I sit in my comfortable seat in my local theatre for the first showing where the tickets were available, it is a comfortable lounge style room with reclining large seats and pillows. At least I am going to see this disaster of a movie in the best seats in the house. The music starts, we see the moon and then go down and I see the shadows of human feet with tails that soon manifest in the headache making (for me) uncanny valley of CGI cat and humans, which no one should see.
Victoria the white cat is abandoned in to a junkyard where she meets the Jellicle Cats who take her in to show her their lifestyle and how tonight Old Deuteronomy will choose one of them to be reborn in to different life. Macavity is a legendary bad cat who wants him to be chosen and thus tries to eliminate the competition (by magic???). In the end Grizabella, a “fallen” cat is chosen and gets to be reborn. And no, I am not afraid to give spoilers because much had been said about this movie already, and those who chose not to watch it can now know the ending.
I was looking to see if I had the Print 1 with the still half-made effects or Print 2 with enhanced ones. AND I GOT PRINT 1! I was so happy to see Dame Judi Dench’s wedding ring and hands, and knew that the human feet and hands on the cats was one hell of a mistake to just let be (other than the faces). I had thought since the premier was a full month after the premier State-side, that they would have been able to fix it if they sent the print quick. BUT THEY DIDN’T! I suspect for translation reasons which have to be done for the subtitles and it’s hilarious!
I saw Idris Elba’s naked fur-chest and it was baaaaad, something I wish I never saw, Sir Ian McKellen can’t sing (I still love him) and Dame Judi Dench turned to the audience at the end and it was HORRIFYING! I felt my skin crawl and I tried to hide her face from my view with my hand. Rebel Wilson’s fur shedding is as bizarre as it sounds, and it breaks the “magic” that is to surround the whole thing.
Then there’s the sexual tension, I’ve never seen the show live, but I’ve seen the 1998 performance of it and I can safely say that the movie felt both more sexual and less sexual than its source stage show. The human hands, clear human hip bones, human feet and all everything human just felt odd and I think it might have broken my brain and induced a couple of headaches as I watched it.
NOW TO THE ORIGINAL MUSICAL!
Andrew Lloyd Webber got the idea from T. S. Eliot’s 1939 poem book Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats and seeing how the poems went well should music be added – and he did just that! And so he decided to pursue this idea in the early months of 1980.
(See how better they are with their makeup and costumes? The film should have tried that, but with a bigger budget)
The musical is more of a ballet with musical elements thrown in. It has a plot, but its so faint one can just call this is a performance over plot kind of a musical. The songs are there to showcase the dancing and acrobatic talents of the actors chosen as well as their singing abilities. Kids like it for the fun songs and cats, adult like it because of the songs (of course the sexual thing is en par for the course) and the furries love it for all the reasons mentioned. This is a musical meant for families with all ages, because it has everything for everyone and also, the songs, as odd as they seem, are bouncy and full of clever rhyming because of T. S. Eliot’s brilliant rhyming skills.
It isn’t meant to challenge you, but entertain you!
BACK TO MOVIE!
The good things first, the music is beautiful, the cinematography is wonderful when they aren’t singing and there was a tiny bit of potential there, only to be ruined by some idiots idea that CGI and not makeup and costume would help suspend belief!
All the dances are filmed beautifully, highlights for me were Skimbleshanks – the railway cat – because of The Royal Ballet Principal dancer Steven McRae who is so much better than this move and I am glad it shows his tapping (as well as character dancing) even though his singing is not the best he is by far my favourite.
(He did Mad Hatter and tap danced there too, he is so AMAZING!)
Then there’s Taylor Swift as Macavity’s accomplice (in the movie) who steals the show with her one number in how it’s choreographed. She has one song and is gone, that’s it, so no resolution or any more numbers for the credits, which is just sad. You have Taylor Swift, use her as much as you can!
The changes to the source material are insulting for the most part, while only one change is understandable. That is Victoria, a white sheet of a character already except for the fact that her solo dance is supposed to be her becoming a cat (read: woman) from a kitten (read: girl/child). So her being the view character is OK, it’s just that Francesca Hayward – as lovely as a dancer she is – sings like Emmy Rossum in the other ALW adaptation, that is to say, not like a Musical singer and her acting leave’s much to be desired.
Here are the unforgivable things:
1. Mr Mistoffelees and Rum Tum Tugger and how it’s Straightened so that Mr Mistoffelees is now Victoria’s love interest. Mr Mistoffelees has been interpreted as having some kind of “relationship” (what ever you want to think) with Rum Tum Tugger for his one “can’t you believe this guy” line in Rum Tum Tugger’s solo song calling him a “bore”. Then, the fact that Rum Tum Tugger sings admiringly about Mr Mistoffelees with heart eyes and practically calling him “Senpai!”.
(HE LITERALLY PULLS A RAINBOW SCARF FROM THE TOP HAT!)
2. Rebel Wilson as Jennyanydots. I have no beef with Rebel Wilson, a wonderful human being, except that she clearly DIDN’T take this role seriously as others, which fascinatingly made them enjoyable to watch, and her fat jokes, the bad-dancing and just overall un-funniness just sours the whole film. The original musical had The Old Gumbie Cat as a good cat who helped mice and whose characterisation was of Edwardian middle-aged women who did charities (think Penelope Wilson’s character in Downton Abbey) and who simply wanted to do good because she could and wanted to. NOT MURDER HUMAN FACED COCKROACHES!
3. James Corden as Bustopher Jones. Again, with the fat jokes and misunderstanding this character COMPLETELY! He ISN’T supposed to be an alley cat who rumbles in the junkyard. He IS supposed to be a satire of the Victorian/Edwardian Upper Class with their big bellies, large food courses and poshness, but with good enough of a heart that he doesn’t look down on the other Jellicle cats, but is respected by them. Because he lives comfortably enough to dine at all of these restaurants (my head canon is that he befriends the cooks and they give him the food, no junkyard for him) and he is LIKEABLE!
4. Robbie Fairchild as Munkustrap. I HAVE NO QUALM WITH ANY OF THE PROFESSIONAL DANCERS OR THEATRE PEOPLE IN THIS MOVIE! I just have a few thoughts about his character that veneer in to this territory. First, Munkustrap is supposed to be a kind of master-of-ceremonies if you will in the musical. In the movie, I swear, he had sexual chemistry with anyone that breathed in to his direction and it was odd. He sings beautifully though, and that is wonderful to my ears, but not to my eyes. A wonderful human being in a terrible movie, that is all.
5. Some cats have shoes, some don’t and are human barefoot, this is never elaborated on. I can safely say that in the stage show they all have slippers and it makes for better cat legs because of the costumes.
6. Jennifer Hudson’s snot coming from her human nose. Tom Hooper tried to make it another ‘I Dreamed A Dream’, the latter is better than what this movie gave us.
7. No emphasis on touching = love. It is a theme in both the lyrics and in Grizabella’s story that she wants to be touched, to be loved and accepted and the touch is a metaphor for it. Needless to say the movie ignores this and has Victoria search her out, walk her in and touches her so. The line looses its punch because of it.
9. Jason Derulo is not sexy and Rum Tum Tum Tugger is supposed to be SEXY. He is THE sexual awaking for youngsters in the same vein as David Bowie is in Labyrinth.
10. Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer. They are supposed to be SIBLINGS or just platonic partners in crime not a threesome wanting duo who might be siblings, but it is never established. Also no cartwheels! THEY OWN THE CARTWHEELS!
So, as this list comes to end I can safely say that this movie is a deeply infuriating for people who know the musical, and deeply disappointing and weird for those with no prior knowledge of the musical or the songs.
THE LESSON WE SHOULD TAKE FROM THIS IS JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN DO SOMETHING IT DOESN’T MEAN YOU SHOULD!
Thank you for reading!