In a most unusual turn, Universal Pictures has sent out a memo to theaters stating that the studio will provide a new and updated version of director Tom Hooper’s Andrew Lloyd Webber adaptation, “Cats.” According to The Hollywood Reporter, Universal sent out a memo indicating that the new version would have “some improved visual effects” — and according to THR, it’s being done at Hooper’s behest.
The move follows widespread criticism of the film’s uncanny-valley aesthetic, which, at one point, seems to involve human faces pasted onto the bodies of mice and dancing cockroaches. The movie is struggling at the box office, having earned $2.6 million on Friday and on a budget of nearly $100 million. The film’s Cinemascore was a C+ and its Rotten Tomatoes score is currently sitting at a painful 19%.
Tom Hooper, who won a Best Directing Academy Award in 2011 for “The King’s Speech,” has been vocal about the challenging visual effects featured in “Cats.” With regards to the trailer that released earlier over the year, he said, “We’d only finished shooting in March, so all the visual effects [in the trailer] were at quite an early stage. Possibly there were, in the extremity in some of the responses, some clues in how to keep evolving [the production]. When you watch the finished film, you’ll see that some of the designs of the cats have moved on since then, and certainly our understanding of how to use the technology to make them work has gone up, too.”
Despite the divided reaction to the film’s visuals, “Cats” is already achieving a kind of cult status as indicated on Twitter. In his review, IndieWire Executive Editor and Chief Film Critic Eric Kohn called the movie an absurd and exuberant mess. “Everything ludicrous about the show has been cranked up to 11, with a restless artificial camera and actors so keen on upstaging one another with excessive song-and-dance numbers they may as well be competing for a Heaviside Layer of their own. It takes some ambitious swings and works on its own terms in fits and starts, all while not really working at all.”
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The updated version of “Cats” will be made available to exhibitors on Sunday via a satellite server.