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Criticism | Cats

by ace
Criticism | Cats

Few films have caused as much commotion on social media and print this year as Cats. Tom Hooper's live-action / CGI adaptation of the Broadway musical classic was the talk of the day when the first trailer was released midway through this year; but for the wrong reasons. The visual composition and digital effects that created human-feline hybrids were simply awful, which spawned many memes and jokes among movie buffs. It was not possible that something so lazy and amateurish could even be being released in theaters that would be worthy of eternal shame for everyone involved. This is precisely what the Cats movie brings. But no one could imagine the extent of the damage.

The script signed by Hooper and Lee Hall does a more “rugged” work on top of the original material. Andrew Lloyd Webber's play (which was inspired by some of TS Elliot's poems) does not contain a narrative itself, nor a plot: it is the story of different stray cats who star in their own songs, trying to convince old lady Old Deutoronomy (Judi Dench) that must be chosen to be reincarnated in Cat Paradise. It is.

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There is not much to work with here, and Hooper and Hall's great effort in this adaptation lies in the character of Victoria (lived by rookie Francesca Hayward), an abandoned cat who ends up serving as a "guide" for the viewer, as she is also entering this feline world for the first time, which serves as a crutch for the countless introductions and musical numbers that we will follow for the endless 110 minutes left. Yes, if it wasn't clear from the introduction: Cats is a huge failure. One of the most shameful works Hollywood has offered in recent years.

Not even among the great admirers of musicals do they value Cats much. Webber has brought great masterpieces in the business, but there's not much to redeem in his insane odyssey of singing cats. It's an execution that can work best on stage, after all the experience of seeing elaborate make-up and gigantic scenarios is most impactful on a face-to-face level. In a nearly 2-hour movie that dedicates all its plot machinations to songs, it's a big shot in the foot. To say that Cats has an episodic structure would be an understatement, since we are literally watching a series of vignettes that are virtually disconnected – not to mention Idris Elba's shameful villain.

That's because we haven't even addressed the big Cats problem: all visual execution. Hooper's choice to create practical, digital “human-cat” hybrids is one of the kind of ideas that make no sense having passed the creation room. The result is inexcusably bad, the kind that makes performance capture technology go about 20 steps backwards: integrating actors' faces with digital hair, ears and mustaches is worthy of a mobile app, and rarely comes up convincing – see Floating heads is a constant effect, and it gets even worse when the movie tries to traumatize us with human hybrids with cockroaches and mice; which still alternate on their respective scales.

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It's an effect that literally destroys any effort from your cast. You might feel that Jennifer Hudson delivers her best during a powerful rendition of “Memory,” or that Taylor Swift does bring a powerful physical presence to her most burlesque number, but the awful digital integration destroys the valley of strangeness: wrong and – at worst (or best) – absolutely hilarious. It is impossible to watch this movie with a straight face, and personally found myself laughing involuntarily during various moments of the movie, especially in performances that mix human acts with those of cats in an absurd way. Seeing Elba meowing and evaporating in the air, or Judi Dench lying like Kate Winslet on Titanic and lifting her little leg are scenes that are permanently tattooed in my memory.

Such a decision also profoundly affects the work of choreography in musical numbers. Universal Pictures' marketing prided itself on Andy Blankenbuehler, who rode the dances and moves of Lin Manuel-Miranda's acclaimed musical Hamilton, but what we see through Tom Hooper's lens becomes a nightmare. “Digital hair” movements do not seem to follow the movements of dancers, and it is particularly bizarre that all “cats” have human hands and feet without any digital coating. It was like watching the new Sigh, but even scarier.

There has never been a movie like Cats. It's bad, but bad on a spectacular level, and clearly not fully rendered. It is pitying for all the talent involved, as the feeling of shame begins in the early seconds, slowly being replaced by hysterical laughter until the end credits start to meow. I mean, go up.

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