‘Cats’: a painful remake that makes horrifying use of CGI


Madi Lumsden

“Cats” strays from the musical plot as a star-studded mistake.

Every single news publication has its own hot take on the dumpster fire that is “Cats.” As families and theater nerds alike swarmed to the theaters, the flood of disgusted and disappointed fans made their opinion widely known over social media after the film’s release. 

However, there is something to be said about what the theater community has to say about it. Yes, “Cats” is terrible, but it is even more painful for those who know the musical that inspired it.

The first major discrepancy the movie has from the musical is the plot. That being the fact that there is a plot at all.

The musical does not have much of a plot. In the musical, there is this clan of cats in London called the Jellicle Cats. The musical highlights the Jellicle Ball, the night when the clan gets together and the leader, Old Deuteronomy, picks the Jellicle choice.

The Jellicle choice has the opportunity to be taken to the Heaviside Layer and be reborn into a new life, which is obviously good. The cats present themselves as candidates for the Jellicle choice by explaining their lives and contributions to society. Eventually, the Jellicle Choice is made.

And that is the entire musical.

Obviously, this is a show with a massive ensemble cast, meaning that there’s a lot of people who each have their own little chance to shine. However, the movie turns this on its head. They take Victoria, a cat who has a small role in the initial show and turn her into the main character. The fundamental concept stays the same, but there are some significant changes.

Instead of the leader kidnapping happening as a one-off instance, each candidate is kidnapped by Macavity after their introduction. The film connects ex-starlet cat Grizabella to antagonist Macavity for no real reason other than the drama of it all. The original master of ceremonies has a greatly lessened role, while magic cat Mr. Mistoffelees is now the love interest to Victoria. 

But did we really have to use this incredible technology like this?

Arguably, the plot was nonsensical in the first place, especially to a complete newcomer to “Cats.” However, the thing that makes the film truly hard to watch is the use of CGI to make the actors and actresses into cats. In the original show, the costumes and wigs were designed to simulate cats without being too realistic. The costumes were basically a long-sleeve leotard, leggings, arm warmers, and leg warmers made to look like cat furs. The wigs were just fun hair with cat ears on them. It was nowhere near normal, but it certainly had its charm. That, alongside face paint, makeup, and a lot of physical acting made these actors into cats.

The movie uses CGI to make hyper-realistic fur, ears, and tails appear on the actors and actresses portraying the cats. Alongside that, it is also used in part to make sure that the cats are able to complete some of the insane jumps and land on their feet. As far as I know, it is incredible that we have the technology to do this at all.

But did we really have to use this incredible technology like this?

The fur makes the actors look kinda creepy, which made me as a viewer deeply uncomfortable. A large majority of the jumps were fine, but there are a large number of actions that I was able to point out as completely edited.

Shockingly, the movie was redeemable in some ways. The technology that went into this movie was incredible. The sets, props, lighting, and editing were all very well done. Some of the dialogue is actually funny if you like a lot of fourth wall breaks and terrible cat puns.

“Cats,” by nature, is a very dance-heavy show. You can tell that the directors went out of their way to seek good dancers for the film. Victoria is played by Francesca Hayward, a principal dancer in London’s Royal Ballet. While her singing is mediocre and the audience can easily tell that this is her acting debut, the movie really gets the most out of her dancing ability.

The music is very good, as any movie musical should be. Andrew Lloyd Webber, as crazy as the man may be, knows his way around music, having written both Phantom of the Opera and School of Rock. 

I don’t usually go out and watch movies. When I do, I tend to quip my way through the movie if the opportunity is presented. “Cats” gave me numerous opportunities to laugh with my friends at one of the biggest wastes of my break. It may be a dumpster fire, but it is a fantastic way to spend time with your friends. 

I give “Cats” 1 out of 5 Jellicle moons.