In Brief: The play on Broadway might be a legend but the movie is a bomb.
People who’ve seen the Broadway play have been wondering how director Tom Hooper and his co-writer Lee Hall (Rocketman) could possibly turn Cats into a movie. They did. The second question often asked is, “Will it be a good one?”
We now have an answer to both.
The first answer is obvious. With some plot changes, Hooper managed to make a movie. That leads to point two. Cats is not a very good movie. The plot changes are just part of what will put a stop to the Cats purist purring.
Sadly, they weren’t all that necessary.
Traditionalists will also be bothered about a major character change. Old Deuteronomy went from being a patriarch to a matriarch. Since she’s done by Judi Dench does it matter? It’s a nice casting coup. Dench has star power. Other cast notables include Taylor Swift, Ian McKellen, Rebel Wilson, Late, Late Show host James Cordon and Jennifer Hudson whose version of Memory is mind-boggling. It will bring tears to your eyes.
Tears of a different kind come from wasting Idris Elba as movie meany Mcavity. Bad guys need something to do. They need to be bad. In this case the definition of bad means badly done.
In other words, what is big on Broadway is a bomb on the big screen.
The show is stolen by newcomer and ballerina, Francesca Hayward. She’s drop-dead gorgeous with or without cat garb. Hayward plays dumped cat and newest member of the Jellicles. Her performance may just may have helped her sing and dance her way to a shot at stardom.
Her star vehicle — as noted — doesn’t fare so well. What works on a stage often doesn’t translate well to the big screen.
That’s the case here.
Hayward and her cast mates sing their hearts out, and they leap, dance and prance about the sound stage trying to make you care that one of history’s longest running Broadway plays is now a movie.
Hooper — who blew all of us away with his Oscar and Golden Globe winning The King’s Speech — tries hard to make the concept work. The thrill of live theater makes being on Broadway a larger-than-life experience. Like he did with Les Miserables, try as he might, Hooper isn’t able to give you the same sense of grandiosity.
The story — as many of you know — comes from a collection of poems written by T.S. Eliot. Andrew Lloyd Weber set them to music. Hooper’s recording is awful and the poor recording turns the lyrics into a jumble. Those unfamiliar with the plot are quickly lost.
The whole thing is so badly done that fans that are up to speed on the story will find themselves trying — but unable — to care. About all that’s fun about Hooper’s movie is the cat puns and wordplay. The play — and now the movie — is packed with them.
I can’t use the word to describe the movie but some wordplay of my own will suffice. This one definitely belongs in a box of kitty litter.
Director: Tom Hooper
Stars: Francesca Hayward, Taylor Swift, Idris Elba, Judi Dench, Ian McKellan, Rebel Wilson, James Corden, Mette Towley, Laurie Davidson, Jennifer Hudson, Danny Collins
Rated PG for mature themes. Definitely destined for the nearest box of kitty litter. Give this one a 2 1/2 on the Friday Flicks with Gary 0 to 5 scale.
Click here for theaters and show times.
Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.