The Mail sends a panel of 10 to review the film adaptation of the much-loved musical Cats

Midnight. Not a sound from the pavement. ‘Till the global embargo was lifted. And all the reviews came out. Ladies and gentlemen, let the cattiness begin!

Top writers give their verdict using the paws scores

Top writers give their verdict using the paws scores 

It is hard to think of any film in recent years that has received such a full-scale, claws-out, critical mauling as Cats. Worldwide reaction to the new movie version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage musical — itself inspired by the poems of T.S. Eliot — has been, well, catty.

The Daily Telegraph awarded the film — which features Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ian McKellen, Idris Elba, James Corden, Ray Winstone, Rebel Wilson and Taylor Swift — an almost-unprecedented no stars out of five, while the Times called it a ‘nightmare’.

The Mail’s Brian Viner was one of the few critics who praised the film, claiming that, while weird, it is still a terrific spectacle.

As the furore continues, top writers give their verdict — is it the cat’s whiskers or a cat o’nine tails?

Taylor Swift in a scene of Cats. Worldwide reaction to the new movie version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's stage musical — itself inspired by the poems of T.S. Eliot

Taylor Swift in a scene of Cats. Worldwide reaction to the new movie version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage musical — itself inspired by the poems of T.S. Eliot

This is a memory I’d much rather forget

Jan Moir, Daily Mail columnist

Jan Moir Daily Mail columnist gave two stars

Jan Moir Daily Mail columnist gave two stars

Cats runs for 109 cat-astrophic minutes and I spent most of them terrified that the cast were going start having sex with each other. When not worried about this, I worried about Idris Elba, who might never work again after his eyeball-smelting turn as Macavity, ‘a monster of depravity’.

I never could work out what emotion was supposed to be signified by his suddenly erect tail. Frankly, I don’t want to know.

Yes, I will have nightmares about this film for the rest of my life: Cats padding around in kitchens and writhing in dumpsters, or Judi Dench as Old Deuteronomy swathed in chinchilla and looking like the ‘bread lion’ from The Great British Bake Off.

It says everything about Cats that the spectacle of Rebel Wilson (Jennyanydots) scratching her crotch and eating human-faced cockroaches is not as bad as Jennifer Hudson (Grizabella) sobbing her way through Memory like a drowning kitten.

It is not without artistic merit. Taylor Swift has a winning turn as Bombalurina and credit must go the Royal Ballet’s Francesca Hayward, who is enchanting as Victoria.

I watched it in a West London cinema, where the children laughed with delight at James Corden’s gluttonous Bustopher Jones. But they were silent for long stretches. Me, too. Mummy! Make it stop.

Rating:

 Give the critics a saucer of milk – this is fabulous 

 Andrew Pierce, Daily Mail columnist 

Bah, humbug. Those mean-hearted critics have been drinking too much sour milk.

Andrew Pierce Daily Mail columnist gave five stars

Andrew Pierce Daily Mail columnist gave five stars 

Director Tom Hooper’s adaptation of the stage show is gloriously entertaining. Admittedly, the plot is skinnier than an underfed street moggy. A ragbag collection of stray cats (who look well-fed considering they scavenge on rubbish) perform an X Factor-style dance-off.

The prize? Elevation to a new life in a kinder world. Yet it’s the same story that sustained Andrew Lloyd Webber’s long-running stage production.

The pace is frenetic as the cats prance and preen around moonlit London. I never thought that I would see Dame Judi Dench reclining atop Nelson’s Column.

Dench is magnificent as Old Deuteronomy, stealing the show with a feline purr. And Sir Ian McKellen puts in a crackling cameo as Gus, The Theatre Cat.

There are, I must admit, many baffling moments, but despite the film’s flaws, I laughed out loud when one of the felines inquired: ‘Cat got your tongue?’

It’s a toe-tapping, feelgood extravaganza. What do the glum-faced critics know?

Rating:

Dame Judi Dench in Cats. The Daily Telegraph awarded the film an unprecedented no stars out of five

Dame Judi Dench in Cats. The Daily Telegraph awarded the film an unprecedented no stars out of five 

 Sir Ian and a Big Brother moment

 Robert Hardman Daily Mail columnist 

Robert Hardman Daily Mail columnist gave three stars

Robert Hardman Daily Mail columnist gave three stars 

After all the vitriol, I doubt its makers will have many speeches to make come the awards season — unless there is a category for Best Onesie.

The computerised furry costumes are sensational (even if Dame Judi looks more like Chewbacca from Star Wars).

Does Cats deserve such a hefty kicking? No. The one-dimensional plot takes an age to materialise, but what it does have going for it are great tunes, rollicking dance scenes and famous faces. My children, including daughter Matilda (whose own review is above), loved Rebel Wilson and James Corden. Older viewers may wonder what possessed some of our loftiest thesps to sign up.

The sight of Sir Ian McKellen licking a saucer of cream instantly and indelibly conjured up a vision of ex-MP George Galloway doing the same on Celebrity Big Brother (a moment he is still living down 13 years later).

Cats might lack the dazzle of the on-stage original. But it’s no turkey.

Rating:

James Corden in Cats. Other stars include Ian McKellen, Idris Elba, Ray Winstone and Rebel Wilson

James Corden in Cats. Other stars include Ian McKellen, Idris Elba, Ray Winstone and Rebel Wilson

 Audience went on the prowl

 Beverley Cuddy, editor of Dogs Today magazine

Beverley Cuddy editor of Dogs Today magazine gave one star

Beverley Cuddy editor of Dogs Today magazine gave one star 

I like to think independent-minded cats are an affair, while faithful dogs are a marriage. At the cinema I went to, some of the audience channelled cat behaviour by walking out unaccompanied and not returning; the onscreen felines had clearly rubbed them up the wrong way.

Some scenes , it has to be said, are unforgettable: Jennifer Hudson as Grizabella or Taylor Swift looking incredible in high heels.

But how cruel of the producers to give national treasure Judi Dench such an unflattering goatee.

On the way out, I heard someone say that Nicole Scherzinger was very good. The Pussycat Dolls singer wasn’t even in the film — or was she? Who could be certain with all that computer trickery?

Rating:

 Elaine Page’s charm would add a lot

James Delingpole, cat-lover, journalist and critic

James Delingpole, cat-lover, journalist and critic 

James Delingpole, cat-lover, journalist and critic

Ten minutes in, my daughter — a musicals fanatic — leant over and whispered: ‘I think this might be the worst film I’ve ever seen.’ I couldn’t disagree. Criticism has rightly been levelled at its discomfiting qualities — all those weird, cavorting, CGI-enhanced hybrid creatures with the faces of fanciable humans but the bodies, fur and tails of moggies.

However, the problems go far beyond the design: the whole concept is irredeemably flawed.

Though I’m fond of felines, T.S. Eliot and even Andrew Lloyd Webber, the combination of all three is toxic. At least the stage version had the charming Elaine Paige; new Grizabella Jennifer Hudson massacres the key song, Memory, drenching it in schmaltz.

If only Ezra Pound — the editor who pared down Eliot’s overlong poem The Waste Land — had been around when Eliot wrote Old Possum’s Book Of Practical Cats.

He would have scrawled across the manuscript in red ink: ‘DO NOT PUBLISH!’

Rating:

Thank goodness for a trans-cat! 

Titania McGrath, ‘radical intersectionalist poet’

Titania McGrath, 'radical intersectionalist poet'

Titania McGrath, ‘radical intersectionalist poet’ 

The best kind of critic assesses movies according to how well they satisfy diversity quotas. The more BAME and LGBTQ+ actors are featured, the better a movie is.

I think reviews should be replaced with a system of pie charts to show whether or not a film is sufficiently ‘woke’. So imagine my horror when the makers of Cats hired mixed-race actor Francesca Hayward to play Victoria, a white cat.

They have erased the existence of this Kenyan-born woman by forcing her to ‘white up’. True, they have also turned her into a cat, but that shouldn’t distract us from the movie’s flagrant racism.

The traditionally male role of Old Deuteronomy is played by Judi Dench, so there is at least some trans-cat representation. This resonated with me because I have a dog who identifies as a cat. That said, I’ve had to muzzle it because for some reason it keeps barking.

*Titania McGrath is a spoof ‘woke’ character created by comedian Andrew Doyle.

Rating:

 These cat-people give me the creeps!

Christopher Hart, novelist and film-lover

Christopher Hart, novelist and film-lover

Christopher Hart, novelist and film-lover 

A cold, computerised disaster. In old musicals, a man dances in the street with an umbrella and a rain-machine — and it’s the greatest moment ever. (I am referring to Gene Kelly’s dazzling performance in Singin’ In The Rain).

Cats, by contrast, is testament to the total failure of CGI.

The streets in this movie look nothing like London — there are no people, for one thing. Has everyone succumbed to norovirus? It’s creepy and apocalyptic.

Then there are these humanoid-feline things we are supposed to care about, but can’t make any sense of whatsoever, their faces pixellated with cat fur.

But perhaps Cats will be a watershed for Hollywood. Surely even in La La Land they can’t ignore critical flops this size — taking into account the fact that familiarity with the stage version means that audiences will still go? We want real people, not Taylor Swift with a tail above her bum.

Rating:

 The caterwauling went on and on 

Aggie Mackenzie ‘feline-phobe seeking a cure’, journalist and broadcaster

Aggie Mackenzie 'feline-phobe seeking a cure', journalist and broadcaster

Aggie Mackenzie ‘feline-phobe seeking a cure’, journalist and broadcaster

I’ve always been a bit frightened of cats and hoped the film might cure me. Five seconds in, my heart sank — I knew it wasn’t going to be up my alley-cat and the phobia would remain.

An excellent James Corden apart, it is a string of dreary cliches; someone always seems to be exclaiming: ‘Look what the cat brought in!’ It’s corny, cringey and cheesy.

Every time another singalong was launched into, I prayed: ‘Please God, surely the pain will be over after this one and the credits will roll.’ But no. When the caterwauling subsided, another incomprehensible scene began. It went on and on.

My friend’s daughter, it must be said, was captivated throughout.

But what a pity so much money, and talent were ploughed into something so lamentable. Look what the Hollywood cats brought in.

Rating:

 It’s worth at least one Oscar  

Roger Lewis, author and Mail book reviewer

Roger Lewis, author and Mail book reviewer

Roger Lewis, author and Mail book reviewer

Coming from a dog family, I was finally introduced to cats by Mark Rylance. He was playing Peter Pan, so the kittens he handed over were named Tink and Smee. They clawed the antique furniture.

The first problem with the lavish new film is that the ballet-dancing cats avoid being red in tooth and claw — in the way real cats are.

They lack vibrancy and are oddly sexless — no bumps or bits under the streamlined fur.

Idris Elba was in there. Ray Winstone played a glowering pirate, making fluffy Dame Dench walk the plank. Ian McKellen as the palsy Gus ought to win a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, and Steven McRae as Skimbleshanks had a breathtaking tap-dance sequence worth a million Jellicle Balls.

Looking back, it was no dafter than many an opera I’ve endured.

Rating:

Not bad . . . but it’s no Aristocats

Matilda Hardman aged 12

Matilda Hardman aged 12

Matilda Hardman aged 12  

As the film began, I thought it would be like the Aristocats (a favourite cartoon of mine) set to music.

It didn’t quite live up to my expectations but was enjoyable nonetheless. 

A gluttonous James Corden and a cockroach-crunching Rebel Wilson were, for me, the stand-out stars. 

I thought the costumes were creepily brilliant, the ballet was exquisite and the set had a real atmosphere. 

I knew the movie was based on famous poems, but I think it would have benefited from a little more dialogue as it was rather slow.

 Despite this, my little brother really enjoyed it. This is a fabulously feline film — but a round of applause for the mice, too!

Rating:

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