Cats (2019) Movie Review

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I will start this review by saying, in all likeliness…you are right and I am wrong.  But at the same time, I will say that I know what I saw, even if you disagree.  To some this will be a little different, considering I’m reviewing this on the weekend in which it came out.  The same weekend that includes the premier of Stars Wars: Rise Of The Skywalker…a movie I won’t be seeing, as I still haven’t watched The Last Jedi (Sorry Trekkies, and take a joke. *wink*) – so here we are, a film that is unlike anything I have ever paid to see.  This is Cats.

Set in London in around the 1920s (rough estimate), our film revolves around a group of street cats who seek to be reborn as either Cats in a better life or, literally, reborn, as in reincarnation.  The cats themselves come in all shapes and sizes, some working together, others in competition with each other, and others abusing the weaknesses of others to their advantages.  We start off by being introduced to Victoria (played by ballerina Francesca Hayward) a young white kitten recently abandoned and introduced to the gang known as the Jellicle cats, who are going to the Jellicle Ball for their great performance.

Now to see why I might be kind to this where others are not:

The Art Style…will not be everybody’s favourite brand of coffee bean.  I look at it as a whole, but what a lot of people seem to focus on is the ‘creepy character designs’…character designs that would excite a Furry, cause a sense of justified indifference (since actual cat anatomy will not replicate what we see on the stage) or be the stuff of nightmares.  It depends on whether you choose to see this as an attempt at live-action gone wrong, or as an animated film that’s a little too close to the edge of reality to qualify as ‘cartoon’.  Personally I liked the CGI Backgrounds, along with the colours used, and looked at them as if I was looking at a 3D Concept Art Piece on Artstation rather than any kind of attempt to replicate reality.  I can also understand the revolt over the character designs, as folk probably wanted it to be more like the remakes of the Disney Renaissance or Puss In Boots in the Shrek movies.  It wasn’t great.  But I was never really that bothered by this…don’t look at me like that.

The Music in this film is of excellent quality and I won’t deny that fact.  Some of it remains burned into my memory – somewhere between the opening of Duck Tales and the not-fly-me-to-the-moon outro of Neon Genesis Evangelion.  But more leaning towards the former.  The songs are by far the best thing about this movie – Enjoyable, catchy, and haunting, even if you might need to read the lyrics.  The new song that wasn’t in the stage play, “Beautiful Ghosts”, presented as Victoria’s song, but is sung by Taylor Swift, was 1 of the highlights of the movie for me, as well as Jennifer Hudson’s performance of “Memory”.  This should do well as an MP3 or CD I would say.

The dancing is a more difficult thing for me to talk about, because musicals are not my forte.  I can enjoy them – but not know anything about what I’ve seen.  My friends on the other hand managed to see things that I didn’t – including sequences where feet weren’t touching the ground, and in the process, they were floating…which, in a story that appears to contain magic, could be (sort of) overlooked when the action is fast paced.  I thought they were really well done in the end, despite how weird some of it looked when the CGI was applied.

The Story is…rather abstract.  A group of cats are…performing to see if they can get a new life/be reborn.  In truth, abstract is my most positive description, because as someone who love stories, this did nothing for me.  It wasn’t like Victoria had a Rocky Montage and then won the Jellicle Ball at the end, nothing like that.  In the process, the best I could do is treat the film as a music collection held together by the strings and gum of unfortunate writing in the middle of each song.  I’m giving it 1 star out of 5, because while it did nothing for me…I wasn’t angry with it.  Take it as an eatable mess.

The acting consists of an all-star cast, ranging from singers such as Taylor Swift and Jennifer Hudson, comedians such as Rebel Wilson and James Corden, and mainstream/veteran actors such as ldris Elba, Judy Dench and Ian McKellen.  This, I didn’t have a problem with, because I realise that everybody cared about what they were doing and really put a lot of effort into making this work.  So they did their part, and did it well…I can understand the hatred of James Corden because of what he’s like outside of this.  But I wasn’t pushed heavily into wishing he was off the screen.  Idris Elba, to a degree, was fun in his role – even if the mysterious Macavity didn’t get a lot of time to get really interesting or fleshed out.

The Characters…We have so many names (3 for each cat to be exact).  Some are more memorable than others, but the general gist as far as I’m concerned, is that these are more or less “every cat”.  Every big cat.  Every kitten.  Every grizzled veteran.  Every sly, crafty and scheming cat.  The development of all these cats are as follows; “Here we are, here’s our song that talks about us.  Bye bye now!” – some cats then reappear in other songs, but for the most part, this is them.  If you want to know more about them, read the book.

The cinematography was strong throughout the experience – however the jumps from scenery to scenery without any hint might bother some people.  “Wait a minute…they went from walking along train tracks to walking along the hall of a carriage with no train in sight?  At night time?  With the lights on?  What’s going on?”  Some good angles are present.  The editing of them might be what bothers me the most though.

Would I recommend Cats?  I will…to a niche audience, as well as people who enjoy weird and wacky cinema regardless of the rag sheets.  I have suggested (as a laugh) to use Terry Gilliam’s Tideland method:  Watch the film, but have a different film running parallel in your head.  In this case, you imagine them as real cats, and when they are singing, it is actually a pile of cats hissing and screeching and meowing at each other.  I have seen Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 1973 film The Holy Mountain (forget the symbolism, that film melts your brain like paint thinner), and I can tell you that this is easily more enjoyable.  It might not be as enjoyable as a Disney movie, but it’s more enjoyable than some avant garde…and that’s really the best way I can relay it.  It’s clear that the performers worked really hard, and in their own right, delivered.  But there were a lot of problems that have hidden the gold in the dirt.  Indeed, watch this with consequences in mind – but when it comes out on DVD, I would be interested to hear what people say it’s like if they watch it as part of a Drinking Game.

Art Style: ****

CGI: **1/2

Music: ****1/2

Dance: ****

Story: *

Acting: ***3/4

Characters: **1/4

Cinematography: ***3/4

Overall: ***1/2

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