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"Cats" isn't a great musical to begin with, but give the movie a chance

Photo credit:
Universal Pictures

The movie adaptation of the musical Cats dropped a trailer on Thursday and is not getting the respect that the studio wanted I'm pretty sure. It was actually a full trailer and not the hype generating teaser used so often these days to tantalize the audience. I'm thinking the PR department did that anticipating people would love it. Alas, they didn't. There might be a few reasons why.

First, as a theater critic myself, I think the stage play is just terrible. As a work, there are just too many weird names to remember and the theme of selective reincarnation or passing on into another plane of being is so confusing I think the audience loses the plot. I mean, how confusing is the trailer? But never fear, there is a narrator who explains what's about to go down. 

Cats is based on T.S. Elliot's collective poetic works titled Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. Andrew Lloyd Weber must have been so moved by the poems that he mashed them together into one disjointed lyrical narrative. If you've never seen the play, I suggest going with someone who has and "gets it," that way you can casually lean over from time to time and ask, "what the f*** is happening?"

Tom Hooper directs this adaptation and obviously has taken some creative license with the source material, using large scale practical props to "shrink" the cats, and using a digital/human blend to bring them to life. This technology is becoming visually creepy: see Sonic the Hedgehog

Despite the play being a hot mess, and geared toward a specific crowd, Cats is the fourth longest-running musical of all time. People loved it in the 80s as much as this generation loves Game of Thrones.

In this day and age, people tend to judge entertainment harshly before even seeing the finished product. Fandom has reached a fever-pitch so much so directors listen to them and go back to the drawing board: see Sonic the Hedgehog

But to completely eviscerate a work of art based on a two-and-a-half-minute trailer isn't fair. The criticisms I've heard are that the characters look "creepy" as anthropomorphized conceptions. News flash, they were just as creepy in the stage play walking upright and slinking around on the flatboards.

There have been some words taken against Jennifer Hudson and her rendition of "Memory," and yes, I can see that. She seems to have taken some of the spirit out of it, but as a theater friend told me the trailer is badly edited and piecemeals lyrics from two parts of the song sung at different times.

For some reason 2019 is sizing up to be the year some people hated movie musicals. From creating a whole negative hashtag over casting an African American in "The Little Mermaid," to leaving "The Lion King" in the dust, there hasn't been a positive reception for the genre since 2017's "The Greatest Showman" or maybe last year's "A Star is Born." 

Cats may not be everyone's dish of cream, but neither was "Moulin Rouge" back in 2001; I actually saw people walk out of that one. 

For what it's worth, I'm probably going to see this version of Cats in my lifetime even if it's not first-run.

But even if I hate it as much as I dislike the stage version, I have at least based my criticism on something I already know: I do not, nor will I ever, like the musical Cats