to an extreme degree—dignity and comicality.”
|The Man Who Loved Cat-Dancing|
25-year-old me in the throes of serious Cat-mania
Taken just before attending the 2pm Matinee performance of Cats
|Dame Judi Dench as Old Deuteronomy|
|Idris Elba as Macavity the Mystery Cat|
|Taylor Swift as Bombalurina|
|Sir Ian McKellen as Gus the Theater Cat|
|Francesca Hayward as Victoria|
Her role as the tribe newbie in Cats serves the same 'stranger in a strange land' narrative purpose
as John Savage's transplanted Oklahoman Claude Hooper Bukowski in the film version of HAIR
|Robert Fairchild as Munkustrap|
|Laurie Davidson as Magical Mr. Mistoffeles|
The appearance of the cats is so disturbing, I don't think I heard a single word of the film's first number "Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats"; my mind was turning somersaults trying to make sense of all that was being thrown at me. It was like watching the ending of Hereditary while listening to Andrew Lloyd Webber music on headphones.
|A fantasy full of hellscape imagery, Cats: The Movie is one of the ugliest films I've ever seen.|
And I've seen a naked, tattooed Rod Steiger in The Illustrated Man
|Jason Derulo as Rum Tum Tugger|
|Jennifer Hudson as Grizabella the Glamour Cat|
Cats are said to have 3 names. If she were my cat, I'd name her Mavis McMucus
Ultimately, watching the film became something of a spine-tingler; every time I found myself relaxing, something would come along to gross me out (James Corden coughing up a furball, for example) or make me curse whatever drugs these people were on to even conceive of such lunacy.
One has to dig up a copy of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, especially one containing the illustrations of Edward Gorey or Nicolas Bentley, to get a sense of the charming wit and self-aware silliness of Eliot’s original cat poems written for his godchildren. You see fleeting glimpses of it in the corners of Cats: The Movie—for example, during “The Ad-dressing of Cats” (which Judi Dench knocks out of the park) there’s a lovely moment after Deuteronomy declares “A cat is not a dog!” and the cats surrounding her exchange glances like children lovingly humoring an elder parent who might be losing it. But those few and far-between hints of playfulness are largely obscured by eyesore production values and a ponderous solemnity that feels tonally at odds with the movie’s in-your-face bizarreness.
With barely time to catch one’s breath, we’re confronted with the equally dire James Corden in an eye-assault number loaded with more pratfalls, spitting, and hits to the groin. All in support of the comic premise that the mere sight of an overweight cat eating is inherently hilarious. Both numbers are such irredeemably crass clusterfucks, they make John Waters movies look like Pixar productions.
So that I might end things on an upbeat note here, let me just say that there were a few things about Cats: The Movie that I liked, very much indeed.
I'm a verified cornball, so I found it a thrill to hear Andrew Lloyd’s Webber’s gorgeous score again after so many years, doubly thrilling to find I still knew all the words. Despite their familiarity, certain songs and musical passages (especially during the Jellicle Ball, when Hooper could be trusted to let the music take over and not break the rhythm with cutaways) sustained their ability to move me and give me waterworks (calling to mind the line from Noel Coward’s Private Lives: “Extraordinary how potent cheap music is”).
|Steven McRae as Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat|
|The1962 Judy Garland-Robert Goulet animated musical Gay Purr-ee|
|A suitably repurposed ad for the 1969 thriller Eye of the Cat|
| Tom Hooper can take solace in the fact that finding the proper scale for|
humanoid cats has always been a problem. In this 1986 anti-smoking PSA,
Andrew Lloyd Webber's felines are as small as mice.
|I Tawt I Taw a Putty Tat!|
Cats is bookended by the image of a cat's face (winking at the film's start)
peeking out through the clouds over London
Copyright © Ken Anderson 2009 - 2020