Directed By: Eli Drinkwitz
Starring: Larry Rountree III, Shawn Robinson, Connor Bazelak,
Synopsis: Trying to end the 2020 season on a show-stopper, Mizzou Studios delivers... I’m not exactly sure, but it’s weird and upsetting and I didn’t like it.
In regards to some of Mizzou Studios’ more recent ventures — which, as we can recall, have not been well-received by fans or critics — there’s always been this sense of simmering potential.
Even when the films were flops — and they’ve really churned out some flops over the past few months — there was always a palpable sense that something better was on the horizon. Like all bad movies, these moments come in flashes. A beautifully drawn play here, a standout performance there — the sense that there’s some unity of vision and direction in place. These moments don’t add up to anything bigger in the moment, but they portend something brighter down the line.
Unfortunately, these portentous moments will have to wait a little longer for their payoff. Because the season finale from Eli Drinkwitz and his crew is here, and it’s a bomb.
As the capper to what was a long, stressful, but mostly fun season Drinkwitz’s finale was set up to be a slam-bang way to finish off the year. Following the formula of blockbusters past — primed audience, big stars, flashy numbers — it was supposed to be the thing that brought us all together just before Christmas time. We’d all laugh and remember the good times while enjoying something that had just enough narrative tension to keep us hooked while still delivering the feel-good ending.
Unfortunately, things were all wrong from the jump. Eli Drinkwitz’s direction was all over the place, establishing an uncomfortable tone for the fans and the talent. The pacing was off — sometimes the offense marches right down the field, sometimes they fall on their face three straight plays — and there was no consistency to be had. Unless, of course, you count the consistency of being borderline unwatchable.
Not the least of its problems come from Assistant Director Ryan Walters. Once a rising star at the studio, it’s become apparent that Walters has hit a bit of a rough patch. His units haven’t been crisp or commanding over the past few features, and some hard questions need to be asked about his role. That’s not to say he needs to be let go this instant — perhaps some new crew are needed, or maybe the cast needs a little shifting. But whatever the fix is, it needs to be found. Otherwise Eli Drinkwitz will soon be out on the town looking for someone to run the second unit.
This bomb also showcases a need for greater depth of talent heading into future production schedules. Larry Rountree has been a godsend over the last run of Mizzou features, offering a steadying presence whether cast on the top of the bill or in support of someone else. But he’ll be looking for another studio to join soon, and Eli Drinkwitz will need to find someone to take his place. Connor Bazelak once seemed like a slam dunk choice, but his performance in CATS leaves some doubt in mind — specifically when it comes to elevating the performers around him.
All in all, the best thing you can do with a movie like CATS is throw it away and pretend it never happened. Like other disasters of the past, you take the good and the bad, you apply the lessons you learned, and you move forward. There will be plenty of lessons to be learned from this specific turnip. Let’s hope Drinkwitz and his cast and crew implement them before any further productions are greenlit.