In an effort to either prevent us from losing our minds during the great social distancing or perhaps to let us lean into it in a therapeutic way, Universal Pictures released
Usually, we rank songs instead of rating them. But given that there are so many musical numbers in the film, we decided to keep them in their original order and rate them all, on a scale of 1 to 5 toe beans. I did this so that you don’t have to. I’ve also tried to focus on the songs themselves and not really tear down any of the actors’ performances because I feel they’ve suffered enough.
The following contains details of the plot of
Cats. Yes, there is one.
Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats
The big introduction number. “Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats” is a bit of a shock if you’re uninitiated, but it’s definitely got a lot going for it. The song starts off kind of ominous, then moves into more of a banger. It’s the musical version of what the cats on screen are doing, sniffing you out as a newcomer and making sure you should be here. And once it knows you should, it is time to party. The song is a little all over the map, which frankly is a great introduction to the film.
“The Naming of Cats / Invitation to the Jellicle Ball”
Both are more of an exposition device moment than full-fledged musical numbers. They serve their function, and they set up the purpose behind most of the other songs. These are “the song(s) of themselves of course, who they are and what they do,” which could be said of these particular melodies and how they relate to the overall film, but still, they’re mostly bridges.
Jennyanydots: The Old Gumbie Cat
This one gets old for me fairly quickly. The mice and cockroaches are a bit of a mind-freak as they are introduced, but those lessen on repeat viewings. Overall there’s just too much reliance on the gags of Jennyanydots scratching herself or other similar physical gags, a joke that wears itself out fast. Plus all of the jazz scat breaks feel a bit laborious in an operetta like this.
The Rum Tum Tugger
The upbeat nature of this song is fun, and it’s refreshing to get Jason Derulo in here because I firmly believe that most musical adaptations really need to prioritize actual singers over famous actors when it comes to casting. Especially in a film where the most famous faces are being covered by CGI “fur.” The standout here is the insanely catchy melody. The lyrics are a bit repetitive, which is fitting given the context. Mostly I just focus on the ethical quandary of a cat wearing a fur coat.
Grizabella: The Glamour Cat / Memory (Prelude)
Gonna put these two together because while they could technically be categorized as “asides” type songs, there’s just something compelling about whenever Jennifer Hudson shows up and delivers performances for the movie she thought this was going to be in her head. If nothing else, you kind of have to respect these repeated attempts to put the movie back on the rails that it insists on rushing right off of again.
Bustopher Jones: The Cat About Town
Did Broadway and Hollywood make some sort of deal that each and every adaptation of a musical must now include a spot for James Corden? That’s just the way it is and there’s no use fighting it. Having said that, this does feel like one of the better uses of him. The movie already feels like an extended sketch from The Late Late Show and this song just leans on into that. Yet, despite that, it also feels like he’s sincerely delighting in being here, which lends some charm.
Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer
Overall I’ve tried not to use the stage musical’s versions of the songs as a factor in this ranking, but I have to point out that this song suffers the most in translation. It’s the song that most stuck in my head as a kid from the live show, and it just feels so deflated in the film. It goes from an upbeat high energy number to kind of a sleepy, skulky number. It’s just far too mellow for how chaotic these cats are supposed to be.
Growltiger’s Last Stand
I just want to see every moment of Ray Winstone being pitched this role, showing up on set, preparing to play a cat, and singing this song.
This song serves a purpose, but it doesn’t make you as awestricken by the arrival of Old Deuteronomy as it wants you to be. Judi Dench is the only reason that the song really lands. The Dench creates her own anticipation.
The Jellicle Ball
It’s got Dench. It’s got creepy harmonized whispering. And it’s got Ian McKellan who was seemingly given a script and then just shook his head and said, “Oh I got this, don’t worry.” All of this builds anticipation and once the song jumps up in tempo, you’re on board and excited. A solid on-its-feet landing for sure. Also, cats in sneakers doing cocaine nose sniffs? I gotta give it the edge just for that.
Beautiful Ghosts / Reprise
The Moment of Happiness
Ain’t never gonna be mad at Dench. Our cat grandma loves us all.
Gus: The Theater Cat
I don’t know how to say this without it sounding weird, so here it goes. Ian McKellan is very good at playing a cat. Out of all the cats in
Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat
The first time I saw this, I was torn between loving seeing the wood planks being laid out like train track and angry that in a movie with so many ridiculous sets, that they were going to just hang out in the Egyptian during a song about railways and trains. So when the train sets came in, I was delighted. We got both! But also this song is a much welcome burst of energy back into the film, after several slower numbers in a row. It’s the number where Robbie Fairchild’s Munkstrap actually seems really excited about the cat he’s introducing to us.
Macavity: The Mystery Cat
This truly is the number where you either give into what this movie is doing or you’re probably just done. It’s just got so much of what the initial trailer drop brought to the table. Taylor as Bombalurina dropping catnip like drugs while sporting kitty sized high heels (but not, it should be clarified, kitten heels). To cap it all off, Idris Elba suddenly realizing he’s in a film version of
Like Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, this is the only other song where the notable change from the stage musical factors into my feelings towards it. I go the other way with it this time though. Switching the song from the boastful anthem into a rallying cry to get the shy Mistoffelees to believe in himself was an interesting choice. Following the Macavity song, the original version might’ve felt repetitive. Here, it’s actually kind of sweet. The only real ding to “Magical Mister Mistoffelees” is that it does slightly undercut what happens next with Memory.
Look, this is the most popular song from
The Journey to the Heaviside Layer
If you’ve hung on this long and this song doesn’t get you in the feels, you might be a little dead inside. It’s pure schmaltz, but it’s fun schmaltz. The Macavity moment is… unnecessary, but the movie really wants to pretend it has a plot.
Finale: The Ad-Dressing of Cats
This one really goes on for quite a while, doesn’t it? I don’t wanna feel like I need Dench only in moderation but here we are.
What do you think? Do you agree with our ratings? Are you still hung up on the concept of a “butthole cut” of the movie? Let us know in the comments below!