With very little good to say about it, Cats is only worth seeing if you have time to kill, there's literally nothing better to watch, and you can't suppress your sense of curiosity to see for yourself what all the fuss is about.
Victoria (Francesca Hayward) is a cat that has been abandoned, and is immediately taken in by the street cats and taught their jellicle ways. She learns that there's a way to get a new life, but there are many others competing for this honor. In one night, she meets every cat who will be performing for Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench), to try and be the one chosen to be sent to the Heaviside Layer and receive their fresh start. However, performing isn't the only challenge facing these cats. The sinister Macavity (Idris Elba) will stop at nothing to make sure he will be the chosen one.
Cats, really, where do I begin? There's not a whole lot that I can say about the atrocities of this movie that haven't already been said by others, so I'll do my best not to be exceedingly redundant. For starters, let me state that I am a big fan of musicals, both in theater and on film, but Cats has never been one that I have ever been overly enthused by. "Memory" is without a doubt one of Andrew Lloyd Webber's best musical compositions, but the rest of the songs are either too bizarre to understand what they're about, or have music that's just too mundane to really care about. Most musicals need to start off with a bang, a song that instantly pulls the audience into the story so they know the tone of the music they'll be hearing for the next couple hours and become enthusiastic about the show they're about to see. With Cats, the show just sort of begins, and then each number blurs together with the next, in a frenzied haze of cats introducing themselves via song and dance, for what seems like an excessively long time. Perhaps hearing it live would make the difference, but the bulk of the music in the movie just didn't seem to pack the musical punch it had intended.
With music that's not particularly exciting, what made the stage production impressive and legendary were the costumes and sets, and with the film adaptation, all that goes away. Instead of being shown a great exhibition of the talent makeup artists and set designers can possess, we are instead given what looks like a fever dream where someone couldn't decide what species its characters should be. The animation was so distracting at times, that it was all I could focus on until some other out of left field peculiarity made its way into a scene. What truly bothered my about the animation wasn't so much the utter absurdity of it, but it was the inconsistency of it. There were times where the cats looked way too small, where they were dancing on a railroad track and looked to be the size of mice, but then other times where they were roughly the size of a golden retriever and could cover the entire windshield of a car. If you can't make the physical appearance of the cats look realistic, at least make them stay the same size for the duration of the movie.
Alright, so I've gone on and on with a lot of negatives towards this movie, and believe me I could fill numerous pages more on the topic, but with every bad film, I try to find some positive from it, so here it goes. What I enjoyed, well let me rephrase that, what made the movie tolerable, was the dancing skills of the lesser known cast members and Jennifer Hudson's take on "Memory". I found that the actors who were dancers rather than big celebrity names to draw people to the theater, were slightly less unsettling to look at animation wise. My best guess for the reason to that is they were likely trying to make the stars be easily recognizable, leaving them with more human facial features, but the other not so famous dancing felines could look more catlike. I found I actually liked a lot of what Laurie Davidson did as Mr.Mistoffelees and Francesca Hayward's dancing and singing was equally as impressive. Jennifer Hudson's scene where she sings the show's most famous tune was easily the best portion of the movie. Here, the music appeared stronger and yet it was the most toned down moment of the entire film. There wasn't excessive choreography or background effects, it was just the music telling the story and therefore it was the easiest scene to understand. Though I'd never see this movie again, I am glad I got to see that part in the theater so I could hear the music all around me.
If Cats had been done using practical means would it have been any better? The scale would probably be more accurate, but it's hard to know for sure, because the plot to Cats is so non-existent and ludicrous as it is, that it would likely have still been a box office failure, but perhaps not to such a high degree. But hey, who am I to judge? If you enjoy seeing a fuzzy feline version of Idris Elba that uncomfortably shows all the contours of his human muscles, or celebrity-cat hybrids eating a conga line of human cockroaches, then this is the perfect movie for you.