At the outset of lockdown I gave you my list of top mustn’t-watch films — that is, the ones that aren’t worth the bother — with the rider that when Cats is released digitally it will, however, likely be a must-watch mustn’t-watch. ‘I absolutely must watch this mustn’t-watch,’ you may even have said to yourself, after reading some of the wonderfully terrible reviews. (The Daily Telegraph gave it zero stars. Variety said it was one of those ‘once-in-a-blue-moon embarrassments’.)
And it is as hoped. In fact, it is such a must-watch mustn’t-watch that I watched it twice and never stopped marvelling, even if I will be forever haunted by Ian McKellen lapping milk and a full-on hairy Judi Dench with whiskery chops, although in all fairness, that’s what most of us are going to look like when we come out of quarantine. So it may be right on the money there.
Directed by Tom Hooper (King’s Speech, Les Misérables), this is an adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber stage musical, as based on T.S. Eliot’s poem collection Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, which has run in the West End and on Broadway since, possibly, the beginning of time itself. There isn’t much of a plot. Basically, the ‘Jellicle cats’ gather to decide who will ascend and be reborn (I think) and it’s two hours of cats introducing themselves when not otherwise occupied slut-shaming poor old bedraggled Grizabella.
Aside from McKellen and Dench, the cast includes Idris Elba, James Corden, Rebel Wilson, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson (Grizabella) and Ray Winstone. So it’s all your favourite performers, tragically. It also marks the film debut of Francesca Hayward, the Royal Ballet star who is Kenyan-British but has, weirdly, been whited-up to play white cat Victoria.