Flicks With Nicki – Oh My Gosh, I liked ‘Cats’
“Cats” is based on T. S. Eliot’s 1939 book of poetry “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.” In the late 1970’s, Andrew Lloyd Webber began writing a musical about this collection of poems. The original stage production opened in London in 1981 and on Broadway in 1982.
Before you go see this movie (and you should totally see it) it helps to remember:
– T.S. Eliot wrote and was able to publish an entire book of nonsensical cat poems.
– Andrew Lloyd Webber is the same person who brought the world “Starlight Express,” a musical where the actors perform the entire show on roller skates. I know. I’ve seen it twice. London and Atlanta.
– The 1980’s. Do you remember the 80’s at all? Skintight shiny unitards, spiky hair, and makeup like the rock band KISS. “Cats” is the perfect storm of Eliot, Webber, and the 1980’s.
Do. Not. Blame. Idris. Elba. For. This.
This foolishness dates back to the 1930’s.
We see only one human in the film. A woman tosses a bag onto the streets of London, and a kitten emerges from the bag. The street cats welcome her to their world. Her name is Victoria, and they are “Jellicle” cats. The Jellicle Ball is about to start. This is an American Idol like competition to sing your way into the Heaviside Layer and be granted a new life. That’s right, they sing for cat death. The grand prize is reincarnation.
Do. Not. Blame. Dame. Judi. Dench. For. This.
Jellicle supposedly comes from the phrase “Dear Little ‘Cats’.” In some British cockney accents, “little” becomes “likkle.” It follows that the “Da” sound becomes “Ja.” I only spend so much time on this because if you don’t know, you will spend half the movie wondering what a “Jellicle” cat is. Are there other tribes of cat? What are they called? Will they get a musical? I watched an entire movie based on Minions, so maybe.
For me “Jellicle” sounded like “angelical.” That’s my definition.
There are all kinds of Jellicle cats. The house cat (Rebel Wilson) is named Jennyanydots. She trains mice and cockroaches to sing and dance. There’s a song about that. Fat cat Bustopher Jones (James Corden) is fancy, but he eats garbage. There’s a song about that. It follows that there’s a smooth-talking cat (Jason Derulo) and catnip cat (Taylor Swift). They all sing about themselves. Theater cat (Sir Ian McKellen) makes eyes at the leader of the Jellicle cats, Old Deuteronomy (Dame Judi Dench).
Two pieces of faux British royalty are on the screen in catsuits, scratching behind their ears, and snuggling when they hug! It was both funny as in strange, and funny as in amusing. This nonsensical story and production is absurd and elating. I watched and thought, “This is the most insane thing I’ve ever seen.”
Do. Not. Blame. Jennifer. Hudson. For. This.
The bad cat is Macavity (Idris Elba). He tries to cheat his way to the Heaviside. My only real complaint about the movie is that they tried to make my Elba not sexy by putting him in a creepy bear-like cat costume. No dumb movie can ruin that man. His voice is sexy. His teeth are sexy. We are here for you, Mr. Elba!
The final cat used to be posh, but now is an alley cat. That’s Jennifer Hudson as Grizabella. Having never seen any version of “Cats” on stage or screen, I still knew the most important song of the musical is “Memory.” As soon as I saw Hudson, I was like “Oh, she’s going to do her thing.” In the midst of cats backflipping across stage and crawling on the floor, Ms. Hudson opens her mouth to sing. You know when Grizabella sings we are getting a little church. Prepare to clutch your heart. No amount of mangy fur can alter that woman’s voice. Amen.
Despite almost no plot, a series of very strange songs, and humans dressed as cats this movie has a lot to offer. We hear funny cat names like Rum Tum Tugger and Mr. Mistoffelees. We see amazing dancing. Francesca Hayward who plays Victoria is principal dancer in the Royal Ballet in London. Skimbleshanks is the rail cat who puts on a tap routine worth the price of admission. Laurent and Larry Nicolas Bourgeois are the French dancers who bring the cats Plato and Socrates to life.
I wish I could say it wasn’t weird. The truth is the entire thing is very absurd, ridiculous, and outrageous.
The director Tom Hooper also brought us “Les Misérables” in 2012. It is foolish to adapt plays especially musicals to screen. Movies cannot capture the raw talent of movement and dance. If they can, it seems false since much of Hollywood is magic and not sweat. On the stage we see the sweat and strength it takes to perform in front of a live audience. On film, all we focus on is Idris in a creepy catsuit. He was still sexy though. Creepy sexy.
On the other hand, I appreciate film adaptations of stage productions. Most people cannot afford a stage show. It is impossible for me to spend $200 to $2,000 (I’m looking at you “Hamilton”) per ticket for my entire family. I can afford to take my family to see “Cats” in the movie theater. Only one of my kids was interested. We went. We were incredulous. We laughed. We came home and listened to the entire soundtrack again.
Full disclosure, I watched “Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker” the night before I saw “Cats.” No spoilers, but “Cats” was better. Much better.
I spent half the movie in shock. What. The. Hell. Am. I. Watching. It’s like a strange dream. The tails are moving. The tails are part of the choreography.
I spent the other half of the movie in more shock. What. The. Hell. I. Almost. Like. This. It is silly, but happy silly. Like I stepped through a looking glass into a world of cats. I love cats. They are loving. They are petty. They should all make it Heaviside in a chandelier hot air balloon. Yes. That’s how it ended. Grade B-.