According to several news sources, (The Villanovan excluded) we are living in the end times. Between the death of democracy, erosion of the American Dream and looming climate crisis, one would think that cinema would step up to the plate, and deliver us all some escapism. Unfortunately, we are facing yet another signal of the end. The movie “Cats” (2019) epitomizes the decline of American supremacy in our current age and is undoubtedly one of the seven archangels heralding the arrival of the apocalypse. The Tom Hooper version of “Cats” had several key pitfalls, each of which holds a warning for the American people.
First, the music. While I never actually liked the preceding Broadway and West End musicals, I would nod along if my Spotify Show Tunes station featured a song or two from the musical. They were catchy, upbeat and sung with a lot of heart from a talented spandex-clad cast while performing impressive ballet routines, lifts, and flips. “Cats” overproduced music and changed multiple iconic songs.
The lesson here, is for people to stay true to themselves. “Cats: The Musical” is the story of a family of cats running around a junkyard essentially trying to earn the right to be reborn by their patriarchal figure, Old Deuteronomy, through elaborate dance numbers and self-songs. “Cats” (2019), according to online reviewers, is multiple cats competing for the honor of death. In changing the character of the musical, Hooper lost the dedicated fanbase that had followed the musical since its debut in London.
Second, “Cats” hired pop singers and pop culture figures as cats in the movie. With all due respect to Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, Jason Derulo, Rebel Wilson and the dozens of incredibly talented actors in this movie, they do not have the years of dance and acrobatic training the Broadway cast did. They were pop culture icons enlisted to put star power in front of the camera and name recognition to draw audiences in.
An iconic feature of both the Broadway and West End shows was the intense dance numbers performed live in front of the audience eight times a week. Every character, no matter how minor, executed aerials, jump splits and ballet maneuvers. This gave every live show an element of excitement and suspense. Audiences would have no choice but to marvel at the feast of pure athleticism executed by the company.
The CGI stars of “Cats” had multiple chances to get everything perfect and additional help from computer animators if they were unable to complete one of the very watered-down dance numbers. The lesson here is to trust the track record, not the big name. Before “Cats” (2019), there was a 1998 filmed version of the on-stage musical that was No. 6 on Billboard’s top selling videos. You shouldn’t go to the writing center for math homework help, just like you shouldn’t get your news from Facebook. Everyone has their niche, trust scientists on climate change, economists on budgets and doctors on vaccines.
Finally, just because Ameri-can does not mean Ameri-should. The over the top CGI from “Cats” was so bad that there are stories of children having nightmares over it. Actually, quite frankly, the age range suffering from Cats CGI induced nightmares could be extended into the upper teens. There was no need for the CGI to be realistic, no reason to edit human noses onto cat bodies and I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to have Rebel Wilson’s character cat eat cockroaches with human faces.
The past few decades of American foreign policy has been a series of financially influenced decisions with serious ramifications on lives around the world, both here and abroad. Like a 20-something getting out of a long-term relationship, maybe it’s time to focus on ourselves for a while.