Picoreview: Cats: I have seen it twice and have no regrets.
Simultaneously, there are an awful lot of things I’d have done differently. I’d have started by not casting Rebel Wilson, or doing *that* with her song. Especially the latter. A great deal could have been forgiven if they’d stuck with the stage show’s method of creating the cockroaches and mice (which is “have the cats dress up as the cockroaches and mice”, which was funny rather than horrifying and mind-bleeding, and as I use those words, I remind you that I actually quite loved this movie, which perhaps gives you a standard of 1. my trustworthiness about movies in general, and 2. how awful it was).
I also, and this is EXTREMELY KEY, would have put the dancers in unitards of appropriate cat colors, and used motion capture reference dots like they do with, say, Avengers. Apparently what they DID was just putting the performers in green suits and hope the animators could deal with it, which…
Look. I was not one of the people who ran screaming from the trailer. I was DELIGHTED with the trailer. I *genuinely feel* that the costuming and CGI here are the natural progression of the stage show into modern film production special effects. That said, you really have to use those tools correctly, and…they did not, in this case. In fact, given that there were NO REFERENCE DOTS for the animators to work with, it’s astounding they managed as well as they did. Those poor, poor animators.
But honestly, I did love it. It’s a surprisingly faithful adaptation of the stage show. They cut a couple of songs and added one as an Oscar contender and it should definitely not win. For inexplicable reasons they attempted to insert a Macavity subplot, which would be fine if CATS had ANY PLOT WORTH MENTIONING TO BEGIN WITH–
–and here I interrupt myself to say that a lot of people see its plot as “a bunch of death cult cats get together to see who is going to die next,” and I find that really interesting because I honestly never thought it was about death. It’s about the new life, the next life, because cats, of course, have nine. I genuinely never saw it about “choosing somebody to die,” because it’s right there in the text: Old Deuteronomy will choose the cat who will now be reborn and go on to a different Jellicle life. So I’ve been sort of dismayed by all the IT’S ABOUT CATS DYING takes, which I feel miss the point.
Idris Elba, unexpectedly, was quite terrible. My sister, with whom I went to the movie the second time, could not handle Ian MacKellan’s Gus lapping up milk and things, although I honestly thought he was really wonderful in the role. For reasons that were meant to induce tension and instead were sort of embarrassing (and tbf, even having loved it, a lot of it was embarrassing), they made Mistopholees incompetent, which was weird and wrong.
But overall, truly, the first time through I just enjoyed it hugely and the second time I was frequently sitting there just enjoying this unironically and then I’d look over to see my sister watching the film through the fingers pinching her the bridge of her nose, and then the absurdity, the absolute INSANITY of it, would strike me, and I’d start laughing.
I said this to Deirdre, who said, “I ENJOYED it, it’s just so fucking BIZARRE I’m questioning my entire childhood.”
Also Deirdre: this is EXACTLY like the stage show
Her son, who came with us: BUT WHY
Me, in Deirdre’s ear, at the Addressing of Cats, regarding Munkustrap: I love his emotional integrity
Nephew, simultaneously in her other ear: that guy is having paranoid delusions
I feel like this nicely sums up the possible spectrum of reactions to CATS. :) :) :)
Also my nephew, after several minutes of baffled ranting (“what IS a jellicle cat? Why did it have no plot? What was GOING ON with those mice?”): I think I want to see that again
So there’s that. :)
On the topic of “What IS a Jellicle cat?!?”, Dad got me a copy of Old Possum’s Book of Cats for Christmas, and I learned something: TS Elliot had written the poems for a 4 year old godnephew who called dogs “poor little dogs” which he pronounced pollicle dogs and cats “dear little cats” — jellicle cats. (Pollicle is much less of a stretch than jellicle, there, but I’m not a 4 year old in 1932 or whatever so what do I know.)
On one hand, this is totally unnecessary information for the show. On the other, IT’S ACTUALLY VERY USEFUL TO KNOW. Because although there’s AN ENTIRE SONG telling you what a Jellicle cat is, that song, and others in the play, are also full of contradictions. Like, I’ve spent my whole life unclear on why there are songs about Jenny Any Dots, whose coat is of the tabby kind with tiger stripes and leopard spots
when Jellicle cats are black and white
and Busterphor Jones, who’s not skin and bones
when Jellicle cats are rather small
on the other hand, Jellicle cats are roly poly but
Macavity’s a ginger cat, who’s very tall and thin
and so on and so forth full of inconsistencies. On a fundamental level I always apparently wanted ‘Jellicle’ to somehow correlate to a breed, and having learned this one stupid little bit of trivia about it being a small child’s word, I NO LONGER HAVE THAT NEED.
I don’t know if I’ve still got my CATS program from the Broadway show in 1987, but I don’t remember it *having* that bit of trivia, which I feel would have made my life just a little bit less uneasy for all these years.
Anyway, the truth is CATS works better as a stage show. The immediacy of the cats being on the stage, of the audience being there literally surrounded by the story, allows what my sister not incorrectly referred to as the FUCKING BIZARRENESS of it to slide away a little. I really don’t think it’s the makeup or the CGI. I think it’s the intimacy of theatre vs the remove and physical size of the movies.
I am, however, still *really hoping* that there’s gonna be a sing-along at my local theatre before it leaves… :)