Let’s just cut to the chase so I don’t have to waste everyone’s time on this. Cats is an atrocious movie that we always knew was going to be bad, but I didn’t think it would be this bad. I saw this for free and I still felt ripped off. We have a new champion for the worst movie of 2019.
Director: Tom Hooper
Release Date: December 20, 2019
You know, back when the trailer for Cats first released in July, I (like the rest of the internet) was mortified with what I witnessed. Any adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical of the same name was bound to have some difficulties in adaptation, but it looked like the decisions made in this production were designed to be the wrong choices. I shouldn’t have to explain why deciding to turn the actors into CGI cats was a bad idea. You only need look at any image from this movie to see why. Once you do, you’ll see exactly why that approach was the worst one to take.
But some people held out hope. Cats has a dedicated fanbase that I will never understand and they remained faithful. I should know. In my screening there were five people in front of me wearing cat ears and catsuits. No, I’m not joking about that. Do I sound like I’m in the joking mood right now?! They had their little tiny ears poking up over the seats and there would only be three reasons for them to have been doing that. They were either fans, furries, or deeply masochistic people that were looking for a failure. But now that the movie has released, all of that hope should immediately evaporate.
Cats is such a bewildering disaster, a titanic failure of biblical proportions that it may have just assassinated Tom Hooper as a director.
Here’s normally where I would give you a plot synopsis of the movie, but the movie, much like the musical, has no plot. The show is a weird little piece where different cats all sing in a competition to decide which one of them is able to ascend to the Heavyside Layer. What is the Heavyside Layer? Not even Andrew Lloyd Webber knows! Maybe it’s Heaven? Maybe it’s the undiscovered country? Maybe it’s Vinland? Any and all answers are possible, but I like to think of it as a place where cats go to die and they’ve just been offering up cats for years as a religious sacrifice because they were bored.
Just look at this image above you. Stare into its eyes. Gaze upon its horror. See the vacant dull surprise swathed over her face. This is Veronica, played by newcomer Francesca Hayward. She has no personality or character. In fact, none of the cats have character in this movie and the ones that do are painfully one note. The night terror inducing James Corden cat’s shtick is that he’s fat, the Idris Elba cat’s schtick is he’s evil, etc etc. Now, all of these cats do have actual names that sound fun and delightfully pretentious, like Rum Tum Tugger and Old Deuteronomy, but you’ll forget their names the second you look at their faces.
Not surprisingly, the animation is terrible, but the awfulness changes not only from character to character but from frame to frame. Most of the cast look like they had their faces placed on CGI bodies. Some of them appear so warped that they hardly look like themselves, such as the Jennifer Hudson cat Grisabella. And then you have the Taylor Swift cat, Bombalurina, who really just looks like Taylor Swift in a cheap Halloween cat suit. But when the animation isn’t bad, it’s downright unsettling to look at. When Idris Elba’s Macavity removes all of his clothes in one massive, dramatic revelation, I was viscerally disgusted as it just looked like Idris Elba stripped buck ass naked for everyone.
But all of that could be excused if the music was good. This is a musical, after all, and you can forgive a bad plot, bad acting, and bad cinematography if the singing is good. Is it a surprise to say that most of the singing is straight-up bad? I will give credit to Tom Hooper on deciding to cast actual singers for a majority of the characters, but their performances all fall flat on their faces for a number of reasons. Some of the cast just can’t handle the range of the songs given to them, most notably with Rebel Wilson and Ian McKellen. Some of them are good singers, but their performances are ruined by Hooper’s amateurish editing.
Let’s use Jennifer Hudson’s “Memories” performance and compare it to “I Dreamed A Dream” from Hooper’s adaptation of Les Miserables. Both songs are probably the most famous tracks from their original musicals and both have been covered to death. They’re Broadway staples and for good reason. When Anne Hathaway performed “I Dreamed A Dream” in 2012, the song was done in an intimate close-up with no cutaways. We were just left to watch Hathaway agonize and deliver a performance that was firing on all cylinders. Hooper could have had another “I Dreamed A Dream” moment, but instead he decided to have several cuts to other characters watching Hudson sing a song that’s equally as painful to listen to as “I Dreamed A Dream” was, just without any of the emotion or intimacy.
But you wanna know what really made Cats such a strange trip? The uncomfortable sexual undertones. Actually, no: undertones implies subtlety. These are about as subtle as the CGI is well executed. Every other scene features cats being strangely intimate with each other, whether it be from having two cats perform ballet together or having all of the cats -I shit you not- go into heat for about five minutes and nearly break out into an orgy. Cause that’s important. Also, there were lines of cockroaches with human faces dancing on top of cakes. And that was after the mice played musical instruments.
Is this starting to sound like a bad trip? CAUSE IT IS. In all of my years of writing film reviews, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a movie as laughably bad as Cats. It’s trying too hard to be important and special but is so self-absorbed in its own spectacle and wonder that it’s pathetic. The best word I can use to describe the attitude that Cats has is masturbatory. It thinks it’s wonderful and special and so poetic when in reality its an embarrassment for everyone involved. How anyone involved in this production didn’t stop once to ask “Hey, is this good?” is deeply upsetting.
Is there anything that’s good in Cats? Well it’s short. It’s only about an hour and 40 minutes, so that’s something. Even then, the movie feels like it drags on for an eternity. There’s no typical three act structure here, just a cavalcade of events that kind of stop after a while. There’s no real lesson to learn here, no real purpose other than the cast shrugging their malformed shoulders after clawing on top of each other and calling it a night. There is no value here.
I would call this cinematic junk food, but I like junk food. Junk food is good to eat every now and then, even if there’s not much nutritional value in it. Cats isn’t something that should even be consumed. If there’s a food equivalent to it, it would be the Denny’s of movies. If you watch it, you either hate yourself, have no standards, or are suicidal.
I cannot stress this enough; don’t see Cats. It’s not so bad it’s good, it’s not a guilty pleasure: it’s just bad. It’s bad on a guttural level. It’s bad on the same level as The Emoji Movie and that is a statement I am legally allowed to use only in the case of emergencies. It’s an unmitigated disaster that anyone could tell was going to be rancid. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that The Emoji Movie was abysmal and the same can be said for Cats.
It’s wasteful. It’s shameless. It’s embarrassing. It’s a laughing stock. It’s a flop. It’s pathetic. It’s horrendous. It’s nauseating. It’s uncomfortable. It’s a movie that you should never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever watch. I can go on for another ten paragraphs about why this movie sucks, but here’s the best ending I can think of at the moment: Fuck this movie, fuck Tom Hooper, and fuck me for actually wasting my time with this movie.