Cats ★★★

Surprisingly, Cats is never quite as eccentric as expected, resulting in an erratic and often enjoyable musical extravaganza that experiences occasional lulls in its energy, only to be continually saved by the charisma of its cast.

As far as the story goes... forget it, it’s Cats. To be fair, the film gets by on this playful plotlessness for the first hour, as it manically maneuvers from musical sequence to musical sequence, allowing audiences to glimpse this whimsical world through the eyes of newcomer Victoria (Francesca Hayward). The choreography is crisp, the set design is stunning, and while the songs may not be immediate earworms, they’re toe-tappers in the moment. Jason Derulo certainly gets the best beats as the flirtatious feline Rum Tum Tugger, while Rebel Wilson and James Corden are exciting enough as Jennyanydots and Bustopher Jones, respectively. Throughout this all, Hayward’s Victoria is an endlessly enchanting entrypoint into the lives of these crazy cats, and she arguably gets the second strongest song in the entire film with Taylor Swift’s new addition, “Beautiful Ghosts”.

Once the first half passes, the lack of a clear and concise narrative does seem to grate a tad, as the propulsive energy of the first hour peters out and you’re left wondering where to go. Idris Elba’s Macavity proves to be a fearsome foe (who begins kidnapping cats in order to boost his chances of getting to the Heaviside Layer... yeah, just roll with it), but his appearances are so sporadic that it’s hard for this arc to have the weight it needs in order to fully evoke suspense from the audience. I also found that the songs peaked in their pleasantness in the first half, at least up until Jennifer Hudson beautifully belts out her rendition of “Memory” in the last ten minutes. This moment truly helps elevate the film’s conclusion that it had been lumbering towards for the past half hour, and the film is luckily able to go out on a high point.

Cats is an uneven experience no doubt, but there is a curious charm in its capriciousness, and there’s a surplus of stunning spectacle to savor (at least for the first hour). It can’t quite maintain its idiosyncratic energy for its entire 110-minute runtime, but I have to respect that everyone involve brought commitment and conviction to their roles, and given the true trainwreck this could’ve been, I’ll take a sometimes spotty story over the alternative anyway day.

2019 Ranked

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