Thursday, December 26, 2019

Most Things are Better than Cats

I had no plans to see Cats. I did read a few reviews, which confirmed my disinterest by being uniformly negative, many apocalyptically so.

But when one of your kids has a birthday, and he says he wants to see Cats, you go see Cats.  

It was not great, but it wasn't the sort of generationally awful catastrophe some made it out to be. That being said, it's going to get nominated for a boatful of Razzies and should win all of them.

I think the problems start with the source material. There's not much of a narrative in Cats, and what does exist it not particularly coherent (for having said the word about a hundred times in the first five minutes, I still have no idea what a Jellical cat is).  There are ways around this on stage, based on the songs, dancing, and staging (such as having the cats go through the audience). This only goes so far for a movie, especially one where the dancing gets chopped up as much as it does here.

There's also the way cats show up, sing a song, and then drop out of the film for most of the movie. It's hard to develop any interest in the cats as characters, though I suppose in many cases it would be worse if the cats continued to be in the movie (for example, Rebel Wilson's Jennyanydots, who is forced to make a number of cat-themed puns during her time on screen).

This is probably the time to address the way the cats are depicted. I was less bothered by the humanistic depiction of the cats than many of the reviewers, and in some cases thought it worked OK (Francesca Hayward made a believable kitten, while Judi Dench looked like Judi Dench in an unfortunate cat costume). I'm also pretty sure we got the updated version of the film, which corrected some of the more egregious failures. It did not correct the problem of scale that ran throughout the film, where the cats could at any point in the film be the size of actual cats, of large dogs, or nearly human.

There are a variety of other things I could pick at, none of which of themselves derail the film but as a whole add to the general sense that the film is a mess. Just not enough of a mess to really be notable in that regard.

On the plus side to this foray into the theater, I did see a number of previews, any of which I'd have preferred to Cats:
  • Peter Rabbit 2, where Peter goes to the big city and learns some sort of life lessons. James Corden is much better off playing an actual animal.
  • My Spy, where David Bautista seeks to become the next pro wrestler to make the jump to movies, playing a CIA operative who learns some sort of life lessons from a nine year old girl who finds him out.
  • Dolittle, Robert Downey, Jr.'s latest foray into playing every leading male character from Victorian-era British literature. 
  • Sonic the Hedgehog, where the speedy blue video game character teams up with a small town sheriff to avoid capture by a shadowy government agency (led by Jim Carrey). 
  • Respect, the Aretha Franklin biopic starring Jennifer Hudson. The short bit of the title song she performs in the trailer is much better than the (expectedly) overwrought version of "Memories" she delivers as Grizabella.
  • The Call of the Wild, an adaptation of the Jack London story starring Harrison Ford which looks to have been made a bit more kid-friendly than the book.
  • Trolls World Tour, the sequel to Trolls that no one wanted. Apparently there are hard rock trolls that want to make their genre of music the only genre of music, and the trolls from the first movie fight them with the help of trolls who perform other genres of music.
  • Scoob!, which looks to reboot Scooby Doo while giving us an origin story as well. Scooby talks way too much in the trailer.

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