stage musical. Jason Derulo is not as "cool" as the Elvis-esque stage character of Rum Tum Tugger. I thought that Idrid Elba (Macavity), Robbie Fairchild (Munkustrap), Ian McKellen (Gus), Judi Dench (an excellent spin to have a female Old Deuteronomy) and even Taylor Swift (Bombalurina) were very good.

The CGI in this movie is not the best but it did not bother me as much as it seems to bother all of America. I thought a lot of the facial closeups with ears perking up and the CGI fur was well done. This is the look the Hooper and his team wanted. The choice of not animating hands and feet was very strange but the base CGI is passable for what it was engineered for. The biggest visual issue I had was all the anthropomorphic animating of the smaller-than-cats creatures like cockroaches,mice, etc.. . I think the people-as-animals stunt casting should have ended at the cats phase.

The story of this film is borrowed loosely from the musical which already has not much of a plot. This film/musical is really all about the music. If you don't like the music, you're going to hate the play/film. If you're going into it for the first time seeing CGI people-cats you'll probably hate it. But as someone who likes some of the music and thought the musical was halfway decent, I thought this adaption wasn't all that bad. I was entertained and really did enjoy the power-moments of Jennifer Hudson's Memory despite the snotty nose.

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