Oh, well, I never! Was there ever a trailer as ... unexpected? Furry? Declawed?
The first trailer for Tom Hooper’s upcoming adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats has finally arrived, and it’s certainly trying hard to reinvent the classic costume drama. The trailer offers a look at the film’s remarkable all-star ensemble, as they prance, prowl, cavort, and flop like the best felines in showbiz. It’s a mesmerizing spectacle, straddling the line between grandeur and camp as only Cats can.
Each cast member sports CGI-enhanced fur to create a delicately anthropomorphic appearance, made even more uncanny by Hooper’s gigantic sets. The “cats” frolic among enormous beds, ottomans, and footstools — because they’re cat-sized as well as cat-haired, get it? The commitment to verisimilitude is almost awe-inspiring, and it’s easy to see why much of the public reaction has gone in very short time from eye-rolling to tongue-wagging, with some media outlets openly declaring themselves to be Cats-lovers.
The trailer comes hard on the heels of the world’s most serious behind-the-scenes footage compilation, in which cast members like Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, and Dame Judi Dench practically sob their explanations of why Cats means so much to them, and Hooper solemnly intones that Cats is an important, socially relevant story about inclusion and community.
Just to be absolutely clear, Cats is a musical whose only plot point involves the ritualistic, mystical selection of a very special cat to ascend to cat heaven. This extra-special cat will presumably die gloriously on his or her way to cat heaven, but the cats are really eager to be chosen for the honor nonetheless. (This plot was loosely culled by Lloyd Webber and lyricist Richard Stilgoe from T.S. Eliot’s facetious poetry anthology Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. Just remember, when things get weird in Cats, that it’s because they’re being brought to you by the man who pretty much codified 20th-century poetry with visions of etherized post-war corpses and metaphorical peaches.)
You can be forgiven if you fail to notice this weird cat cult stuff in the trailer — because none of it is in the trailer, except for a lingering shot of Judi Dench looking sympathetically at Jennifer Hudson’s Grizabella as Grizabella sings “Memory.” (Spoiler alert from 1982, when Cats first opened on Broadway — the cat who gets the power ballad is the cat who wins the game.)
What the trailer has plenty of is, well, lots of closeups of uncannily humanoid cats, plus some background dancing. Cats is, famously, a musical almost entirely made up of dance — and some of the most difficult dancing in musical theater, to boot. So it’s probably significant that the trailer’s editors aren’t focusing on the dancing. Instead, the ensemble is on full display — everyone from a rotund James Corden to an artificially green-eyed Idris Elba. And, oh, my word, Ian McKellen looks positively gleeful as a bewhiskered elder Jellicle. That’s another word in Cats-dom for a cat. You’ll pick up the lingo soon enough.
Trust us: If this trailer is any indication, you may soon find yourself wishing T.S. Eliot had never been born.
Cats slinks into theaters on December 20.