The cat contenders go about introducing themselves over a series of ditties that span the length of the entire movie. This is pure Cats. What’s not pure Cats is the expansion of villainous Macavity (Idris Elba), who can make fellow cats vanish into thin air. He abducts his competition and places them on a barge (!) in the middle of the Thames (!), where his associate named Growltiger (!), played by Ray Winstone (!), keeps them prisoner. This way, Macavity can eliminate anyone who could possibly go to the Heaviside Layer in his place. The narrative tension this adds to the proceedings is nil to none.
This is because the success of Cats, of course, is not dependent on silly things like "dialogue" and "plot." It's contingent on how well the performers and creative team can pull off the musical numbers. Here, they range from fully deranged to horribly dull. Hooper, known for his askew angles and tight close-ups, does not seem to have a sense of what makes dance compelling on screen. What should be an exhilarating chance to show off the physical talents of his cast, the mid-show ballet "The Jellicle Ball," becomes a series of quick cuts that obscure the choreography by Hamilton's Andy Blankenbuehler. Skimbleshanks (Steven McRae) -- never thought of as one of the standout cats -- gets the most exuberant sequence, featuring nimble tap dancing that only sometimes makes you stop to think, Wait, do cats wears shoes? After that you might briefly ponder how strange it is that these creatures have human feet and hands, but furry bodies.
The bit that is guaranteed to produce the most nightmares belongs to Rebel Wilson's Jennyanydots, the subject of "The Old Gumbie Cat." It features both mice with the faces of human children and a chorus line of dancing cockroaches, who, yes, also have human faces. To make you further question the nature of your new reality, at one point Wilson unzips her cat skin to reveal a sparkly outfit over... another layer of cat skin. (Which cats wear clothing is another matter entirely. Some seem to wear coats of fur, raising a number of other ethical concerns.)