“Oh, well I never, was there ever a cat so clever as magical Mr. Mistoffelees.” This is one of the three songs that I love from this great musical. But as a “film”, the magic of the Broadway production doesn’t flow over too well.
‘Cats’, the Andrew Loyd Webber musical, is the straight-to-video film directed by David Mallet, which stars John Partridge, Elaine Paige, John Mills and Ken Page. ‘Cats’ follows the Jellicle cats, who join for a Jellicle ball where they rejoice with their leader, Old Deuteronomy. Only one cat will be chosen to go to the Heavyside Layer and be reborn. As the musical progresses, we get to witness all of the cats who are considered worthy enough to go the Heavyside Layer, as they sing their hearts out. That is really all I can tell you about the plot, as there doesn’t really seem to be one at all.
To start off, I have to give a shout-out to Mitch Hiscock who has wanted me to review this movie for the past three months, but I never got around to writing it due to other commitments and now I’ve finally managed to write it! However, if you are reading this Mitch, I’m sorry to say that I didn’t like the film as much as you.
As a musical, ‘Cats’ is amazing. But this is the “film” that I am talking about and I gotta say, it’s pretty average.
The biggest positive I have is the music itself. Since this is a musical, you’d expect good music. Many of the songs are catchy, uplifting and just pure musical magic. My personal favourite songs are “Prologue: Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats”, “Memory” and of course “Mr. Mistoffelees”. Not only do theses songs always make me smile and want to sing along, but they help make this “film” watchable.
The performances are enjoyable to watch. Each actor and actress definitely seem like they are more suited for the stage compared to film, but they do have a lot of energy and chemistry which is great. But sometimes I do get slightly creeped out for the wrong reasons. For instance, there is a scene early on where most of the cast look into the camera for an uncomfortable period of time, as they all talk in a very quiet and creepy manner, which makes me wonder what they were thinking when they filmed that scene.
You can tell that this was a straight-to-video release as the production value feels rather cheap. As I have already said, if you saw this on stage, it would be way better compared to seeing it on film. I cannot say this enough as it looks cheap and feels cheap. It really doesn’t have the production quality that a musical on film should have, which is very disappointing.
Everything else from the the direction to special effects also feel out of place on film. You can tell that the director, David Mallet, has a knack for making music videos as all of the choreography is really good. But, that still doesn’t help with the fact that this is supposed to be a movie and all I can say is that David should stick to making music videos for a living.
Overall, ‘Cats’ is a great musical, but its transition to film can be cringeworthy at times. Even though it has great music and enjoyable performances, I can’t help but think what it would have been like if they had made a proper movie out of it, instead of a stage production that doesn’t hold up that well today. I really wanted to like this version of ‘Cats’, but I just can’t get past all of the below average film making techniques that really threw me off throughout.