MCN Commentary & Analysis

Review: Cats

I never liked the show, “Cats.”

Critics never liked the show, “Cats.”

More than 73 million people have bought tickets to the show, “Cats.” And even if just half of them liked it and one-quarter loved it, that’s over 36 million people who will enjoy this movie.

Tom Hooper and co-writer Lee Hall didn’t transform the show. They made a movie with cinematic skills and recreated the show. Cats.

It is one of the saddest things in film criticism when critics decided that pissing on something is more cool — or hip, if you will — than actually reviewing what the movie is.

It’s fucking CATS!!!

I don’t know what “jellicle” means. I don’t care.

I don’t care about Jason Derulo’s schlong. But I was fascinated by the amount of digital work and costume choices to eliminate any human sex parts in a film where everyone under 45 is wearing skintight costumes. (They also made some butts rounder and more dramatic.)

I am not the audience for this movie. Not in the least. I love the theater. I never come late. But I still have anxiety about going to see anything in the Winter Garden Theater on Broadway because “Cats” was there for so long.

But my lord… it’s “Cats.” “Midnight… all the kitties are sleeeeeeeping.”

I feel a bit like this about the hatred that showed up for Charlie’s Angels. I mean… come on. It’s Charlie’s Angels!

I am going to recommend Cats on Rotten Tomatoes because if you like Cats: The Show you are going to like or love Cats The Motion Picture.

And I have news for you… I still get shit from lazy thinkers about The Phantom of the Opera (which was my frontrunner for a week before I was the first and only person for weeks to call Million Dollar Baby the likely winner). I would not see that show on stage. I have never seen that show on stage. But I thought Joel Schumacher made the gay soap opera that it was rather nicely and way beyond my expectations and I thought both Emmy Rossum and Gerard Butler acquitted themselves quite well. I never said I loved the movie. I didn’t. And I misjudged how the negativity would affect Academy voters (and that they really didn’t want more movie musicals). But the movie did $155 million worldwide. 33% Tomatometer. 84% Audience Score.

I expect much the same for Cats.

It isn’t for me. It isn’t for film critics. But it is what it is.

18 Responses to “Review: Cats”

  1. Connor Butthead says:

    This review honestly sounds like it was written like a five year old. The writer makes the point, “It is one of the saddest things in film criticism when critics decided that pissing on something is more cool – or hip, if you will – than actually reviewing what the movie is.” which would be totally valid if they had actually gone on to review the movie themselves, but no, it’s just a bunch of vague statements and rambling about other people’s opinions.
    This should NOT be weighted by rotten tomatoes.

  2. David Poland says:

    So, Mr. Butthead… you don’t know exactly what I think of Cats from this review?

  3. movieman says:

    A lot of effort (and considerable skill) went into making “Cats” into a movie, but to little avail.
    It feels trapped inside a Never Never Land existing between stage, screen and a computer lab.
    I had a hard time discerning a “plot,” there’s precious little characterization to any of the cats, and the score–except “Memory,” of course–is stubbornly unmemorable.
    My screening companion told me that Grizelda (that’s her name, right?) had as minuscule a role in the stage production with–what?–two fleeting appearances.
    I’m assuming Betty Buckley must have won the Tony because she sang “Memory” really, really well. (And she did.)
    But yikes. Imagine all that downtime backstage between scenes!
    It’s enough to drive a person crazy…to quote a far more talented musical theater composer than ALW.

    I have no idea how it’s going to do as a film. “Phantom” was an even bigger stage hit and the movie tanked.
    There were three other people in our auditorium last night. (Two of whom performed a coughing duet from start to finish: you’d swear they rehearsed beforehand.)

  4. Bob Burns says:

    bloggers and film critics judge everything by the rules of actor-driven drama. Over and over, they ignore the music, and judge musicals by the stuff between the songs, without ever realizing that musicals are always about the songs. If a musical has two or three really good songs it gets an A+, even if the rest is mediocre.

  5. movieman says:

    Daunting statistic:

    Disney’s “Frozen 2” made more money from just domestic theaters in its fifth weekend of release ($12.4 million) than “Cats” earned globally this weekend ($10.9 million).

  6. cadavra says:

    Haven’t seen the film yet, but IIRC, the opening number of that stage show explains that Jellicles are the specific breed of cat who populate the alley where the action takes place.

    And you are eminently correct about the critics waiting to piss on it. Can anyone remember the last adaptation of a Broadway musical the critics didn’t dump on? CABARET, maybe?

  7. mustang sally says:

    Weak effort. Both the column and the movie.

  8. movieman says:

    Cad: I have one word for you: “Chicago.”

    And both “Into the Woods” and “Sweeney Todd” were fairly well-received both critically and w/ audiences.

  9. Ben Kabak says:

    That’s your professional review? Really Dave? Why even write or comment about films if you’re going to go out of your way to give a pass to anything that comes out. A thoroughly embarrassing critical statement.

  10. David Poland says:

    Ben… what are you trying to say? You disagree so I shouldn’t offer an opinion?

    Yes, my professional, 300+ films a year, 20 years of writing criticism response to Cats is, “so what?” It will satisfy those who love this material and no one else. Pretending there is something much more to analyze about the film is a waste of my time and readers’ time.

  11. David Poland says:

    Movieman… Sweeney Todd got shat upon hard. Into The Woods should have been shat upon more.

  12. movieman says:

    That wasn’t my recollection, Dave.
    For a memory-refresher, I checked RT.

    “Sweeney” has an 85% favorable rating. (I still remember Paramount sending out screeners between Xmas and New Year’s in ’07).
    And–now this surprised me–“Into the Woods” has a 71% RT favorable rating.
    The surprising thing was that it was as relatively low as it was (yet still “Certified Fresh”).
    I could have sworn “Woods” was better reviewed at the time.
    Hey, I liked it. (And it took me 17 years to come around on Rob Marshall’s “Chicago” which I finally love.)

  13. cadavra says:

    Thanks for the update. Yes, CHICAGO, SWEENEY and WOODS all were largely favorably reviewed; I guess I kinda blanked on the first two because they deviated so much from the stage versions (you’d never know CHICAGO is a comedy from just the movie), and like Movieman, I thought WOODS was less well received that 71%.

    BTW, will the edit function ever return?

  14. palmtree says:

    The John Carney movies (Once, Begin Again, Sing Street) are all pretty much movie musicals and all pretty well-reviewed.

  15. Glamourboy says:

    Sweeny Todd got very good reviews…and I’m not sure why you think that Into The Woods should have been shat on….it is a mostly terrific film with great performances…and probably about as good of a film version you would get from the play (which is one of my favorites).

    I do love how you are still defending your position on Phantom….it was a horrible film….anyone could (and did) see that….nobody (other than you) predicted that it was the front runner for Best Picture. Butler was horrible as the Phantom (and it is a career-making role)….Schumacher did what he did best…downgrade a potentially good project.

    And let’s be clear…Cats the broadway musical is not Cats the movie..there are many choices that went into making the film…the digital CGI….the acid-trip visual elements, many costume mistakes (Judi Dench resembling the Cowardly Lion so much that the audience I saw it with collectively laughed..we were all thinking the same thing I am sure.). Jennifer Hudson’s horrible choice to play Grizzabella as a bag lady (Betty Buckley, one of the original Grizzabellas recently stated that the part had to be played with a completely lack of self pity or the role falls apart….nobody mentioned this to Miss Hudson). The bizarre choice to have her character (SPOILER? MAYBE?) fly off in some sort of hot air balloon to kitty kat heaven). There are lots of decisions that informed the making of this film that had very little to do with the stage play. And….considering how many people saw the play and how few people are seeing the movie…I think you are wrong….if you did love the play you might be totally bewildered by the movie. In fact, the play really hides the fact that there is very little plot here..something that is hidden by the impressive staging and theatricality of it.

    Adding to the somewhat successful musicals…RT has Les Miserables at 69% and Dreamgirls at 78%

  16. Glamourboy says:

    You also state that critics didn’t like the show, Cats. This NY times review seems pretty terrific to me.

    It also won the Lawrence Olivier award for 1981 for Best Musical. 3 Drama Desk awards, the Outer Critics Award for Best Musical, 7 Tony Awards including Best Musical.

  17. movieman says:

    Palm- The original talking point was “Broadway musicals transitioning to films.”
    While “Once” eventually became a stage musical, its origins were on film.
    Carney’s follow-ups, “Begin Again” and “Sing Street,” are both good movies, but neither achieved the critical mass (or cult success) of “Once.”

    By the same token, “La La Land” and “The Greatest Showman” were original movie musicals that performed well at the bo., although only one of them (“La La”) was well-reviewed.

  18. movieman says:

    2004’s “Phantom of the Opera” (widely considered to be a b.o. “disaster”) actually grossed $51-million domestic (in ’04/’05 dollars).
    At the close of 2019, “Cats” has yet to hit $20-million. If it ekes out another $5-million–a big “if”–that’ll be a miracle.
    Sad all the way around.

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