Cats is a movie. That’s it.
Kidding, actually, but believe you me, that is truly all I wanted to write, as I believe all one really needs to do to understand this film and everything it represents is go to a theater and see it. See it and weep. Or attempt keep your mouth agape, for that is what will happen for the movie’s first 45 minutes, and it would be hard to shut if the movie didn’t make such an effort to make it exhausting for you to continue to keep it open. After that, sleep soundly, knowing that you do have freedom of choice, and your cats (if you have any) never have to see this movie, never have to witness their very species desecrated by the uncanny valley, and your dogs may wag their tails knowing not one of the movies about or involving them could ever be considered just as horrifying an experience as one of your grandparents seeing The Exorcist for the first time. Before we begin, a small, but vital, disclaimer: the following information is purely for the purposes of this review, and is not intended, nor understood, or implied, to be an endorsement or recommendation of this movie to anyone or anything living on the planet earth, including any plant life or microscopic organisms, cells, mitochondria, and atoms included.
Cats was directed by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Les Misérables), written by himself and co-writer Lee Hall, and is the first-ever feature film adaptation of the Broadway musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, which itself was based on Old Possum’s Books of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot. It stars James Corden, Judi Dench, Jaaasoooon Deruuulo, Idris Elba, Jennifer Hudson, Taylor Swift, and Rebel Wilson, with newcomer Francesca Hayward as Victoria, the audience POV character and ostensible “lead” for the whole affair. When the majority of these softcore furry fever dreams aren’t eye-fucking each other like an abstinent evangelical couple alone with each other at college for the first time, the “plot,” as it might be referred to between the cat puns and fat jokes Corden and Wilson keep making, revolves around their tribe, known as the Jellicles, and the competition between each member to become what is known as the “Jellicle choice,” a cat that is chosen on a yearly basis to ascend to the “Heaviside Layer” or “10th circle of hell,” which reincarnates them to a new Jellicle life. Yeah, not kidding, that’s the actual plot of Cats, the fourth-highest grossing Broadway musical of all time. Judi Dench plays Old Deuteronomy, the cat that makes the Jellicle choice, Idris Elba appears as the villain of the film, called “Macavity,” (who just shows up to make other cats disappear after each of them sings a musical number introducing themselves and their horniness scale from 10 to 40 so that he can be the Jellicle choice), and Danny Collins and Naoimh Morgan show up as the knock-off Thenardiers in fur a couple times.
When the first trailer for this film was released almost 5 months ago, the internet had a field day with it, memeing it, cracking jokes, and generally marveling at how horrifying the characters all looked in their motion-capture digital dur technology, and after that the spell wore off for a little while…until awards season kicked in and we all had to grapple with the fact that Tom Hooper’s been sent to the Best Picture race twice, once already with a popular Broadway musical adaptation, so it was very likely at that point that we could have potentially seen Cats score some nominations come Oscar time. Then the second trailer released only a month ago, it was a single minute long, and it was infinitely worse than the previous; the first trailer was bad, but it solid editing, Jennifer Hudson giving her all to the one good song from the show, and a cohesive flow of information – trailer 2 had absolutely none of those things. It was at this point that film pundits and critics such as myself and many others knew the film would not be scoring any Oscar nominations in major categories, placing our bets on its chances in the Original Song (for which it has now missed the shortlist) and maybe visual effects (which it’s also be likely to miss, especially since Universal has now revealed that they are going to improve those visual effects after the film has already opened).
I’m not familiar with the Broadway musical of Cats apart from “Memory” as the apparently one good song from it, but I have a feeling the main reason it ever got so popular is because people just had to see the spectacle of human beings genuinely trying to move an audience by dressing in furry costumes and singing about reincarnation; I mean, I would certainly pay any amount of money to see that on a Broadway stage. There’s a certain kind of bewilderment that comes along with films/shows like this one, and while a new movie with a massive ensemble cast that turns out to be one of the worst of that year seems to come out every 3 to 4 years (so it’s not like, a new thing that that happened with this), Cats in particular is one of the more fascinating dumpster fires I’ve seen in some time…for the first 45 minutes. After that bewilderment and disbelief at what’s on screen wears off, though, the film is just too flat-out boring to care enough to be horrified anymore.
As mentioned above, Cats is nigh-plotless apart from a character showing up every couple of minutes to do a full, too-long musical number for Francesca Hayward about who they are and what their whole deal is supposed to be, and in between all of this, Idris Elba kidnaps some of them to put them on a boat, repeating this about five separate times. The most absurd thing about all of this, though, is that the movie is both the interesting and uninteresting kind of awful at two separate points, and in between, I have no idea where the transition from baffling to boring took place. I took my phone out of my pocket and turned it on twice just to see how far into it I was because it was so painfully dull and void of life or meaning or anything besides horniness, fat-phobic jokes, and utterly abysmal cat puns (for those of you who aren’t aware, I turn my phone all the way off any time I go to see a movie in order to rid myself of entirely of distractions, so doing that is a true rarity for me). The “Beautiful Ghosts” song is pretty good, though, and yeah, Jennifer Hudson does great work with the “Memory” song, so the movie’s not entirely without positives, I suppose.
Trying to write this review broke my brain. I don’t have enough Seagram’s for this. Does the Walmart across the street from me have enough? What about all the Walmarts in Kentucky? Remember Frodo, at the end of Return of the King? How he could not recall the taste of food, nor the smell of water? That’s like watching Cats, but for movies. What’s my name? How did I get here? What is happening? Why do the female cats have boobs, but no other genitalia? Why do none of the male cats have genitalia at all? Why are they seemingly all in the deepest heat of their lives? Why do they have human hands? Whose idea was this? Are ideas still a thing? Have any actual cats seen this? How horrified must they be? Is this what awaited us in Pandora’s box, now finally opened?
There are no answers. There is only Cats.
I’m giving “Cats” a 2.8/10
- The Friendly Film Fan
Film critic in my free time. Film enthusiast in my down time.