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Film / Cats

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"Come. We're about to begin."
"The most deserving cat will be reborn into another life, so they can be who they’ve always dreamed of being."

Cats is a musical-fantasy film based on the famous musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, which in turn is based on T. S. Eliot's poem book, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. Directed by Tom Hooper (who had previously helmed the film adaptation of Les Misérables), it stars Jennifer Hudson (Grizabella), Judi Dench (Old Deuteronomy), James Corden (Bustopher Jones), Ian McKellen (Gus the Theatre Cat), Rebel Wilson (Jennyanydots), Jason Derulo (Rum Tum Tugger), Taylor Swift (Bombalurina), Idris Elba (Macavity) and Francesca Hayward (Victoria).

When a young kitten named Victoria is abandoned on the streets of London, she suddenly finds herself being taken in by a mysterious tribe of street cats called "the Jellicle Cats". They invite her to their domain just in time for the yearly ceremony where a lucky cat is chosen by the tribe matriarch, Old Deuteronomy, to ascend to the skies and reach the Heaviside Layer, where they will be reborn as a new cat with a "different Jellicle life". Over the course of her stay, she meets several of the night's worthy candidates, along with a shy magician named Mr. Mistoffelees, a notorious criminal named Macavity, and a lonely, worn out glamour cat by the name of Grizabella.


It is distributed by Universal, and was released on December 20, 2019.

Previews: Trailer 1, Trailer 2.

Jellicle tropes for Jellicle tropers:

  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade:
    • Victoria in this version was abandoned as a kitten by her human owners before being taken in by the Jellicles.
    • In the show, Mr. Mistoffelees was already confident enough to bring back Deuteronomy with his magical powers. In the film, however, he's too nervous to do it at first, and has to be pepped up by the other Jellicles in order to pull off the trick.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness:
    • Elba's fedora-clad Macavity is not as wild and scary-looking as his stage counterpart, who is usually depicted with fiery, disheveled fur and no clothes.
    • Grizabella is traditionally portrayed with an old withered face and runny makeup that give her a "washed up" appearance. Hudson's version looks much younger and cleaner.
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  • Adaptational Comic Relief: Bustopher Jones and Jennyanydots are played up for comedy here, a given since they're both played by comedic actors.
  • Adaptational Dye Job: Quite a few of the cats have undergone this.
    • Bombalurina traditionally sports a combination of black, white and dark orange fur in the stage show. Here, she has a much lighter and more faded coat of orange, similar to that of a real orange tabby.
    • Jennyanydots, also a tabby cat, has a similar coat of faded orange, while in the show, she's more vibrantly-colored.
    • Old Deuteronomy is now a light tan color, contrasting her stage show counterpart, who's always depicted with aging gray fur.
    • Grizabella's typically-gray fur is now a shade of brown.
    • Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer lose the yellow and orange shades from their original designs, and are now predominantly brown, black, and white in color.
    • Macavity is usually depicted with flaming orange and black fur, similar to that of a tiger. Here, his fur is dark brown. Oddly, the song describing his appearance still refers to him as ginger.
    • Rum Tum Tugger is now a shade of brown, while his stage counterpart had blonde fur.
    • Griddlebone is a white cat in the musical, but a grey cat here.
  • Adaptational Jerkass:
    • Jennyanydots is noticeably unfriendly in this version.
    • Rum Tum Tugger's positive traits from the stage show are downplayed, notably his admiration of Mr. Mistoffelees.
    • Both Cassandra and Demeter are even more disdainful towards Grizabella, and practically bully her when they sing about her past exploits.
  • Adaptational Name Change: Jemima, who's sometimes referred to as Sillabub depending on the production, is credited as Syllabub here.
  • Adaptational Ugliness: A minor example. The stage show portrays Griddlebone as a beautiful, flamboyant cat with white fur, while the movie portrays her as grey and plain-looking.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • Bombalurina was a Good Bad Girl and loyal member of the Jellicles in the stage version. In the film, she's Macavity's right-hand feline and almost as malicious as he is.
    • A case could be made for Jennyanydots. In the poem and show, she acts as a leader and friend to the cockroaches, whereas in the film, she eats them if they aren't performing well enough.
    • The lyrics of “Macavity” do, in the stage version, imply that Mungojerrie is somehow involved with Macavity, but the only crimes we see are petty thefts. In the film, not only is Rumpleteazer also named as an accomplice, but they both actively drug the Jellicle Ball.
    • In the stage version, Griddlebone was just a character in the Show Within a Show sequence, "Growltiger's Last Stand". The film's version of Griddlebone is a real cat, and one of Macavity's allies.
  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • As with most modern movie musicals, Cats includes a film-exclusive song in the form of "Beautiful Ghosts" (a solo for Victoria), which was written by Taylor Swift and composed by Webber himself.
    • Macavity in the stage show only shows up to wreak havoc on the Jellicles and kidnap Old Deuteronomy. In the film, he hatches an entire Evil Plan to kidnap every candidate for the Jellicle Choice and snatch the coveted prize for himself.
    • Growltiger, who was previously depicted as a role that Gus played in the musical's Show Within a Show, acts as Macavity's ally here, and keeps all of the kidnapped candidates on his ship. In the end, the cats fight back and force him overboard.
    • Victoria had no established backstory in the show. In the film, she's an abandoned young cat adopted by the Jellicle tribe.
    • Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer interact with Victoria in this version, and the three of them sing their titular song while raiding a human's house. Afterwards, Victoria almost gets hounded by a guard dog before Mistoffelees jumps in to save her.
    • Grizabella's backstory is only vaguely touched on in the show. Here, it's specifically stated she ran off with Macavity at some point, which is why the Jellicles now despise her.
    • The original musical takes place solely in one location, an old junkyard. The film vastly expands the world by extending the setting to the streets of London, where the cats freely explore places like a milk bar, a theater called The Egyptian, a human house and a railroad.
  • Adapted Out:
    • The Rumpus Cat, the feline superhero from "The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles", doesn't appear since the song was cut from the film.
    • The cats don't partake in the "mating dance" at the Jellicle Ball this time, and instead skip straight to the big dance number.
    • The climactic fight between Munkustrap and Macavity is omitted, though the music from the fight sequence is reused for the guard dog scene. A battle does take place near the end of the film, but it's between Growltiger and the cats that Macavity kidnapped.
  • Adaptation Origin Connection: In this version, Grizabella is said to have been aligned with Macavity at one point, which ultimately led to her downfall.
  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul:
    • In the musical, Demeter and Bombalurina are depicted as a duo, usually with a sisterly bond. Here, the two characters are rarely seen together.
    • Old Deuteronomy develops a warm and loving relationship with Victoria here, while their stage counterparts never made contact.
    • Mr. Mistoffelees and Rum Tum Tugger were friends (with a boatload of homoerotic subtext) in the stage version, with Tugger praising for Mistoffelees' magic. Not the case in the film, where the friendly teasing from Mistoffelees is instead taken at face value, Tugger doesn't perform "Mr. Mistoffelees", and a romance is written in between Mistoffelees and Victoria.
  • Age Lift: Jennyanydots, known by the Jellicles as the "Old Gumbie Cat", is a grandmotherly feline in the show. Wilson's version is much younger.
  • Angry Guard Dog: Victoria barely escapes one of these, with assistance from Mistoffelees.
  • Animals Lack Attributes: Although many of the anthropomorphic cat characters wear no clothes, they possess no discernible nipples or genitalia.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • Victoria in the stage version is just a member of the ensemble (albeit a memorable one). Here, she's elevated to the role of Audience Surrogate. Variety reported that Universal intended the movie to appeal to young women, and so rather than an even divide among the cast by gender like the musical, the movie puts more emphasis on its female characters.
    • Macavity is a much more prominent Big Bad here, and we see his Evil Plan unfold throughout the film. In the show, he doesn't even show up until after his song. (Aside from a brief blink-and-you'll miss it after "The Pekes and the Pollicles".)
    • Both Gus and Bustopher have significantly bigger roles here, while they only showed up to sing their respective songs in the stage show (this was due to their actors typically playing multiple roles).
    • Cassandra has a larger role here compared to her stage counterpart, thanks to her being a Composite Character with Bombalurina.
  • Audience Surrogate: The film is told through Victoria's eyes.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Tugger and Jenny are shown to be somewhat at odds during Tugger's song, but when she's rescued from Macavity, Tugger is the first one to greet (and enthusiastically tackle hug) her.
  • Big Bad: Macavity, even moreso than in the stage version. He plans to become the winner of the Jellicle Choice through heinous means, and attempts to eliminate the competition by kidnapping the other candidates.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: At the end, Deuteronomy turns to the camera and directly addresses the humans watching the film, instructing them on how to properly address and treat a cat.
  • Canon Foreigner: The group of mice children who occasionally pop up in the film never appeared in the stage musical.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Since in this version Macavity himself sings parts of his song, it turns from a "The Villain Sucks" Song to a full-on Villain Song where he calls himself "the Napoleon of crime" and "a monster of depravity".
  • Cat Up a Tree: Macavity is stuck up a bronze statue after having tried to snag a ride to the Heaviside Layer on the same balloon Grizabella was on. He seems too scared to climb or jump down on his own, and is still stuck there as the film ends.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: In an attempt to steal the opportunity of a new life for himself, Macavity kidnaps a handful of contestants and has his henchcats subdue the rest with catnip during Bombalurina's number. Believing all opposition out of the way, he all but demands Old Deuteronomy send him to the Heaviside Layer. She, of course, is well aware of his character and refuses, even outright calling him a 'cheat'.
  • Co-Dragons: Bombalurina and Growltiger are this to Macavity.
  • Composite Character:
    • Victoria, originally a background character with a dance solo, is given some of Jemima's traits. Jemima was among the younger cats who sympathized with Grizabella in the stage show. Together, they form an audience surrogate/ingénue protagonist.
    • Cassandra takes Bombalurina's role as both Demeter's friend and duet partner during Grizabella's song.
  • Decomposite Character: Growltiger in the stage version was a character played by Gus in the Show Within a Show near the beginning of Act 2, but, in the film version, Growltiger is real and a completely separate character from Gus. This is significantly closer to the original poem book, where they are indeed two different cats.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Because of Victoria getting substantially more focus than the original stage musical, plus a new specially-written song, filmgoers unfamiliar with the original musical could be forgiven for thinking she's the focal character at first, thus making it a little jarring when the focus suddenly switches to Grizabella near the end.
  • Demoted to Extra: Several cats have much smaller roles here than in the original stage show.
    • Demeter in the show is implied to have had a past with Macavity, and is the first to attack him when she senses his presence. On top of that, she sings his "Villain Sucks" Song alongside Bombalurina. Here she's just a member of the ensemble, and "Macavity" is now a duet between Bombalurina and the titular cat himself.
    • Jellylorum was Gus's caretaker in the original, and she sang his introductory song alongside him. In the film, Gus sings the song solo.
    • While Sillabub/Jemima still appears in the film (albeit under the name "Syllabub"), her role from the show is essentially transferred to Victoria.
    • Rum Tum Tugger is much more prominent in the show, where he sings both "Old Deuteronomy" and "Mr. Mistoffelees" respectively. He doesn't take part in either song in the film, and his buddy-buddy relationship with Mistoffelees is noticeably absent.
    • Bombalurina takes part in every ensemble number in the show, while in the film, she only shows up to sing "Macavity" and accompany her boss for a few scenes.
  • Evil Brit: Macavity keeps Elba's natural cockney accent and is the Big Bad.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Macavity's voice is noticeably deeper and more guttural than the rest of the cast.
  • Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor: Subverted. Macavity finds his nickname for Bustopher Jones - 'Puss-in-Spats' - highly amusing for no obvious reason but Bustopher admits to liking it himself.
  • Foil:
    • Victoria is being set up as one for Grizabella. Both are considered outcasts of the Jellicle Tribe. Victoria is a kitten, while Grizabella is an old cat. Grizabella, a former glamour cat, reminisces about what she once had, while Victoria, abandoned by her human owners, longs for the fond memories that Grizabella has. Their songs reflect this: Grizabella's "Memory" is the most famous song in Cats, while Victoria's "Beautiful Ghosts" is a song created for the film adaptation. Victoria even states:
      Victoria: And the memories were lost long ago, but at least you have beautiful ghosts...
    • Bombalurina, a glamorous sidekick to Macavity, is a reflection of Grizabella's former self, who in this version used to be in the same position.
  • Fur Is Clothing: Jennyanydots can remove her fur to reveal a tap-dancing outfit underneath.
  • G-Rated Drug: Catnip is used by Bombalurina to distract the Jellicles during the "Macavity" number.
  • Gender Flip: Old Deuteronomy, typically rendered as male, is played by actress Judi Dench.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: In the same way that Tom Hooper previously directed Anne Hathaway's performance of "I Dreamed a Dream", Jennifer Hudson sings "Memory" with tears and snot dripping down her face.
  • Inferiority Superiority Complex: Macavity is implied to suffer from this. For the most part, his gargantuan ego oozes out of every pore, but when he's set back or surprised he tends to crack. Idris Elba, describes his character as "charming one minute, but horribly desperate and insecure in another".
  • It Amused Me: Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer assist in drugging the other Jellicles solely because they thought it'd be good fun. They're genuinely shocked when Macavity uses the opportunity to kidnap Old Deuteronomy.
  • Karma Houdini: Macavity. Even after kidnapping a good number of the Jellicles and rendering the rest invalid with hypnosis and catnip, on top of 'breaking every human law', never gets comeuppance for his crimes apart from briefly embarrassing himself when he tries to follow Grizabella to the Heaviside Layer and fails; but even then, no one sees him do that but the audience. Though he does appear to have lost his powers after failing.
  • Magicians Are Wizards: Mr. Mistoffelees wears a magician's hat, which he uses for conjuring.
  • Music for Courage: Mistoffelees' song is sung by the Jellicles to help build his confidence.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Dench was going to be in the show's original cast as Grizabella, which would have been a major piece of Playing Gertrude for the 47 year old actress, until she suffered a severe hamstring injury and had to be replaced by her understudy, Elaine Paige. Now she's playing the other elderly character almost 40 years later when she actually is the proper age for it.
    • When we're first introduced to Macavity, he leaps onto a sign picturing Professor Moriarty and magically changes it into a picture of himself. Moriarty was the character that Eliot based Macavity on.
    • Growltiger is defeated when the kidnapped cats force him off the plank. In the poem book and musical, Growltiger met his end when a band of Siamese cats threw him off of his own ship.
    • In the film, Jennyanydots unzips her fur to reveal a dazzling pink vest atop a more glittery coat of fur. In the show, Jennyanydots removes her enormous fur coat to reveal a slimmer costume that's easier to dance in.
  • Painful Rhyme: Discussed Trope. When Growltiger sings "From Gravesend down to Oxford I pursue my evil aims / Rejoicing in my title of 'The Terror of the Thames'", Bustopher points out that that's not how "Thames" is supposed to be pronounced.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: At the end of the film, Victoria and Mistoffelees become an item.
  • Reality Ensues: Macavity's ego is so enormous, he is utterly convinced that crashing the Jellicle Ball, having his henchcats drug all of the Jellicles with catnip as they sing a song about how unrepentantly evil he is, will convince Old Deuteronomy to bestow the honour of a new life on him. Unsurprisingly, she has the common sense to refuse.
  • Scenery Porn: Every wide shot of the London cityscape looks positively gorgeous. It looks just as breathtaking in the morning sun.
  • Serious Business: The Jellicle Choice is predicated upon a singing contest.
  • Serkis Folk: Averted only in that the faces are live action while everything else about the cats are CG.
  • Shrinking Violet: While Mr. Mistoffelees being shy was an Informed Attribute in the stage version, his large increase in screentime here allows him to be portrayed this way.
  • Sudden Soundtrack Stop: "Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats" ends abruptly with Victoria the only one left singing.
  • Suddenly Voiced:
    • Victoria is traditionally a role with no lines, and the character only communicates via emoting and dancing. The film not only gives her dialogue, it promotes her to main protagonist.
    • This is also the case for Macavity, another typically silent character. He even takes part in his own song.
  • Tagline:
    • "The most joyful event of the holiday season."
    • "You will believe."
  • Took a Level in Badass: Jennynanydots, Bustopher, Skimbleshanks and Gus combine their skills to force Growltiger off the plank of his ship.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Bombalurina never shows up again after she disappears with Macavity.

♫ Touch me, it's so easy to leave me
All alone with the memory
Of my days in the sun
If you touch me
You'll understand what happiness is
Look, a new day has begun! ♫

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