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Metronome Sessions

Film Review: Cats

27 December 19 words: Hollie Anderson

Leave expectations at the cat flap, and you might just enjoy it

Director: Tom Hooper

Starring: Francesca Hayward, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen

Running time: 110 mins

Tom Hooper’s latest stage-to-film adaptation (following his critically acclaimed Les Miserables) is already dividing audiences – and I can’t say I’m surprised. For those that don’t know the musical, it follows the Jellicle cats - a clan that gathers each year for a ball where one cat will be chosen to ascend to the Heaviside layer, where they can be reborn in a new life.

As such, from the very start you have be prepared to accept a strange premise. This extends to the aesthetics of the film – of course it’s going to look weird; it’s humans pretending to be felines. However, it does take time to get used to it – the scaling never feels quite right because the cats aren’t always on all fours. Are you looking in from the perspective of a human, or another cat? Why on earth are the mice so small, and cockroaches so big? How does a set that was physically built for purpose look so utterly fake? With such an astronomical budget, perhaps it could have been done better.

If you can accept the way it looks and become immersed in the story, it is still a decent film that dedicates itself to the big musical numbers and performs them with lovely choreography that made the most of the whole cast. But still a lot rides on the performances. Ian McKellen and Jennifer Hudson offer wonderful portrayals of dodgery Gus The Theatre Cat and down-trodden Grizabella. Laurie Davidson as the endearing, charming and totally unassuming Mr. Mistoffelees seems to steal the attention.

If you can ignore the cats in trainers you’ll enjoy it for the spectacle it’s aspiring to be, even though it doesn’t quite meet its mark

However, I’m not sure what is to be gained by including the likes of Jason Derulo. Ballerinas Robert Fairchild and Francesca Hayward are clearly talented, but their characters come across as a little bland and perhaps underused. Rebel Wilson’s performance could quite easily have been skipped over entirely. She can be funny, but she’s trying too hard to “be Rebel Wilson,” so any attempt at playing Jennyanydots is lost.

In fact, generally, the attempts at humour throughout the film are far too forced. We don’t need cat jokes. If anything, they break up the flow of the film and you’re reminded of how odd it all is. Some of the humour, though – like the seesaw scene with Corden as Bustopher Jones – is fab, and makes the most of the talent. There could and should have been more moments like it. Sadly, the film fails to be clever enough.

You don’t need to have seen the musical, or know too much about it, to watch the film – but be prepared to let go of expectations when you go in. If you can ignore the cats in trainers you’ll enjoy it for the spectacle it’s aspiring to be, even though it doesn’t quite meet its mark.

Did you know? One week after its release, it was revealed by The Daily Mail that director Tom Hooper edited and re-cut the film after it received zero stars by many critics.

Cats is in cinemas now

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