Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Introducing The Scientific Wonder Of Our Age: "Cats"--A Turkey That Meows!

"Cat Scratch Fever": Their maniacs! Maniacs! On the floor! And their dancing like they've never danced before!

Post Update: I have recently learned that Andrew Lloyd Webber was so horrified and totally bummed out over the commercial and critical failure of "Cats" that he become seriously depressed--and had to get himself a therapy dog.

Poetic justice, if you ask me.

Hello and welcome, movie lovers.

I open this article with a question directed squarely at Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber: Andrew, honey, sweetie, who hurt you?

Seriously. What abuse, rejection or trauma did you endure that made you so angry, twisted and hell bent on revenge that you've forced countless theater goers to endure your unique brand of bat-shit crazy musicals?

And what do you have against cats? Did a cat urinate on one of your precious scores? Did a kitty cough up a hairball in your slippers? Did a cat drop off a dead mouse in the kitchen for you to find? Whatever some cat did to you, it in no way justifies what you did to an entire species when Cats debuted on the West End in 1982.

Simply put, your record breaking "mega-musical" was nonsensical nightmare fuel in Lycra tights.

Andrew Lloyd Webber's creative process explained.

And don't get me started on the "breakout" tune "Memory", which taints every elevator and waiting room like the stench of an over-flowing litter box.

 Which brings us to the movie version of your play Cats, (also called "Cats"), a flick so loathsome The MacGuffin called it "a spectacular disaster" and "a drug induced hallucination brought to life." Not to be out done, Fortune declared it "a deranged freak-fantasia" and Metro Archive dubbed it "a triple decker weird burger."

Yes, yes, I know critics ripped you a new one with their scathing "Cats" reviews--and you deserved everyone of them. And, yes, the flick came out a year ago and everybody--especially you-- just wants to forget the whole thing.

However, Andrew, you haven't heard from from me yet--and I'm a cat lover, a movie lover, a musical lover AND a die-hard NON fan of ALL your work. So until I've had my say, the CATastrophe that is "Cats" (2019) is far from over.

As furious as I am at this movie (and at you, Andrew), it was a challenge to say something new about your flick. I mean, after an avalanche of withering reviews, sweeping the Golden Raspberry Awards and being called "a triple decker weird burger", what else is there to say about "Cats"?  So I decided to skip the traditional movie review and instead present the following theory for consideration:

A poster for "Cats". If you have one, you can shred it and use it for cat litter--which is what critics did to the movie.

(Ahem): I submit that "Cats" is not really based on T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, but is in fact a musical remake of the sci-fi cheese platter "Logan's Run" (1976).

Preposterous, you say?

I disagree.

The movie "Jonathon Livingston Seagull", after all, is a partial re-telling of the Christ tale acted out by an all seagull cast. And "Matango: Fungus of Terror" is a combination of No Exit, A Long Day's Journey Into Night and "Gilligan's Island" with mushrooms. Once you take that into consideration, the idea that "Cats" could be a remake of "Logan's Run"(with a small assist from T. S. Eliot, I'll grant you) shouldn't really surprise anybody--especially bad movie fanatics. 

Ruminate on this:

"Want some tuna?": Logan and Jessica meet the Old Man and his many "Cats."

*"Logan's Run" takes place in a world where humankind lives in a domed shopping mall. The setting for "Cats" is a junkyard, although a big chunk of it also takes place in a hotel with a domed ceiling.

*In "Logan's Run", when people hit the big three-oh, they must participate in something called "the Carrousel", where citizens are "renewed". In "Cats", a tribe of "Jellicle cats" participate in something  called "the Jellicle Ball". This is where one cat is chosen to be transported (via spaceship and/or hot air balloon--no kidding) to the "Heavyside Layer" where they're "renewed."

Of course, there is a key difference in "Logan's Run": the chance to "renew" is a lie. In reality, the people on "the Carrousel" are zapped and killed with a laser beam. The government does this to prevent over-population and to keep the public under its control. To make sure people don't evade "the Carousel", the government employs a police force known as "Sandmen" who track down and kill people (called "Runners") who try to escape.

In "Cats" the chance to be reborn is real. However, it's up to Old Deuteronomy to choose who that kitty will be. To become "the Jellicle choice", the felines make their case in totally nutsy production numbers that celebrate the joys of eating garbage, stopping trains and teaching cockroaches to tap dance. Naturally, there are cats who want to skip this process and just renew.

* In "Logan's Run", the hero is "Sandman" Logan (Michael York) who, with partner Jessica (Jenny Agutter) learns the truth about his world. In "Cats", the heroine is a white kitty named Victoria (Francesca Hayward, a dancer from the Royal Ballet), who learns about the Jellicle cats after she's abandoned in the middle of the night. She also hooks up with a kitty crush named Mr. Mistoffelees (Laurie Davidson) "a magician cat" who isn't very good at his job.

Mr. Mistoffelees (Laurie Davidson) apologizes for lining his litter box with left over scores from Andrew Lloyd Webber's other musicals.

*In "Logan's Run", after Logan and Jessica escape their domed city/world, they run into a dotty Old Man (played by Peter Ustinov) who lives with hundreds of (yes!) cats!

Meanwhile, over on the set of "Cats", the counter-part of the Old Man is Old Deuteronomy (Dame Judi Dench). Like Ustinov's character, Old Deuteronomy has lived "many lives" (she's a cat, after all) and is  wise and gentle.

* In "Logan's Run", there is a character called "The Box" (voiced by Roscoe Lee Brown). He's a pre-R2D2 robot and at first seems OK--except he's been created to catch any Runners who slip by the Sandmen. Once caught, the Box turns the Runners into frozen popsicles--nude frozen popsicles, by the way--which are later harvested for food back home.

The Box character in "Cats" is Macavity (Idris Elba), a flashy bad guy cat who wants to be "the Jellicle choice". To improve his chances, Macavity catnaps the top contenders (Jennyanydots, Gus the Theater Cat and Bustopher Jones, played by Rebel Wilson, Sir Ian McKellen and James Corden, respectively) and imprisons them on a boat. Like the Box, he sneaks up, pretending to be a fan of the chosen kitty, but then puts the zap on them.

*In "Logan's Run", all the major functions of the city are run by computers, which allows the humans to live carefree lives where they shop, have sex, work out, have sex, walk around, have sex, go to discos, have sex and have sex. You never see anybody reading, knitting or doing their taxes.

Bombalurina (Taylor Swift) flaunts proportions few felines can aspire to.

"Cats" has the same hyper-sexual vibe going. The screen kitties slink around in skintight cat suits (helped along with CGI), their twitching tails often used as phallic symbols. In one scene, the tabby Jennyanydots enjoys scratching her nether regions a little too much. Macavity's moll Bomalurina (Taylor Swift) boasts a bust line Jane Mansfield would envy. Then there's Rum Tum Tugger (Jason Derulo), a Mick Jagger-type cat with a sex drive to match.

(Yes, yes, I know cats can be extra frisky, which is why responsible pet owners always spay or neuter their cats.)

However, the slinky/kinky antics of the cats in "Cats" does beg the question: How come Grizabella is shunned and slut-shamed for doing what everybody else was doing?

And how come the male cats appear to have nothing between their legs?

*Finally, both "Logan's Run" and "Cats" end the same way: with the sun rising on a new day. The citizens of Earth leave their domed city (which has blown its top--don't ask) and realize turning 30 isn't a death sentence. As Grizabella flies away to the Heavyside Layer, Victoria finds a new home among the Jellicle cats and kitty crush Mr. Mistoffelees. 

"Before we go any further, I have to ask: do you have fleas?": Kitty cuddlemates Mr. Mistoffelees and Victoria.

However, upon further reflection, the endings of "Cats" and "Logan's Run" aren't as cheerful as you'd think. For instance, the human survivors in "Logan's Run" don't know how to do anything but have sex, so they'll need to learn a whole new set of skills if they're going to survive. Are they up to it? Meanwhile, Victoria may have joined the Jellicle cats, but she's still homeless, will have to scrounge for food and if she doesn't get a "kitty operation", she'll be fighting off every Tom in heat.

Personally, I don't her life has improved at all.

So, I rest my case. "Cats" is really a musical remake of "Logan's Run", with a bit of T. S. Eliot's poetry thrown in. Of all the things said about the movie "Cats", I don't think anyone else has said this. It's a bold theory, but I stand by it.

On this triumphant note that I end my post. To Andrew Lloyd Webber I say: get some therapy. To movie lovers everywhere: Save the Movies!

Joel and the 'bots from "MST3K" show off their "Andrew Lloyd Webber Grill", which burns Andrew's scores instead of charcoal briquettes. If only this were real!