Belfast Telegraph

Review round-up: Claws out for Cats as critics savage star-studded musical

The film’s visual style comes in for particular criticism.

The star-studded film adaption of Cats has been savaged by critics (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
The star-studded film adaption of Cats has been savaged by critics (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

By Keiran Southern, PA Los Angeles Correspondent

The star-studded film adaption of Cats has been savaged by critics.

Lord (Andrew) Lloyd Webber’s wildly popular 1981 musical is based on the poems of TS Eliot and Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper was tasked with the big screen adaption.

The film’s trailer arrived in July and the first look at the CGI human-cat hybrids was met with widespread dismay.

Since then, the finished product has become one of Hollywood’s most eagerly anticipated releases as fans questioned whether Cats would live up – or down – to expectations.

Now, reviews are in and even the combined star quality of Taylor Swift, James Corden, Idris Elba, Dame Judi Dench and Sir Ian McKellen has been unable to stop a wave of poor scores.

The Telegraph’s Tim Robey gave Cats zero stars, writing: “Once seen, the only realistic way to fix Cats would be to spay it, or simply pretend it never happened.”

Explaining further, he added: “Because it’s an all-time disaster – a rare and star-spangled calamity which will leave jaws littered across floors and agents unemployed.”

Mr Robey said it was the first time he had given a film zero stars since the 2009 comedy Old Dogs, which starred John Travolta and Robin Williams.

The Guardian’s review was almost as severe.

Peter Bradshaw awarded the film one star, writing that the technology used on the characters leaves many of them looking like Star Wars villain Darth Maul.

In a relatively positive review, the BBC’s arts editor Will Gompertz awarded Cats two stars out of five.

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Sir Ian McKellen stars in Cats, which has been savaged by critics (Matt Crossick/PA)

He said the story “takes forever to get going” and when it eventually does “lacks any real conviction or emotion”.

Mr Gompertz added: “The harsh truth is the film feels plastic, it has no heart or soul. That might well be a problem with the source material and its suitability for a transfer from stage to screen.

“It’s not terrible, it’s certainly got more going for it than the trailer, but it is some way short of Lord Lloyd Webber’s original.”

Writing for Variety, Peter Debruge described Hooper’s film as an “outlandishly tacky interpretation” of the musical, predicting it will become “one of those once-in-a-blue-moon embarrassments that mars the resumes of great actors”.

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Lord (Andrew) Lloyd Webber serves as an executive director on the Cats film (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

He said Cats is an “uneven eyesore”, adding Hooper “spends too much energy worrying about whether the technology is ready to accommodate his vision and not enough focusing on what millions love about the musical in the first place”.

Cats’ visual style was also savaged by the Hollywood Reporter.

Their review said the animation technique was a “major misjudgement”, adding it is “almost unfathomable” producers settled on the chosen visual style.

Jennifer Hudson’s portrayal of Grizabella also came in for criticism, with the reviewer saying the Oscar-winning actress “limps around haemorrhaging snot and looking either miserable or terrified, like she’s been watching the dailies”.

On the plus side, the review notes ballerina Francesca Hayward’s turn as Victoria is a “charming screen debut” while Dame Judi and Sir Ian are “class acts” who “can preserve their dignity just about anywhere”.

Elsewhere, Variety Fair describes Cats as “revolting and briefly alluring” while CNN said while it is not an “unmitigated disaster”, the film is “not good” and a “memory best forgotten”.

But not everyone was hissing at the film, with the Daily Mail’s Brian Viner awarding the film four stars out of five. He wrote that “eight out of ten cinemagoers will say that they’ve enjoyed it, as long as they go along prepared for what they’re about to see, which is essentially a feline-themed ballet”.

Viner ended his review saying that director Hooper “has made a surprisingly good fist of bringing it to life”.

Cats will be released in UK cinemas on December 20.

PA

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