Cats review – a purr-fectly dreadful hairball of woe | Peter Bradshaw's film of the week

The queasy fears prompted by one of the most disturbing movie trailers ever seen are realised in full in Tom Hooper’s jaw-dropping feline folly

‘A furry orgy in a dumpster’: what the reviews say about Cats

The filming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games,
Each actor involved here looks mad as a hatter,
When the trailer came out, we were CALLING THEM NAMES.
It began with Cat poems from old TS Eliot,
In the 80s, Lloyd Webber just put them on stage
That was frankly a bit of a gamble for Andrew, but
Coach-loads of punters made Cats all the rage.

Now Cats is on film, with many a lonely puss
Played by performers of A-lister class.
But the number of mammaries looks frankly erroneous
And tails that appear to emerge from each arse.
There are lots of big names here, names we see daily,
Names that supposedly give us a lift.
Nothing like Jonathan Pie or Bill Bailey,
But names like James Corden, and – yes – Taylor Swift.
The setting is London, it does look post-nuclear
There aren’t any people, so maybe there were
Bomb blasts – or maybe a bio disaster
Causing cat-human mutants with digital fur.
The twitching of ears on their heads is distracting

Bemused … Judi Dench as Old Deuteronomy.
Bemused … Judi Dench as Old Deuteronomy. Photograph: Universal Pictures

As they gaze at the greenscreen and sashay and crawl,
It’s weird to behold them all gurning and acting,
And why do so many resemble Darth Maul?
Did director Tom Hooper intend this appearance?
Did it make him feel happy – or cause him some stress?
We have to assume that he gave it his clearance
But THE MAN HIMSELF KNOWS and will never confess.
These are the Jellicle felines of legend,
All elbows and shoulders and undulant arms.
Each male in the cast looks a bit of a bellend,
And those bizarre whiskers don’t add to their charms.
The Jellicles welcome Victoria: a new cat,
Francesca Hayward’s the thesp with this role,
She’s sleek, unlike Corden – well known for TV chat
But it’s his size that reveals that he’s meant to be droll.
And then Idris Elba comes on as McCavity,
(A boomy-voiced villain in anyone’s book)
There’s a prominent gap in his penis locality.
I honestly didn’t … well … know where to look.
As Grizabella, Jennifer Hudson will sniffle
Singing Memory, this movie’s moment of truth.

Gurning and sashaying … Cats.
Gurning and sashaying … Cats. Photograph: Universal Pictures

But it’s warbling warbling warbling piffle
From a bag lady drama-queen obsessed with lost youth.
The Jellicles’ leader is Old Deuteronomy
Judi Dench has this part, looking very bemused.
What’s with that extra big fur coat? You’ve got me.
She looks bewildered and (like us) confused.
Obviously, Ian McKellen is in it,
And he’s got a tatty old topcoat as well.
The other cats’ nude state is clearly permitted.
But why? That is something that no cat will tell.
There’s another cat in it, by name Mungojerrie,
Not the 70s pop group who once raised a cheer,
With their Summertime chart hit that really was very
Much better, more catchy, than anything here.

Ray Winstone’s the creepiest cat in this feature
His Growltiger sends a sharp chill down your spine
With his hissing he looks like he’s having a seizure,
It’s scary – like adverts for betting online.
When you notice these cats in profound meditation
With a digitally created frown on their brow
Their minds are engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of what on earth to do now.
“Pretend to be cats!” says a director. They reply …
“Me? How?”

• Cats is released in the UK and the US on 20 December and in Australia on 26 December.


Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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