Cats movie review: A spectacle of sights and sounds

Updated: Jan 07, 2020, 10:27 IST | Johnson Thomas | Mumbai

You might appreciate the jazz ballet and the music, but beyond that, there's nothing much on show other than the outline of naked bodies under skinny, coloured tight costumes that the Indian censor board would rather blur out en masse.

A still from Cats
A still from Cats

Cats
U/A: Drama musical
Director: Tom Hooper
Cast: Francesca Hayward, James Corden, Judi Dench, Taylor Swift
Rating: Rating

This cinematic reproduction of the spectacular musical theatre hit performance that was Andrew Lloyd Webber's adaptation of TS Eliot's 1939 published book, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, has a wonderfully talented cast.

Tom Hooper, the director of Les Miserables and The King's Speech, brings Cats to the screen — but there's nothing unique or interesting going for it other than the multifaceted cast, including Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, Judi Dench, and Francesca Howard. The narrative is peopled with grown humans crawling around in skin-tight suits pretending to be cats.

There's not much of a story to drive the film forward; it rests on a wafer-thin plot, and there's no conflict to spur on the interest. What we get is a sort of show of talents, designed for cats/Jellicles, and the prize is a trip to Heavyside Layer, a sort of heaven where cats can don their next incarnation as part of their so-called nine lives.

The production design is the key, but even that follows in the pattern of its stage predecessor. The film opens with Victoria, who, having been abandoned by her owners, is taken under the collective wing of the gang of street cats /Jellicle cats. There's plenty of song and dance explaining the concept, but the lyrics are not clearly comprehensible. So the overall involvement is minimal. Individual cats come into their own as they perform a number about who they are. You have Old Deuteronomy (Dench) as the wise and elder cat, and the master of ceremonies, Jennyanydots (Rebel Wilson) a lazy tabby wreaking havoc at night, Bustopher Jones (James Corden), a street cat decked out in tail-coat and spats, Mr Mistoffelees (Laurie Davidson) a performer of magic tricks, Skimbleshanks (Steven McRae) who commandeers railway cars with the power of his tap-dancing, and so forth. But Macavity (Idris Elba) shows up to wreck everybody else's performance. Swift plays Bombalurina, Macavity's gun moll sidekick.

Watch the trailer of Francesca Hayward, James Corden, Judi Dench, Taylor Swift starrer Cats here

When Grizabella (Jennifer Hudson) sings Memory, a song supposedly based on Eliot's poem Rhapsody on a Windy Night, the interest perks up. But, it's eventually all up to Dench's The Ad-dressing of Cats, a masterfully playful recital that hearkens back to Eliot's whimsy, to rescue the show from its outlandishly gilded plumes.

You might appreciate the jazz ballet and the music, but beyond that, there's nothing much on show other than the outline of naked bodies under skinny, coloured tight costumes that the Indian censor board would rather blur out en masse.

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