APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: CATS (2019)

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DIRECTED BY: Tom Hooper

FEATURING: Francesca Hayward, Idris Elba, Taylor Swift, Judi Dench, Ian McKellan… (Indeed, the cast list is so talent-heavy you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting someone with an entertainment award.)

PLOT: Meow.

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE APOCRYPHA LIST: Not only did “they” pull the trigger on this one, they emptied all six of the chambers. From the opening nonsense of cat-people-cats spouting the word “jellicle” like it was going out of style, up through to the finale where I swear they send off one of their own to her death, the cataclysm just wouldn’t stop.

COMMENTS: As might be expected of a man of my disposition, I am the owner of cats–two, to be precise. One of them featured in a review of mine some months ago. The other has joined me on a number of occasions while I watched other assignments. So perhaps it was this that led me to volunteer my time and sanity, and sit through a musical that I had mostly knew about from the context of a classic Upright Citizens Brigade sketch. But the transformation I underwent during the movie was comparable to that which bunches of A-list actors and celebrities went through to become Cats.

I could discuss the finer points of the plot here, but I’ll spare you my narrative discourse. If you know anything about Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s iconic work, you’ll know there isn’t really a story. It’s merely a showcase for descriptions of various “types” of cats found about London. (This geographic limitation may explain why the particular archetypes of my own cats weren’t explained to me in song form.) Moreso, you knew whether or not you were the kind of person who’d want to see Cats by the time the first hints of its production sprang up.

And why was this movie made? In a way, I think that it had to be. Some critics complain ad nauseum that everything these days is a remake, sequel, or adaptation, but this has been the norm since the earliest days of cinema. As to how the producers got all these big names on board, I do not know; but then, perhaps you have to agree to performing in Cats if you are asked. However, I can say that I didn’t leave the cinema thinking any less of any of the parties involved, and was actually quite pleased with Idris Elba’s performance as the only two+ dimensional character of the bunch.

I was in a something of a manic state during the drive home as I reflected what I had just gone through. About fifty-five minutes into the movie, I glanced at my watch for the first time and nearly recoiled in terror. After all the song and dance I had watched these “jellicles”1 go through, I was only half-way through. Around that time I noticed two things: first, there was an intermittent but persistent clicking coming from one of the right-hand speakers; second, the latter half went by far more quickly than the first. I don’t know if it’s a testament to the powers of Eliot + Webber + Hooper, or testament to brain damage I suffered five-and-a-half years ago, but I actually started to care about these things. The end of times, to be sure.

So to the other staff at 366, I apologize for putting us on the hook for this. To everyone else: Happy Christmas, Io Saturnalia, and Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cathulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“In fairness to the general Cats reaction, the trailer—and indeed, I can say now, the whole movie—is bizarre-looking and freakish and garish and off-the-rails/all-over-the-place and bombastically beyond the scope of fanbrat respectability/acceptability. But here’s the thing: those are points of praise.” -Mike McPadden, Daily Grindhouse (contemporaneous)

  1. Someone please tell me what that word is and how it pertains to cat-human-cats.

12 thoughts on “APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: CATS (2019)”

    1. Bah-dum, TSH.

      As I was explaining to my folks when it came up in conversation, it cannot be denied that the movie was well made and that the actors are all on top of their game. So, any critics who “panned” it have no reason to do so unless they think it just shouldn’t have been made. Whether or not it should have been is the only real point of debate in that regard.

    2. I always took “jellicle” to be short for “angelical”, especially since T. S. Eliot (and thus Lloyd Webber in possibly the worst song in the show) refers to dogs as “pollicle” (or “diabolical”).

      I assume that my friends who chose to simultaneously celebrate both the opening of CATS and the new state law legalizing marijuana were not viewing the film from the standpoint of etymology.

  1. This movie left me purrsonally insulted. It is one of the most cat-astrophically bad movies I have ever seen; the CGI made me want to hack out a hairball!

    (you can now lambast me for the horrible puns, I deserve every second of it)

    1. Though not a musical, I would much prefer “The Cook, the Thief, his Wife, & her Lover” to attain RHPC costume/interactivity status. I have a vision of gangs of Jean-Paul Gaultier-clad thugs lining up outside a cinema, then chanting along with one of Albert Spica’s wonderful monologues.

  2. This is rare, but having seen this yesterday, I am pretty much going to preemptively nix its Apocrypha chances. You couldn’t feed me enough catnip to convince me to watch it again. For making the recommendation, Giles gets no warm saucer of milk tonight, and I’m thinking of spritzing him with the water bottle if he suggests a Hollywood-backed musical again. I do fondly await Andrew Lloyd Weber’s adaptation of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” however.

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