The major motion picture adaptation of the long-running stage play Cats has been a cat-tastrophe despite featuring stars with names as big as Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, Idris Elba, Judi Dench, and more.
The studio predicted a $15 million opening but instead Cats only took in a mere $6.5 million, well below other recent movie musicals.
Holiday releases of musicals Mamma Mia, Les Miserable, The Greatest Showman , and Mary Poppins Returns, for instance, all turned tidy profits with their pre-Christmas releases. In fact, many of these films broke even over opening weekends. Cats, on the other hand, is poised to scratch out a big loss.
In what is usually a bad sign, the film did not screen for critics ahead of its opening. The film’s director, Tom Hooper, tried to explain why it never went to critics saying that his movie wasn’t finished until hours before its shipping date.
“I finished it at 8 a.m. yesterday after 36 hours in a row. I just put the finishing touches on,” Hooper insisted on December 19. “So, I’m very happy to be here with it fully finished.”
But critics nearly universally panned the film once they finally got to see it, most with a special focus on how bad the special effects are.
It also appears that Hooper spoke a bit too soon about how “finished” his film was. Indeed, the film’s effects on the initial release were so bad that the studio committed the unprecedented act of rushing a second cut of the film to theaters only days after its release with updated and corrected effects to improve its “digital fur technology.”
Patching and updating entertainment is common with video games. It is also now common for post-run DVD releases. But it is a Hollywood first to patch a film only days after it first hit theaters and during its first run.
But the less than purrfect special effects is far from the only problem with the film. Many critics also slammed Cats for having a basic plot. And, while musicals don’t often need an intricate storyline, the songs and dance numbers in Cats just don’t make up for the lack of creative depth.
The critics were not kind:
“Cats defies belief because it exists and yet at every turn, it is very obvious that Cats should not exist,” io9 reviewer Aex Cranz wrote.
“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,” the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw wrote.
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone simply said, “This disaster of a movie shouldn’t happen to a dog.”
Finally, Deadline pointedly noted that Andrew Lloyd Weber can’t catch a break with movie adaptations of his hit stage musicals. Cats joins Weber’s other two box office bombs, Evita (1996), and Phantom of the Opera (2004), both of which flamed out at the box office.
The Hollywood Reporter ranked Cats as one of the “10 Worst Films Of 2019.”
Maybe those pitching movies based on Weber’s fare need some spaying and neutering.
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