By Marie-Louise Gumuchian
LONDON (Reuters) – “Cats” star Jason Derulo has hit back at critics who have slammed the film adaptation of the hit stage musical, calling the movie “an incredible, brave piece of art”.
From “cat-tastrophic” to “the worst thing to happen to cats since dogs”, most reviews for the film released this week have been far from kind, with disapproval ranging over the cast’s computer-generated furry looks, oversized sets and plot.
As of Friday, 19% of 129 reviews collected on the Rotten Tomatoes website were positive.
“Reviews don’t matter … It’s an incredible, brave piece of art … When (the musical) came out on Broadway, it was the same thing, people were like ‘What is this, this is something totally different’,” Derulo told celebrity website TMZ.
“Any time that you defy what an art form is, any time you defy all rules … there’s going to be some pushback obviously,” Derulo added, calling the film’s director, Oscar winner Tom Hooper, a “class act”.
“I am just excited for the people to actually see it because reviewers … what the hell do they know? Have they made a film ever in their life?”
Featuring Derulo, Taylor Swift, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Jennifer Hudson and Idris Elba, “Cats” sparked some negative reaction when its trailer dropped in July.
Adapted from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, the movie shows the actors’ faces while their bodies appear to be covered in fur.
“The real issue is the distracting and disturbing ‘digital fur technology’,” Tara Brady wrote for The Irish Times. “Every time Cats settles into an admittedly avant-garde shape, an ear twitches or a tail flicks and you’re back thinking about how ghastly the actual cats look.”
Variety’s Peter Debruge called it an “outlandishly tacky interpretation”.
“From the first shot … to the last, ‘Cats’ hurts the eyes and, yes, the ears, as nearly all the musical numbers … have been twisted into campy, awards-grubbing cameos for big-name stars in bad-CG cat drag.”
Based on the poems by T.S. Eliot, “Cats” follows the Jellicles group of felines, who annually decide who will ascend to the Heaviside Layer. The musical opened in London in 1981, becoming one of the longest-running shows in the West End and Broadway.
Hooper said he worked on the character designs after initial reaction to the trailer. At Monday’s premiere, he told Variety he had completed the movie only the previous day.
Several critics praised the choreography and performances.
USA Today’s Brian Truitt called “Cats” an “utterly absurd yet oddly charming movie” while Deadline’s Pete Hammond said it was a “welcome treat this holiday season”.
(Reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Frances Kerry and Giles Elgood)