Cats is a musical fantasy film based on the stage musical of the same name by Andrew Lloyd Webber, which in turn was based on the poetry collection Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939) by T. S. Eliot. The film is a reboot of the 2019 film adaption which failed to appeal to audiences.
A young man was unfortunate to receive a concussion in the local junkyard. Once he comes to his senses, he stumbles upon a tribe of magical, singing cats calling themselves "Jellicles". They openly welcome him to take part in a celebration they call "The Jellicle Ball".
Elliot Possum and his friend Hank works in the junkyard outside of London. Hank is concerning that Elliot does not have much going on in his life. After clocking out late that night, Elliot went back to the job sight go get his phone. It was then he encountered an old ugly grey cat. But then he got blind-sighted by the headlight of a passing car, he tricked over the cat and fell down a seep slope, rendering him unconscious. Since he told Hank not to wait up, everyone just assumed that he be the last one out. He woke up around midnight chasing off a nameless wino that got on the sight, and he found that the junkyard has warped in a way he doesn't recognize it, nor can he got out ("Overture").
He then discovered that the entire junkyard was being overrun with cats. He tried insulting the cats to make them go away, until he heard a voice come from somewhere. He was in complete surprise to watch the cats stand on their hind legs, talk, sing, and dance. They introduce themselves as "Jellicle Cats" ("Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats"). When the confused Elliot asks what a Jellicle Cat is, the cats were stunned. They gathered around and proceed to explain to him that each cat have three different names: by the human family, by themselves, and a secret name ("The Naming of Cats"). It was then the white kitten Victoria started her ballet solo, with the moon projecting some type of spotlight on her. Then she conjured up a flash of light which signals their festivities to begin. Elliot could see that a space in the junkyard has been decorated for a party the cats call the "Jellicle Ball" ("The Invitation to the Jellicle Ball"). Muskustrap, a silver Mackerel Tabby cat explained that Jellicle Cats gather once a year to throw a ball when the "Jellicle Moon" comes out. For just before dawn, their leader will make what is called the "Jellicle Choice", and chooses one cat to go to the "Heaviside Layer" and be reborn into a new life. As being the only human present, the cats welcome Elliot to take part in the ball, much to his contempt.
Muskustrap then introduces Elliot to Jennyanydots the Old Gumbie Cat, a big lazy tabby cat who prefers to sleep all day ("The Old Gumbie Cat"). But at night, she spend most of her time training mice and cockroaches. The party was then crashed by Muskustrap's half-brother, Rum Tug Tugger, a carefree rebellious cat ("The Rum Tum Tugger"). He gets the younger cats in a bit of a frenzy. But the excitement died out with the arrival of an ugly cat, who Eliot recognized as the cat who tripped him earlier. He learned that the cat's name is Grizabella the Glamour Cat, an old grey cat who abandoned the tribe a long time ago ("Grizabella: The Glamour Cat"). The other cats try to avoid her in disgust as this outcast passes through, and tried to keep the younger cats from getting near her and touching her. After Grizabella left, an elite fat cat named Bustopher Jones have arrived and shared stories of the gentlemen's clubs he's been to and the many meals he had ("Bustopher Jones: The Cat About Town"). Meanwhile, Elliot and Munkustrap were checking up on his wife Demeter, a wary Egyptian Mau cat who sense something bad is going to happen. She believes that it might be someone named "Macavity". As Elliot was about to ask who that is, a loud crashing sound can be heard throughout the entire ball. Demeter shout out "Macavity!" and the already-startled cats all quickly ran off hiding, leaving Elliot alone. At his feet, he picks up a wanted poster of Macavity one of the kittens were drawing, which it says at the bottom "Wanted for: EVERYTHING".
When Elliot investigates the source of the sound and discovered it was Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, twin trouble-making Bengal Jellicle cats ("Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer"). Elliot chased all around the office trying to catch them, while they brag about their reputation as petty burglars and causing mischief for the humans in their neighborhood. They completely had Elliot on the run, until all the other Jellicle cats. With their help, Elliot was able to capture the cat duo. Demeter demands to know if Macavity sent them, but they claim to be there of their own accord. When Tugger asked a tuxedo cat he called "Quaxo" what them should do with them, but made no response. He was distracted by a bright light shining on the other side of the junkyard. He wondered if it was Old Deuteronomy, and the psychic calico twins, Coricopat and Tantomile confirmed that it is. Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer beg to be let go to see him. Munskustrap agreed, only to propose a punishment for them later. All the cats, including Elliot returned to the ball to greet him ("Old Deuteronomy"). Muskustrap and Rum Tum Tugger explain to Elliot that Old Deuteronomy is a wise and gracious leader who had lived before Queen Victoria's time and claimed to have been married about a hundred times. The old slow-moving Norwegian Forest cat arrives and all the Jellicle cats fond over him; including Mungojerrie, Rumpleteazer, and Rum Tum Tugger. He wears a collar with a glowing teal gem they call "The Jellicle Moonstone", which they explained it's what Old Deuteronomy uses to make the Jellicle Choice each year.
After Elliot was introduced to the Jellicle patriarch, Munkunstrap get every cat ready for a play he made for him. He even got Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer to participate to make up for their earlier actions. Munkunstrap announced that the play was about the Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles. When Elliot asked what battle, Munkunstrap simply answered "exactly". Then when he asked what "Pollicles" are, Old Deuteronomy explained that they are canine version of the Jellicle Cats (which was another story). So the play started with the story of two dog tribes clashing together in the streets one night ("The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles"). Then the cat George appears, dressed as the Great Rumpus Cat, a frightening superhero-like cat who scared the dogs away and ended the battle. Old Deuteronomy explanation of the play's moral that like creatures, cats and dogs are only moral to their very end. But he then was interrupted by another loud crash. Demeter quickly proclaimed it to be Macavity and the cats scurried off once again. Elliot and Munkunstrap do a quick patrol while protecting Old Deuteronomy. It was then that Grizabella reappears, keeping her distance and trying to get some food from the ball ("Grizabella: The Glamour Cat (Reprise)"). Victoria and a kitten Rum Tum Tugger named "Sillabub" come out of hiding in an attempt to approach her, but they were stopped by Jellylorum, a Himalayan cat who watches over the kittens. Grizabella was then chased out of the ball with what little food she could get by Munkunstrap's nearly competent "second-in-command", Alonzo.
Seeing that it was a false alarm, Old Deuteronomy summoned the cats back so the main celebration can begin ("The Jellicle Ball"). Elliot watches as the cats sing and display their amazing "Terpsichorean powers" under the light of the Jellicle Moon. Jennyorum asked Elliot to look after the kittens for her while goes out to dance. But after a while, Elliot was completely exhausted. The kittens seem to be too much for him. Rum Tum Tugger walked by the kittens Tumblebrutus and Pouncival, calling them "Bill Bailey and Carbucketty". They explain to Elliot that Tugger likes to tease the other cats by calling them by their family-given names. Elliot then meets Exotica, a Russian Blue cat who teaches kittens to dance.
- Tom Felton as Elliot Possum, a less-productive man who works at a local junkyard with a dislike for cats before taking part in the Jellicle Ball
- Adam Driver as Hank, a friend and co-worker of Elliot's
- Lee Arenberg as the wino who's seen wondering around the junkyard during Elliot's time at the Jellicle Ball
- Patrick Wilson as as Munkustrap, the Silver Mackerel Tabby guardian of the Jellicle Cats and host of the Jellicle Ball
- John Stamos as Rum Tum Tugger the Rock Star Cat, Munkustrap's rebellious, fun-loving, Maine Coon brother
- Chi McBride as Old Deuteronomy, the wise old Norwegian Forest leader of the Jellicles; and Macavity, Muskustrap, and Rum Tum Tugger's father
- Zoe Saldana as Grizabella the Glamour Cat, a sad messy old Ragamuffin cat who lost her beauty after becoming an outcast from leaving the tribe a long time ago
- Kevin Bacon as Macavity the Mystery Cat, a deranged ginger LaPerm cat who has been known to be a nefarious criminal
- Chloe Bennet as Demeter, Munkustrap's Egyptain Mau wife and Grizabella's daughter with the power to sense future misfortunes
- Ray Park as Alonzo, Munkustrap's "second-in-command"
- Rebecca Ferguson as Cassandra, a lovely brown and cream Abyssinian cat
- David McCallum as Gus the Theatre Cat, an elderly Oriental Longhair that was once a famous stage actor
- John De Lancie as Asparagus, Gus's Sphinx cat son
- Sally Field as Jellylorum, a Himalayan cat who acts as a caretaker for the kittens and Gus
- Don Cheadle as George, Asparagus's Burmese son who took up the role of the Rumpus Cat
- Edi Gathegi as Coricopat, the male psychic calico twin
- Elizabeth Henstridge as Tantomile, the female psychic calico twin
- Melissa McCarthy as Jennyanydots the Old Gumbie Cat, a tabby Exotic Shorthair who rules over the mice and cockroaches at night
- Laurence R. Harvey as Bustopher Jones, a gentlemanly, fat, bi-colored, black Persian
- Taron Egerton as Mungojerrie, the male Bengal cat burglar
- Mia Wasikowska as Rumpleteazer, the female Bengal cat burglar
- Andrew Scott as Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat, an upbeat Chausie who is known to be the unofficial chaperone on a mail train
- Tom Holland as Quaxo/Mr. Mistoffelees, a young tuxedo cat who is also a clever magician
- Anne Hathaway as Bombalurina, a flirtatious Arabian Mau and Demeter's best friend
- Femi Taylor as Exotica, a Russian Blue cat who teaches dancing to the kittens
- Ving Rhames as Victor, an obese Manx who attends the Jellicle Ball
- Halle Berry as Griddlebone, a Siamese cat that is officiated with Macavity
- David Mazouz as Admetus/Plato
- JoJo Siwa as Victoria the White Cat, a "coming-of-age" cat and the best ballet dancer of the tribe
- Ian Chen as Bill Bailey/Tumblebrutus
- Bryce Gheisar as Carbucketty/Pouncival
- Skai Jackson as Electra, a serious Tortoiseshell kitten
- Abby Ryder Fortson as Etcetera, a hyperactive Munchkin kitten and big fan of Rum Tum Tugger
- Miya Cech as Olivia, the black kitten who likes to draw
- Austyn Johnson as Sillabub/Jemima, Munkustrap and Demeter's daughter and the youngest kitten in the tribe
In the 2019 film, the cast simply wear CGI suits while filming so that they can appear to possess catlike bodies. But in the reboot, the design of the cats are done very differently, inspired by the animation that created the animals from live-action Disney films, the Na'vi of Avatar, the chipmunks from Alvin and the Chipmunks, and Rocket Raccoon from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The characters are modeled after real-life cats, based on their fur texture and motions. The performers would dance and act in a green screen, wearing CGI suits and facial markers to capture their expression and movements for their animated counterparts. While filming, Tom Felton would be on the junkyard set alone with animation marker all around him and interact with the digital models on cue.
The idea of having a human in the film came from lyrics in the "Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats":
- There's a man over there with a look of surprise,
- As much as to say, "Well now how about that!"
- Do I actually see with my own very eyes
- A man who's not heard of a Jellicle cat?
- What's a Jellicle cat? What's a Jellicle cat?
As versions of Cats shows the characters breaking the fourth wall, adding a human to the production would give a better focus on who the songs are intended.
This film is based off of the 1998 direct-to-video movie. The "Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer" song sequence is going for the upbeat dance version, as oppose to the jazz version from the film. The "Growltiger's Last Stand" sequence was cut due to it being the longer song in the musical and serves no meaning to the actual story. Instead it would be filmed as a short film for the Special Features on the DVD.
With Andrew Lloyd Webber stating the "all cats are Jellicle Cats", it is quite clear that the human protagonist should experience a dream-like "Alice in Wonderland" scenario.