And so it is, we now live in the world of Cats, the big-budget cinematic adaptation of the musical of the same name. The trailer dropped last night (a day earlier than planned) and Twitter erupted in its usual fashion. Could you blame us? I mean, did you see that trailer? I’ve no words to explain this fever dream and neither did anyone else, it seems. How do you put into words the emotions felt by this Snapchat filter of a film? People have been trying to explain Cats since its world premiere in 1981 and we’ve yet to crack the code. Yes, I know the ‘plot’ is about a tribe of Jellicle cats who get together one night to basically decide which one of them will die and go to heaven but is that really explanation enough?
Anyway, it’s not the plot that left you wondering about the existence of a benevolent deity last night. It was the effects. For some reason, Academy Award winner Tom Hooper decided to make this a CGI frenzy, with actors standing on their own two legs, covered in ‘digital fur technology’ that looks both incredibly cheap and deeply obscene. Oh, and also some of the lady cats have boobs. No nipples, of course, but there are definitely buns.
There are many questions left to be answered by the Cats trailer. How small are these cats, exactly? The proportions are very strange from scene to scene, as if these monsters are also shapeshifting. Why are there such clear lines separating the actors’ faces from the fur, making everyone look like they’re in cheap Halloween masks? Where the hell did they get the clothing from? What do the creepy pet boutiques of the world look like in this universe? Some of them are wearing fur and I shudder to think about where they acquired that.
But for those of you totally new to Cats, you may not know who any of these characters are. Even if you do know the musical, it may be confusing because none of them really look like they do on stage. But I am here to help you out and I’m also here to declare the ultimate truth of which of these cats is the scariest cat. If this doesn’t make you a dog person, I don’t know what will.
JENNIFER HUDSON - GRIZABELLA
Grizabella gets to sing ‘Memory’, the show’s biggest number, so you’ve probably heard this one a million times before in the background of your life or whenever your great aunt got drunk at karaoke. She’s supposed to be a decrepit aging feline who is initially ostracized by the Jellicle cats but welcomed into the tribe once she sings that big number and lets everyone know how sad she is. It’s a belter of a tune, so it makes sense that they got Jennifer Hudson to do it, but she’s also way too young and glamorous for this role. Then again, when they revived it most recently on the West End, they let Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls take on the part, so aging it down and making her obviously gorgeous isn’t new. Still doesn’t make any sense, mind you.
Hudson doesn’t look too bad here. The main problem is the obvious disconnect between her face and the cat-ness around it. The proportions are all wrong but it’s not terror-inducing, per se. This just looks like shoddy CGI more than anything else. So nice one, Ms. Hudson. You may get out of this relatively unscathed.
FRANCESCA HAYWARD - VICTORIA
Victoria is a shy white kitten who has no solo singing parts in the show. She’s the main focus for the extensive and complex choreography, so she’s typically played by actors with ballet experience. In the movie, the role of Victoria will be the cinematic debut of ballerina Francesca Hayward. She’s a celebrated principal dancer with the Royal Ballet who’s played basically all the major roles on stage. What is curious about the trailer for Cats is that it seems to be positioning Victoria as the main character, which she isn’t in the show. If they’re trying to craft a more linear narrative from this show, then I guess this is the way to do it?
But WOW, Hayward got screwed over here. She looks like she’s been stripped naked, painted white, given a few stripes, then sent out into the world with a tail attached to her backside (also I hate to be the pervert here but it’s so strange that these cats have boobs with no nipples and no genitalia or anuses. I’m starting to question the immersive potential of this concept). Also, if these cats walk upright, why do they need tails? Surely their balance is fine and a tail would just get in the way of all the music video action?
TAYLOR SWIFT - BOMBALURINA
Bombalurina is one of the flirty cats with a bit of a mean girl streak and he’s being played by Taylor Swift. Hey, you came to your conclusions there, leave me out of your mess. Swift is a major star with seemingly her pick of any projects, so it’s her casting that perplexes me the most. Did she sign onto Cats because she really likes cats? That may be true. Hey, rich people don’t need to make sense.
With Bombalurina, they are leaning in hard on the f*ck-me eyes here. Rest assured, there are animators out there who frequently visit incredibly niche websites that got to fulfill some of their wildest dreams with this part. Make no mistake, they want you to leave this film thinking about doing the meow meow nasty with Bomba-Swift. Honestly, Swift looks mostly okay, if only because she still looks like herself, but they’ve also put her in heels, and that just leaves me with more questions.
JASON DERULO - RUM TUM TUGGER
Jason Derulo and Dame Judi Dench, together at last. Yes, we’ve all made the jokes about him needing to yell his name out in every scene, but I’ll be satisfied if we near an autotuned ‘Rum Tum Tuuuuuuugger’ at least once.
Speaking of, Rum Tum Tugger is one of the bad boys of the Jellicle Cats. He’s not here to play by your rules, man, not when he’s got so many ladies to impress. Nothing makes him happy except chasing those chicks. Andrew Lloyd Webber admitted the character was inspired by Mick Jagger, although recent versions of the show have turned him into a hip rapper. Because there’s just one name in musical theatre you trust with rapping cats, and that’s Lord Andy.
And once again, this is a cat the film-makers really want you to get hot and heavy about. Look at him doing those bedroom eyes and showing off those dance moves. This is pretty solid casting, I hate to admit. Rum Tum Tugger is going to get a whole lot of fan-fic written about him.
DAME JUDI DENCH - OLD DEUTERONOMY
On stage, Old Deuteronomy is the elderly patriarch of the Jellicles, a near-mystical creature who has lived ‘many lives in succession’ and is tasked with making the Jellicle Choice (basically which cat gets to die and go to heaven). Typically, the role is played by a man. The originator of the role was, believe it or not, Brian Blessed. For the film, Judi Dench is in charge. She was originally supposed to play Grizabella in the original production but snapped her Achille’s tendon and had to be replaced by Elaine Paige. So Judi’s getting her revenge.
Old Deuteronomy is wearing a fur coat that seems to be the same fur as on her body. Is she losing her fur and in need of warmth? Where did she get that coat? Is it made from the skinned Jellicle cats who didn’t dance hard enough for her? Where are their corpses? Do they get to go to heaven? The questions never end. This character is supposed to be a noble and comforting presence. Nothing about this movie remotely resembles the concept of comfort, but poor Judi is just drowning under all this CGI.
JAMES CORDEN - BUSTOPHER JONES
True story, James Corden has higher billing on this movie than Judi Dench.
Bustopher Jones is the cat about town, a jovial figure of plump stature living the good life and indulging in all its pleasures. Most productions have this part played by the same guy in the Old Deuteronomy role since it’s a minor bit, but nope, now we have James Corden.
For some reason, Corden is the one the animators have decided to try and make look most like an actual cat. Twitter has already made all the comparisons to both Mike Myers in The Cat in the Hat and Danny Devito in Batman Returns, and for good reason. This is what my sleep paralysis demon will look like in the near future. The body proportions are just bonkers, and it’s not helped by the tuxedo fur that shows off his very human fingers. Remember when we all watched that Sonic the Hedgehog trailer and thought that was as bad as weird manimal fingers got? Ah, the salad days.
IDRIS ELBA - MACAVITY
A master criminal, ‘fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity’, the mystical villain to the Jellicle cats, Macavity is described in the original T.S. Eliot poem as ‘the Napoleon of crime.’ So yeah, f*ckable feline Moriarty. Ladies…
And of course, we now come to sexy cat Idris Elba. For some reason, they’ve dressed him up like he’s just run away from the set of The Dark Tower. Elba is a man of such magnetism, such inherent dignity, such startling sex appeal, that not even this can quash our thirst. I’m not proud. None of us are proud. This is just the world we live in.
SIR IAN MCKELLEN - GUS THE THEATRE CAT
Gus (full name Asparagus) is a revered theatre actor in this world of cats. Old and frail and no longer a threat to mice, he sings a big number about the highlights of his career. Solid casting choice to get Ian McKellen in there, and he mostly looks fine. He’s just a hairy old dude and we’ve all seen plenty of them in our lives.
REBEL WILSON - JENNYANYDOTS
Jennyanydots is the do-gooder cat who also seems to run a racket of animal and pest training, involving teaching mice to crochet and employing cockroaches as her ‘troop of helpful boy-scouts’. And also she tap-dances.
Poor Rebel Wilson. Those animators really wanted everyone to know how much they worked on the physics of cat boobs with you, didn’t they? And yeah, there are multiple fat jokes in this trailer. About cats. Rebel looks mostly inoffensive, but I feel bad for how much the film clearly wants you to gawk and laugh at her being the fat one.
ROBERT FAIRCHILD - MUNKUSTRAP
The main narrator of the show and guardian of his tribe, Munkustrap is second-in-command to Old Deuteronomy and the responsible older brother to Rum Tum Tugger. He’s being played by Robert Fairchild, a former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet who gained fame in the world of musicals when he played the lead in the Broadway production of An American in Paris and got a Tony nomination for his troubles. He’s not working full-time as an actor and director, and his big film debut has him…
You don’t see much of him in the trailer but the glimpses we get are enough to horrify you for life. Why does he look like he’s about to demand to speak to my manager? How is it possible for a cat-man to look like he’s going to brag to you about his dad’s financial investments? That cat is definitely about to recommend you read Jordan Petersen’s book. He’s a fiscally conservative cat who says he’s socially liberal but thinks Pride is ‘a bit much.’ This Munkustrap votes Tory.
LAURIE DAVIDSON - MR. MISTOFFELEES
Mr. Mistoffelees has magical powers. Yeah, really. He’s ‘the original conjuring cat’ who don’t have full control over his powers yet. Mistoffelees is a showman and, as is befitting of a magician, he has some of the most strenuous choreography in the show. Usually, this is another role played by a ballet dancer, but this time, he’s being played by hot William Shakespeare who fucks. Remember Will, the show about the sexy bard? That’s Laurie Davidson. And here, he is the most obviously terrifying of the cats.
Look at him. Just look at him. Gaze into that Invasion of the Body Snatchers terror and think about all the mistakes you’ve made in your life. Mr. Mistoffelees knows all about the bad things you did when you thought nobody was looking. He’s going to lean over you at night while you sleep and whisper things about how your breath smells. This glitch in the matrix is what will ultimately consume us all. Pennywise doesn’t have sh*t on this creature. Know his face. Know it like you know your own, because one day, you’ll be walking down a dark alley and you’ll feel the presence of something malignant, something unshakably evil, and round the corner, Mr. Mistoffelees will be. You have been warned.
(All gifs created with Giphy.com Gif Maker).
Header Image Source: YouTube // Universal