Many have said that Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s most famous musical, about a group of singing, dancing felines, is unfilmable. After seeing Tom Hooper‘s version, I would have to agree. Cats is not just bad – at times, Cats is actually the stuff of nightmares. I don’t want to be overly dramatic, but I think aspects of this movie will haunt me until the day I die.
This write-up contains spoilers – in so far as it’s possible to ‘spoil’ what is essentially a 110-minute fever dream, large parts of which I might have just imagined – so proceed with that in mind. Here are some impressions from someone who survived it.
The cats themselves are straight from the uncanny valley:
Tom Hooper says he finished Cats at 8am on the day before the premiere, after a 36-hour editing binge. Frankly, that smells like bullshit to me. I’m pretty sure he was actually up in the projection booth, still putting the finishing touches on the film as we watched it.
Every aspect of Cats just feels and looks off. The familiar human faces on CGI cat bodies appear no less unsettling than they did in the trailers. Some are quite detailed, like Mr. Mistoffelees the magical cat, and others look like they were copy and pasted on at the last minute.
In the lead-up to the film, we heard about its revolutionary ‘digital fur technology’. Maybe money or time just ran out, but the cats have very little uniformity in terms of how they look. Some are covered in fur head to toe, while others have distinctively human hands and feet. It’s a little creepy.
Not only do the cats look bizarre, they never seem to fit into the world around them. Some sequences were filmed on elaborate sets, and others against backdrops showing various London locations, but no matter where they are, the actors stick out from everything else in the scene.
The rules about who gets to wear clothing in Cats are arbitrary and make no sense:
Some of the cats in this film walk around fully nude and unashamed, shaking their fuzzy human-shaped boobs and flaunting their smooth crotches. A few of them get to wear shoes for some reason, and Mr. Mistoffelees spends most of the film Donald Duck-ing it in a jacket and no pants.
Judi Dench‘s character Old Deuteronomy wears an elaborate fur coat, but this raises even more questions, like where the fuck does fur even come from in the Cats cinematic universe? Did she kill and skin another cat and then wear it as a display of dominance? That’s a film I’d like to watch.
In one particularly upsetting scene, Rebel Wilson‘s Jennyanydots unzips her skin and tosses it aside to reveal a jazzy purple outfit underneath. Are her clothes somehow fused with her body? Does she wear them all the time? Wouldn’t that start to chafe after a while? Can other cats shed their skin, too?
Sorry, but I have even more questions. Is there some kind of hierarchy or caste system that determines which cat gets to wear what? Are the collared cats participating in some kind of weird S&M game with the fully clothed ones? All this is making my head hurt, so I’m just not going to think about it anymore.
Every scene is a fresh hell:
You think you’ve seen the worst Cats has to offer, then the next scene comes along, bringing with it some new macabre twist that leaves your jaw on the floor. One shot near the beginning, with a cat crawling down a wall, reminded me of the famous staircase sequence from The Grudge.
I don’t want to spoil too much of what happens in case you decide to see the film, but I do really want to address the cockroaches.
In one sequence, we learn that Rebel Wilson’s character commands an army of tiny human-cockroach hybrids. She makes them sing and dance for her amusement, performing in a line, then when they’re done, she chooses one and devours it whole in front of the others.
Cats is a fucking horror film, you guys.
Some big names give some lousy performances:
As a Taylor Swift fan, it brings me no joy to say she’s not great in this. Her character Bombalaurina is meant to be a vampy, campy sex kitten, but her performance is a little stiff, and she never seems to find any humour or vibrancy in the character.
Despite her top billing in the film, she’s only around for a scene and a half, then Bombalaurina just straight-up disappears in a puff of smoke, never to be seen or heard from again. It’s probably for the best.
As for the rest Ian McKellen brings a certain gravitas to the role of Gus The Theatre cat, while Rebel Wilson and James Corden are reduced to a series of cheap fat jokes. Jennifer Hudson bares her soul as Grizabella, and it seems like she got lost on the way to a totally different movie.
Strangely enough, the only person who comes out of this mess looking good is Jason Derulo. As Rum Tum Tugger, he’s the sole cast member who seems to realise the extent of the silliness going on around him, and plays the role accordingly. I think I’m actually a Jason Derulo fan now?
I wish I could recommend Cats as some kind of ‘so bad it’s good’-style guilty pleasure, but honestly, it’s just bad. I would rather sit here and lick my own butthole than ever hear the words “jellicle choice” or “heaviside layer” again, or see Idris Elba‘s toned torso covered in CGI hair.
If you’re game enough to check it out, Cats is in cinemas on Boxing Day.