Cats review round-up: Tom Hooper's musical adaptation is a 'robust effort' but as much 'an endurance test'
Tom Hopper's Cats has transformed his ensemble cast into feline counterparts with 'digital fur technology,' which left many viewers 'terrified and confused.'
The early reviews of Tom Hooper's Cats , based on the stage musical by Andrew Lloyd-Webber, have started rolling in.
The film, which follows a group of cats essentially auditioning for a chance to reincarnate in cat heaven, features an eclectic star cast, such as Oscar-winning singer and actress Jennifer Hudson, talk show host James Corden, DJ-rapper-actor Idris Elba, multiple Grammy-winning singer-actress Taylor Swift, veteran British actor Ian McKellen, veteran stage and screen actress Judi Dench, Jason Derulo, and Rebel Wilson.
The ensemble is transformed into their feline counterparts through 'digital fur technology,' which left many viewers 'terrified and confused'. While some critics commented on the visual inconsistency of the characters, others criticised how the 'ill-conceived CGI' fur technology was bordering the film into a 'creepy' experience.
Check out what critics are talking about Cats
The Hollywood Reporter critic David Rooney describes the visual appearance of the feline characters — who were going to be animated at one stage during the development of the film — as off-putting, verging on creepy. He also comments their proportions are inconsistent in relation to certain environments, noting, "Sometimes, they go from appearing minuscule to giant-size within the same scene." Rooney goes on to call the film "virtually plot-less," comparing it to a "Ziegfeld Follies-type revue with a series of thinly connected specialty numbers rather than a narrative that invites much involvement." Overall, the critic found the film "exhausting," despite a cast, including "class acts Dench and McKellen," who worked hard with the material.
Eric Kohn of IndieWire writes, "Tom Hooper’s 2019 adaptation of Cats unfolds as an absurd and frequently nonsensical array of light and color, with actors bathed in ill-conceived CGI fur against a similarly invented London backdrop. There’s a haunting, elegiac underpinning to the idea of animals roaming through purgatorial emptiness as they struggle to stand out, and at times, Cats recognises that potential. Despite appearances to the contrary, the movie doesn’t cater to the same cute aggression that fuels adoration for the actual species. Overall, however, it’s a spectacular paradox of a movie — at once too crazy for this world and not quite crazy enough. "
In The New York Times, Manohla Dargis writes Hopper “made a robust effort,” by transposing Cats to the screen, which was always going to be difficult, particularly once the decision was made to create a live-action version rather than an animated one. However, he adds “a doctoral thesis could be written on how this misfire sputtered into existence, though there’s nothing new about the movies’ energetic embrace of bad taste.”
Brian Lowry, CNN calls it a 'memory best forgotten' and says, "Cats isn't quite the unmitigated disaster that some feared, or perversely hoped, but it's not good, delivering a mostly incoherent adaptation of the long-running musical. An eclectic roster of stars claw out a few meager moments, but as screen experiences go, this is a memory best forgotten."
Justin Chang from The Los Angeles Times terms the film as 'Les Meowsérables.' Chang goes on to call the film "both a horror and an endurance test, a dispatch from some neon-drenched netherworld where the ghastly is inextricable from the tedious. Every so often it does paws — ahem, pause — to rise to the level of a self-aware hoot."
Meanwhile, Brian Truitt writes in USA Today the film is an "utterly absurd yet oddly charming" movie musical version of the Broadway hit. Like many of the other critics, Truitt says that the stage production "doesn't have much of a plot and neither does the movie," yet there are some "colourful personalities" in the mix. He goes on to note the visual effects "aren't as consistently good" as the catchy showtunes, especially in wider shots "where the kitties move in quick, random action."
Cats is slated to release in India on 3 January.
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