Munkustrap: Far, far up in the sky, from where the most deserving cat will be reborn into another life.
Mr. Mistoffelees: So they can be who they've always dreamed of being.
Cats is a 2019 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. It was directed by Tom Hooper, with the screenplay by Hooper and Lee Hall.
When a young kitten named Victoria (Francesca Hayward) 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 (Judi Dench), 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 (Laurie Davidson), a notorious criminal named Macavity (Idris Elba), and a worn out, outcast glamour cat by the name of Grizabella (Jennifer Hudson).
The film also stars James Corden as Bustopher Jones, Jason Derulo as Rum Tum Tugger, Ian McKellen as Gus the Theatre Cat, Taylor Swift as Bombalurina and Rebel Wilson as Jennyannydots.
Distributed by Universal and released on December 20, 2019.
Previews: Trailer 1, Trailer 2.
Jellicle tropes for Jellicle tropers:
- The '30s: The film's time period according to the creators, which matches when Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats was published.
- 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 did show nerves about using his power and made some mistakes while trying, but he was much more willing from the outset to try and bring Deuteronomy back with his magical powers. In the film, however, he's far more worried about not being up to the job and is too nervous to even try at first. While he only needed brief moments of encouragement and support from Rum Tum Tugger in the show, in the film he has to be pepped up by all the other Jellicles working together before he can 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.
- Adaptational Badass: Jennyanydots proves her mettle when she frees herself from Macavity's traps, rescues the other imprisoned cats, and leads them in battle against his minions.
- Adaptational Context Change: "Macavity" is a "The Villain Sucks" Song in the show. However, as Bombalurina is allied with Macavity in the film, she is no longer warning the audience about his crimes, but crooning a Villain Song that glorifies them.
- Adaptational Comic Relief:
- Bustopher Jones and Jennyanydots have always been light-hearted comedy segments. However, the comedy was vastly dialled up for the film due to them both being played by comedians.
- Mistoffelees has always had a goofy, mistake-prone aspect to his characterisation, but he was always the principle male dance role and designed to complement the principle female dance role (Victoria). The film removes the majority of the dance requirement and plays up the goofiness and mistakes for the first half. The decision was based on the actor having a terrible audition due to his lack of dance and singing background. Instead of failing to get the part, the director decided to hire him and transform Mistoffelees into a Butt-Monkey.
- 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, 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, while still portrayed as a hero, is here much more unfriendly and sarcastic. In the musical, she acted as a leader and friend to the cockroaches. Here, she eats them if they aren't performing well enough,
- 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 Protagonist: In the original musical, Victoria has a minor role with no speaking lines, and her actress emotes entirely through ballet dancing. The 2019 film promotes her to the main character and expands on her backstory, explaining that she was abandoned by her human owners before being adopted by the Jellicle tribe.
- 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.
- The original lyrics of “Macavity” do, in the stage version, imply that Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer are somehow involved with Macavity, but the only crimes we see are petty thefts. In the film, 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, one of Macavity's allies and the accompanying song is brutally truncated to roughly thirty seconds.
- Adaptation Expansion:
- As with most modern movie musicals, Cats includes a film-exclusive song in the form of "Beautiful Ghosts" (a solo for Victoria), written by Taylor Swift and composed by Webber himself.
- In the stage show, Macavity shows only shows up to wreak havoc on the Jellicles, kidnap Old Deuteronomy and attempt to kidnap Demeter. 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.
- In the stage production, Victoria is the principle female dance role, but it's a non-verbal role that gives Victoria no backstory; as a result, she plays the role of a young cat coming of age during the ball. In the film, she's an abandoned young cat who is adopted by the Jellicle tribe after her compassion and faith in others transforms the lives of several of the cats she meets.
- 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, a railroad and Piccadilly Circus.
- 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 pas de deux dance during the Jellicle Ball (nicknamed the "mating dance") is drastically changed for the film so that it's almost unrecognisable. In the stage productions, it's normally performed by Victoria and Admetus/Pluto but is occasionally performed by Victoria and Mistoffelees instead. The film swiftly moves to the Ball's main dance number by glossing over a very brief dance section where all the cats pair off to dance as couples, with Victoria and Mistoffelees taking the spotlit centre... until Rum Tum Tugger decides the Ball needs livening up.
- 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, 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.
- In the stage production, Old Deuteronomy's most notable relationships are with Munkustrap and Rum Tum Tugger, and also Mistoffelees, who is the cat that guides Old Deuteronomy into the junkyard. In the film, only Old Deuteronomy's relationship with Munkustrap is retained. She spends most of the film bonding with Victoria, but is also hinted to have some kind of history with Gus the Theatre Cat, as they treat each other quite tensely until his song.
- In the stage production, Rum Tum Tugger takes a leading role in several songs: his own number, the arrival of Old Deuteronomy, Mistoffelees' song, and a mischievous role in the Aweful Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles. These establish that the female cats all want him, the young male cats all look up to him, and that he has a very close bond of teasing affection with Mistoffelees, Munkustrap and Old Deuteronomy. The film reduces his role down to solely his song, cutting out his relationships with the three core cats and also removing the role of the young male cats from his song to focus exclusively on how much the female cats all want him. Munkustrap is given Tugger's old roles, singing Old Deuteronomy alone instead of as a duet and sharing with Victoria the role of encouraging Mistoffelees to use his magic.
- 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.
- And Starring: Francesca Hayward gets the "Introducing" credit in the main cast.
- 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:
- Macavity is a much more prominent Big Bad here, and his Evil Plan unfolds throughout. In the show, he's referenced every so often, but his primary physical appearance doesn't occur until after his song.
- 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 taking over most of both Bombalurina and Demeter's stage roles.
- Audience Surrogate: The film is told through Victoria's eyes.
- Award-Bait Song: “Beautiful Ghosts”, the film’s only original song.
- 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.
- Socrates, Plato's twin, was created specifically for this movie.
- The cats in bowties who show up in Macavity's number do not appear in the musical either.
- 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 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'.
- Chekhov's Skill: Jennyanydots's ability to remove her fur, first seen as part of her dance number, allows her to slip out from Growltiger's chains and free the other captives, saving them all.
- Co-Dragons: Bombalurina and Growltiger are this to Macavity.
- Composite Character:
- When the musical was originally created, Andrew Lloyd Webber's original plan was to have Victoria being the symbol of grace, elegence and innocence. When it became clear it was going to be almost impossible to find an actor who had both the level of dance and singing required, the role was split into two cats, one with the required ballet skills (Victoria) and one with the required singing skills (Jemima). The film combines the two roles back together in the form of Victoria, who takes over Jemima's singing role and traits of innocence and empathy with Grizabella.
- Cassandra takes Bombalurina's role as both Demeter's friend and duet partner during Grizabella's song. She also takes over much of Demeter's original role, reducing Demeter's role in the process.
- 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.
- 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. This goes back to the origin of the two characters; originally, Jemima didn't exist, until it became obvious that it would be rarely possible to have a single person possess both the singing and dancing talent required, whereupon Jemima took the singing role.
- 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, while Mistoffelees turns his titular song into an "I Am" Song.
- 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.
- Didn't Think This Through: Macavity's whole evil plan is to kidnap the other candidates for the Jellicle Choice—Jennyanydots, Bustopher, Skimbleshanks and Gus—and thus leave himself as the only option, thereby guaranteeing his victory... without considering that such obvious, blatant cheating (done in full view of the other cats) might anger Old Deuteronomy and lead her to disqualify him. Sure enough, that's exactly what happens, and he's left looking the fool.
- 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...
- 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 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' note , 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: Mistoffelees wears a magician's hat, which he uses for conjuring. He also has a big pencil with a rubber on the top, which acts as his magician's wand; the rubber on the top creates a dulled-down version of the white tip to a classic magician's wand.
- Movie Bonus Song: "Beautiful Ghosts" was written specifically for the film adaptation.
- Music for Courage: Mistoffelees' song is sung by the Jellicles to help build his confidence. He repeats the refrains and expands the song in an attempt to build his own confidence.
- Mythology Gag:
- 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 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. Growltiger rhymes "Thames" with "aims" by pronouncing the former as "tames." Bustopher points out that that's not how "Thames" is supposed to be pronounced and criticizes it as a terrible attempt to rhyme.
- Promoted to Love Interest: The stage productions have always kept things ambiguous where the subject of Mistoffelees and Victoria are concerned: Victoria's solo dance of sexual awakening is usually watched by an awestruck Mistoffelees until he joins in and sings the Invitation to the Jellicle Ball; he singles out Victoria for a trick during his own song; and they're often placed together in certain background scenes. In some stage productions, it's Mistoffelees who performs the 'mating dance' with Victoria instead of the more usual Admetus/Plato. How all that's interpreted, however, has been left up to the audience. In the film, they remove the ambiguity in favour of having Mistoffelees spend the entire film crushing on Victoria and looking after her whenever trouble happens. His bumbling attempts to impress her with his constantly-failing magic becomes the main plot set-up for later events in the film. By the end of the film, they do become an item.
- 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: In the stage productions, Mistoffelees is supposed to be a very shy cat, who is a bit of a goofball and is mistake-prone when it comes to performing magic. However, how well it comes across varies from production to production; even in the productions that play it up the most, it can be easy to miss and is therefore a bit of an Informed Attribute as a result. His large role in the film allows this part of his character to be played out in full; it becomes one of the main plot points.
- Sudden Soundtrack Stop: "Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats" ends abruptly with Victoria the only one left singing.
- Suddenly Speaking:
- The White Cat was originally going to be a role that required both exceptional dance and singing ability to portray a cat that was both elegant and innocent. The logistics of finding anyone who could do both equally well were too great, so the cat was split into two roles: the elegant, silent dancer, Victoria, and the innocent Jemima, who had the voice of an angel. In the film, the two roles are combined back into one, giving Victoria dialogue and Jemima's main singing roles. Jemima exists in the film only as a chorus cat, Syllabub, which is an alternative name for Jemima in some stage productions.
- Macavity's role onstage is to be the villain whose appearances and acts of villainy are announced with a deep, villainous laugh. He has no speaking role beyond the laugh. In the film, his role is vastly expanded to create an actual villainous plot. As a result, he gains dialogue and replaces Demeter to duet his own song with Bombalurina.
- "The most joyful event of the holiday season."
- "You will believe."
- Took a Level in Badass: Several cats end the film in a much better place than they started, allowing the villains to be defeated in unexpected ways. Jennyanydots and Bustopher are initially played for comedy, while Gus is an ancient cat with little life left in him. They're all kidnapped by Mavcavity, but not seen as much of a threat. The only effective cat is Skimbleshanks, who is trussed up. However, all the performance skills which helped them during their songs become the key to them defeating Growltiger. Meanwhile, Mistoffelees spends most of the film as an extremely shy and nervous cat whose magic constantly fails. He has to be badgered into attempting to teleport Deuteronomy back after Macavity teleports her to an unknown location. When Mistoffelees eventually succeeds, his confidence is boosted so much that he stops being clumsy and his magic stops failing, finally revealing just how powerful he really is: he can create fire, conjure whatever objects he desires from his hat and sleeves, levitate multiple objects, fly through the air, and teleport at will.
- Villain Song: "Macavity", sung mainly by Bombalurina, who received an Adaptational Villainy upgrade to Macavity's sidekick.
- Your Size May Vary: The cats can be anywhere between being as big as a small child to being small enough to dance on top of a train rail.
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! ♫