Based on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats stage production, Tom Hooper’s much-talked-about film adaptation is a grand musical extravaganza of musically soaring heights. Although it’s a film, it most definitely feels like a stage show and if you’re into musicals on the stage, you’ll tremble before its musical excellence. Cats is a toe-tapping movie musical of fantastic talent.
Introducing ballet dancer Francesca Hayward, a star-in-the-making who shines with her feline acting of subtly and sweetness, but by god, with a voice from the heavens. There is a magical touch to the experience, a touch that has been critised in being too other worldly for people to handle. That being the feline twist on a human figure. The movements are majestic and blend well, you are left aware but in-line with the concept.
Over the course of a single night, a tribe of cats called the Jellicles make what is known as the Jellicle choice and decide which cat will ascend and come back to a new life. Victoria (Francesca Hayward) is an abandoned cat, met by the somewhat confrontational tribe of Jellicle cats. A set of mini-adventures begin a night of magic, singing and dancing, with the eventual ascension of one cat.
Absolutely in the grounds of the uncanny valley, Cats‘ special effects is surprisingly quite easy on the eyes. Yes, it’s obvious that these are people with CGI’d fur over them, but if you settle into a sort of stage play attitude (i.e. The Lion King), you’ll do just fine. The uncanny valley of it all is a charm to the film, the silky feline way of actors moving adds to the notion of them being cats, whilst knowing they aren’t REAL cats. If it were actual cat-sized cats doing the musical, it would NOT work. But this does.
The colours, the lighting and cinematography are a symphonic mix of hypnotic beauty. The camera is frequent fluid, adding effect to each cat’s movement and especially in the scenes of song and dance. The purples and blues collide to create a vivid colour palette that invigorates the peculiarly small feline version of London its set in.
But by god, the musical sequences are outstanding and stupendously inviting. Such songs as “Jellicle Songs For Jellicle Cats” and the newly written “Beautiful Ghosts” are the clear standouts. It has the feel of musical theatre, almost nearly every word is set surrounding a musical number. I would imagine the theatre production has a similar feeling, it feels like a more stylised version of a filmed stage musical. Therefore, having an energy that most movie musicals don’t attempt, that being a toe-tapping energy of performers performing for you. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Taylor Swift’s music is to be in awe of, it’s completely engrossing and meaningful. Meaningful, in that each performance adds to character and narrative progression.
Tom Hooper’s Cats is a musical extravaganza that is toe-tapping, energetic and utterly endearing. Clearly made for the stage, with its self-knowing choreographed walk around the streets of Jellicle-filled London and the human-like cats that reflect Broadway’s The Lion King with the notion of performing animals that are humanised. In all of the extravaganza that is Cats, Francesca Hayward as Victoria is what keeps the film going.
4/5 Stars ★★★★☆