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Movie Review: ‘Cats’ (2019) brings new life to the stage spectacle

by Connor Webber

Cats” (2019), directed by Tom Hooper, is a modern telling of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s beloved musical about a tribe of cats called the ‘Jellicles’ coming together for their yearly meeting to see which cat will be chosen to ascend to the “Heaviside Layer” and come back to a new life.

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(From left) Rumpleteazer (Naoimh Morgan), Victoria (Francesca Hayward) and Mungojerrie (Danny Collins) in “Cats”

Now, it is no rumor to those that know me that the stage production of “Cats” is probably one of my least favorite Broadway musicals of all time. So, when I first heard of a live-action re-telling, I remember rolling my eyes, thinking to myself, “How are they going to pull this off on screen?”

With all that being said, when I saw the trailer in mid-July and heard Hooper was on board to direct, I became weirdly excited to see this film and at the end of the day, “Cats” was better than I had expected.

Jason Derulo as Rum Tum Tugger
Jason Derulo as Rum Tum Tugger in “Cats”

This modern adaptation stays true to the original stage musical while giving each song its own modern twist, keeping the fantastical charm of its staged predecessor. “Cats” is able to tell the story of the Jellicles in a way that is far more understandable than the stage version, despite the amount of dialogue being slim-to-none. Well-paced and a bit shorter than I had expected, I found myself enjoying this take on “Cats” more than the staged version.

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Taylor Swift as Bombalurina in “Cats”

I’m sure everyone wants to know how the CGI bodies of the cats actually turned out, and as someone who thought that they looked perfectly fine in the trailers, I found that everything that was CGI in this film took me out of what was going on in the movie.

There were times where I felt that making every actor’s body CGI was taking away from the amazing choreography that was incorporated into this film. I feel the reason for this was due to the immaculately oversized sets that were all practical, making the CGI stand out from everything that was real. But on the other hand, the sets also elevated the film, giving you so much to look at in every scene.

Judi Dench as Old Deuteronomy
Judi Dench as Old Deuteronomy in “Cats”

Another thing that “Cats” has going for it is its all-star cast, including Judi Dench, Sir Ian McKellen, Rebel Wilson, James Corden, Taylor Swift, and Idris Elba, each bringing something unique to the table and getting their own time to shine. Even though I found some of these cats to be annoying, the actors did a good job not to overdo the comedy.

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Francesca Hayward as Victoria in “Cats”

The biggest standout of this film is, without a doubt, Francesca Hayward as Victoria in her feature film debut. Hayward is a principal ballerina at the Royal Ballet, and through her performance, she is able to shift your focus directly onto her – strictly with her movement. She was a joy to watch on screen.

“Cats” is incredibly entertaining and is a pleasant surprise this holiday season. If you’re not a “Star Wars” fan and looking for a movie to take the family to over the holidays, this is your best bet as it offers something for everyone. “Cats” is rated PG, it officially releases Dec. 20, and there is no end credit scene.

Check out the trailer for the film below:

CATS - Official Trailer [HD]
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