Look. I love CATS. It was my first Broadway musical. It changed my life. Yaddayadda (which is also my Jellicle* name). This all comes out of respect of a show I know and love.
Random mew-sings about CATS (some of it post-movie reflection, some actual notes I took during the movie):
😺 The CGI Cat suits are whatever. They’re basically CGI costumes (like a superhero would wear), complete with arm and leg holes and face paint vs. fur (though, sometimes their faces have fur. But it looks like they toned down the face CGI elements — like, you can see actor’s human flesh color around their eyes and the tip of their noses, as if to replicate worn stage makeup. This enhances the theatricality of it all. But, again, it’s not consistent).
😺 I was NOT prepared for all the tailography. It’s kind of upsetting. Like dancing fur snakes.
😺 I think we often forget CATS is — in many ways — a dance revue. The songs are mostly filler patter and dance arrangements peppered with an aria or three (or the same aria three times, to be precise). Thankfully, the design of this movie celebrates dancers and their bodies. The fur may look fake AF, but their body movements under the fur look and feel real. The choreography is fun, though I’d be lying if I didn’t say I missed the jazzersizey motions of the original.
😺 You know what this movie version doesn’t celebrate? Dancer bulge. We get flat kitty fronts and that’s not ok.
😺 James Corden is in far too many things. The (25 minute!) previews featured no less than two Pixar movies with him in them (and also Octavia Spencer?). Never before have I turned on liking someone so much in such a short time. Corden, I mean. Spencer, I adore. Have her in all the Pixars, etc.
😺 I’m registering live singing going on here. I’m pleased.
😺 JHud appears. Her acting moments during her entrance are lovely. Well done.
😺 Wait. Grizabella’s backstory is she ran off with Macavity and probably was raped and that’s why the cats shun her??? That’s … a lot.
😺 The entire Jennyanydots sequence is completely bonkers and left me frowning in confusion and arousal.
😺 Wait. Jennyanydots just died?
😺 You know what T.S. Eliot was missing? The witty improv repartee between James Corden and Rebel Wilson. (I feel these two sentences would be something Billy Eichner would yell at someone while holding a microphone to their face.)
😺 I will always ALWAYS have goosebumps during Old Deuteronomy’s entrance number. That choral arrangement is musical theatre ASMR.
😺 I was NOT ready for the Vogue moment at the Jellicile Ball, okurrr henny? *tongue pop*
😺 Back to this being a dance show: The audio team has done a great job preserving the sounds of dancers feet moving. A small but important thing to keep it feeling alive.
😺 Wait. SKIMBLESHANKS is the hot one now? It’s the mustache and jaunty overalls. Fun choreography. I’m now fully making the mental agreement this is a dance show with some bells and whistles. I’m totally on board this railway train. Woohooo!
😺 Just how big ARE these cats? The scale of this movie is discombobulating. One minute they are the width of a single railway tie, and the next they stand up to half the height of a human door.
😺 To that point, I have a (griddle)bone to pick with the designer. One of the many charms of CATS is how they use found objects to manufacture their world. It’s charming AF to see them dancing with spoons as canes. But here, I’m seeing props that are cat sized – like TaySwift’s moon. What moon that tiny (Jellicle cats, as we said, are small) would have a padded leather seat? It’s lazy art direction. Be more clever.
😺 I prefer my Mister Mistoffelees gay and extra from the start. Not this meek and mild creature, character development be dammed.
😺 Ah, the MEMORY moment. Which leads me to my BIGGEST beef with this movie.
It’s a small moment many may have missed.
As Grizabella walks up to Old Deut to plead her case, Victoria says to her: “Sing.”
And she does.
You know what this does? This makes the song a performance. A performance that the characters in the play acknowledge as a performance. This moment – THE MOMENT OF THE MOVIE – is not treated as a poetic cry for love and acceptance. It’s now an American Idol audition. This is a travesty, my friends. Much worse than CGI fur.
😺 Check out Dame JD giving the children a lesson in recitative and direct address!
😺 And the heaviside layer is an actual Victorian helium balloon courtesy of Universal budget. Got it. Who needs a subtle visual metaphor (LIKE A GIANT TIRE BECOMING A UFO AND LEVITATING WHILE A GLITTER STAIRCASE TO THE STARS LOWERS FROM THE RAFTERS OF THE WINTER GARDEN THEATRE IN SPRING OF 1988) when we can do something so literal??
Sorry. I got too deep.
So… I enjoyed it. I liked the dancing. The direction and choices were questionable but fine. I ate too much popcorn.
*I can’t tell you how many times I misspelled this.