"Cats"

Taylor Swift stars as Bombalurina in a scene from “Cats.”

I’m pretty certain this was the closest to seeing Idris Elba naked I’ll ever get. Well, except for the fact he was covered in fur and basically built like a Ken doll.

Yeah, it was weird. But, I’m not sure it was the weirdest thing I saw in “Cats.”

Since the trailer dropped a couple of months ago, the film has been ridiculed and reviled for the cats’ practically nightmarish appearance. The human-cat hybrid was a bit like an animorph gone horribly wrong. After the film premiered last week, critics used words like “baffling,” “deranged” and even “hallucinatory.”

These descriptions actually made me even more curious. Just how bad could it be?

Well, I’m not sure it’s a film anyone should see sober. For those of you who don’t drink, perhaps you should just sit this one out.

The film is based on the long-running Andrew Lloyd Webber Broadway show of the same name. It’s easily one of the most recognizable and popular musicals of all time, and I can understand why Hollywood wanted to make an adaptation of it. They wanted to capture that bit of stage magic and bring it to the big screen.

But, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. I could shave my head or tattoo “I (heart) naps” on my forehead, but neither would be a very good look. I could bake a chocolate cake with green beans and peas thrown in for texture. Maybe some fish for an extra kick. Again, not a great idea. I could introduce my 14-year-old cat to a litter of puppies. Just plop her in the middle of them. Let’s just say that one wouldn’t end well.

See, there are all kinds of things we can do in life that seem like an adventure or an unexplored avenue. Director Tom Hooper — an Oscar-winning director, mind you — and the rest saw an opportunity to bring a beloved production to the masses, and because they could, they did.

And it’s gone very, very badly.

There really isn’t much of a plot in “Cats,” both in the stage version or the film. It focuses on a group of Jellicle cats, who come together one night a year when one of them will ascend to a higher plane and be reborn into a new life. Basically, which cat deserves something better than the life they’re living? Each cat introduces their story in song, and Old Deuteronomy (Dame Judi Dench) will choose who has received the Jellicle honor.

That’s it. It’s not a complicated plot, and the storyline isn’t meant to be in-depth or lengthy. Each individual song tells a piece of the story, and together they tell a bigger tail, err, tale. OK, I sound as nonsensical as the film. But Webber based the original musical on a collection of poems, “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” by T.S. Eliot. It’s a larger story told in pieces.

Unfortunately, while this might translate to a stage, in a film it becomes an unruly mess that even musical fans have trouble tolerating. The storyline, once confined to just one stage, can be as big and as grand as a film crew can make it. There are no limits to the imagination, so the film gives us outlandish sets, larger-than-cat-life props and other pieces that create this unsettling world for us and them.

But, if the cats with human faces and hands were a bit creepy, that’s nothing compared to the dancing cockroaches with human faces. Seriously. Jennyanydots (Rebel Wilson) calls them her “Beatles show.”

Speaking of Wilson, what a mess. She and James Cordon, who plays Bustopher Jones, are meant to be the comedy relief. Unfortunately, they aren’t funny and their moments in the spotlight are downright painful to watch. In this film, that’s saying a lot, but Hooper would have been better off just pulling in an old “Toonses the Driving Cat” skit from vintage Saturday Night Live.

That’s not to say all the performances were lackluster. Elba looked odd once he lost his fur coat, but his Macavity was still interesting. I’ll never speak ill of Dench, and Sir Ian McKellan seemed to have a bit of fun in his role of Gus, although I may never be able to forget seeing him drink from a saucer.

And then there’s Taylor Swift, who was born to play a cat and would be one in real life if she could. Jennifer Hudson’s “Memory” is powerful, and I found myself waiting eagerly to see her hit the high notes.

There were bits of enjoyment here. A lot of that comes from the musical numbers — at least some of them — and select performances. But, it’s impossible to overlook the odd appearances of the cats. Why did they have actual hands? Why did some of them wear shoes but only on their back feet while other walked on all fours? Why did Mr. Mistoffellees look like he’d raided Porter Waggoner’s old stash of cowboy costumes?

Why did anyone ever think this film was a good idea? “Cats” should have stayed on the stage where it belonged, and Hooper & Co. should go ahead and set up a fund to pay for the therapy of the few shell-shocked viewers who ventured out to see this one.

Amanda Greever is a former editor, designer and writer at The Daily Times. She now works in public relations. Contact her at amandagreever@gmail.com.

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