Director: Tom Hooper | Distributed by: Universal Pictures | Rating: PG
Cats. It’s a movie now. It’s a real thing that exists in 2019. And the world is arguably worse off for it. Cats is an abomination. It’s creepy and bizarre; it’s weirdly (and uncomfortably) sexual. I don’t know why anyone thought this was a good idea.
That being said, if nothing else, at least its creation has resulted in some of the most fun movie discussion and discourse in recent memory. Just do a quick Twitter search for Cats review and you’ll read some of the funniest 240 character movie reviews you’ll ever see. And I’m here to join in on the fun.
I think this can sum up my general thoughts pretty well. It’s like you witness a car accident, and you can’t make yourself look away. You just keep staring at the wreckage. But then another, bigger, worse accident happens, and your focus shifts there. And then another and another and another, until you can’t take it anymore and you’re wondering if you’ve died and are in fact being tortured in the Bad Place.
First, let’s run through the “plot,” or, whatever Cats tries to pass off for a plot. A tribe of cats, known as Jellicles (there’s no real explanation for this name, just go with it), prepare for their annual Jellicle Ball. At the Ball, the group’s leader, Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench, yes that Judi Dench) will make the Jellicle Choice, choosing one cat to
ritually sacrifice send to the Heaviside Layer, where they will enter into a new Jellicle life. And that’s just the jumping off point.
There’s really no further plot development. At the Jellicle Ball, the cats have a chance to sing and perform, so that Old Deuteronomy can judge their spirit and soul, and decide who is worthy of ascending to the Heaviside Layer. After being introduced to the Jellicle community through the eye’s of newcomer Victoria (Francesca Hayward), the rest of the movie is just different cats singing songs about who they are and what they do.
You want a lazy cat who forces mice and cockroaches to perform for her? It’s got you covered with Rebel Wilson’s Jennyanydots (nice to see she’s still being typecast even when she’s not playing a human). What about a fat cat who goes around eating garbage and leftover scraps out of garbage cans (so…more garbage)? Don’t fret, James Corden’s Bustopher Jones at your service.
And no movie about humanoid cats is complete without a horny cat who hangs out at a milk bar being horny all the time. Rum Tum Tugger (Jason Derulo) brings a certain…energy, I suppose, that makes you feel all kinds of uncomfortable.
And I’m sure you’re wondering if there’s a villain of the story. Well, wonder no more as that would be none other than Idris Elba as Macavity, the nefarious *checks notes* magical cat? Sure, why not. In Macavity’s service is Grizabella (Jennifer Hudson), who the rest of the Jellicles shunned after she left the group to join Macavity, seemingly as a prostitute. No, that unfortunately was not a typo. Though to be fair, that’s never stated explicitly, but the signs are there.
There are several other cats who get screen time as well, but you get the idea by now. And as thrilling as I’m sure it was to read descriptions of cats, it’s no more exciting watching it play out on screen. And that might be the worst crime in a movie full of crimes against nature: it’s boring.
A movie loaded with this kind of talent should at least be exciting or engaging. But at no point do you care one iota about anything that’s happening on screen. Two of the more baffling decisions where this is most apparent concern the songs given to Jason Derulo and Taylor Swift characters.
The Rum Tug Tugger song is an ensemble, and Derulo – a professional singer, mind you – doesn’t really get a chance to showcase his talent. But at least Taylor Swift’s Bombalurina gets a song mostly to herself. But the problem is that the song isn’t any good; one of the worst, in fact, in a collection of bad to moderately okay songs. Yes, even Memory. It has one good verse, when Jennifer Hudson actually has the chance to really belt it out.
And that is all extra disappointing because this is where Cats had a real chance to shine, or to at least provide some modicum of entertainment. And they butchered it, just like these cats should have been – okay, maybe that’s a step too far. But also, maybe not.
Then of course there’s the appearance of the cats themselves. That was the big news when the first trailer dropped: these cats are creepy AF. And I just want to leave it at that. If you’ve seen the trailer, you know. If you haven’t, it’s right here for you to witness in all its horror. It’s all wholly – here’s that word again – uncomfortable.
Then there’s the ending scene. I’m not going to spoil anything, so suffice it to say that the last several minutes are so frustratingly stupid and stupidly frustrating, I actually left the theater a little bit angry.
There is no real reason for anyone to see Cats. The only slightly understandable one could be that you want to be able to fully participate in the continuing discussion. And that’s fair. But you can enjoy the reviews and jokes and Twitter banter plenty without having seen the movie for yourself.
I think the principal from Billy Madison said it best: “I award you no points and may God have mercy on your soul.”
Cats is currently playing in theaters everywhere.