Cats (Judi Dench, Jennifer Hudson, Idris Elba, Taylor Swift, Francesca Hayward, James Corden, Ian McKellen, Rebel Wilson) – Cats, the enormously popular Broadway play, is a confusing story about … well … cats. Different kinds of cats. It was groundbreaking because, normally, actors on stage play … well … people. Cats, the musical, was somewhat a political statement about diversity. Thank goodness that Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote the score and, most importantly, the fantastic song, Memories, which was sung by Betty Buckley on Broadway.
I was not excited about seeing the movie. I should have been. The movie is way better than the play. I could actually follow the story. The cast — great actors, singers, and dancers all — was inspired. The costumes, art direction, sets, choreography, direction and special effects are all worthy of Oscar consideration. Hearing Jennifer Hudson sing and reprise Memories is heart-stopping. Watching little-known Francesca Hayward, principal ballerina of The Royal Ballet, dance, sing, and inhabit the screen as Victoria is mesmerizing. Judi Dench, as Old Deuteronomy, commands the screen and totally commits to a role invented for a man but befitting her status as England’s thespian icon. The comic relief, provided by James Corden and Rebel Wilson as Bustopher Jones and Jennyanydots respectively, keeps us laughing.
Based on T.S. Eliot’s poems, Old Possum’s Nook of Practical Cats, Cats, the movie, runs 50 minutes shorter than the musical. It shows. The movie is a tight, fast-moving opera with stunning costumes and sets. Kudos to Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper, who helmed Les Miserables, The Danish Girl, and The King’s Speech, for masterfully crafting this film and getting the most out of a huge cast.
If you are looking for enjoyable family films during this holiday season, look no further than Cats and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. These two movies are must-sees with the kids and grandkids this December.