Cats: The Musical: The Movie: The Review

“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent…”

Acts, 17:30

Cats is very bad. There, I said it.

This statement is not revolutionary by any means. We all know Cats is bad. We all knew, when the trailer dropped, that it was going to be bad. Saying Cats is bad is like saying water is wet. 

But most of the people making fun of the movie haven’t seen it yet - a bold statement, but the poor box office numbers seem to corroborate such a claim. And after watching the trailer, I could see why many were not ready nor willing to pay money to be horrified for two hours.

But I was willing. I was ready. I… had a Fandango gift card.

And so, during the Holiday season, I ventured THIRTY MINUTES from the comfort of my home to the only theater that was willing to show the film - Bow Tie South Orange Cinemas. At prime movie time (after dinner hours), my boyfriend Max, five other strangers (masochists, I assume), and I were the only ones willing to take the sanity hit and watch the movie.

So we did. Here’s the review.

 

Let’s start with the low-hanging fruit: the cats were nightmare fuel.

It’s really challenging to have to sit through a movie when all the characters look like this:

Horrified? Good. That feeling of disgust and confusion lasted for an hour and fifty minutes. Why did the cats have human noses, human lips, human faces, human feet, etc. but cat ears, cat tails, and cat fur? I just can’t imagine anyone looking at the models and thinking, “yeah, this isn’t demonic at all.” 

What scares me even more? This movie was being edited and fixed up until the final days before it’s release - even worse, the movie was corrected days AFTER the release as well, and it was still a visual nightmare!

It was especially upsetting to see faces I recognized underneath all the CGI fur and terrible makeup: I saw cat Ian McKellen lick from a bowl of milk; I saw cat Judy Dench sing for ten minutes about the difference between cats and dogs (a scene which felt like an eternity - Max fell asleep for a chunk of it); I saw cat Idris Elba (who had human abs but no genitalia… weird?) tie up cat James Corden on a boat; I saw cat Rebel Wilson peel off her fur skin to reveal another fur skin underneath. I saw cat Jason Derulo flirt with four different females. I saw cat Taylor Swift huff catnip. I saw cat Jennifer Hudson - she didn’t even have to do anything, her makeup was an event of its own.

Combined, these actors have a total of:

10 Emmys

12 Grammys

5 Golden Globes

2 Oscars (and 9 nominations)

And 3 Tonys.

Not one of them deserved to be in this horrible film. Only Taylor Swift looked acceptable, and even then it was still awful.

But even worse than their weird human faces and furry bodies were their mannerisms. I’ll keep it blunt: those cats were really, really horny for each other. The movements, the looks, the touching, the HEAVY BREATHING in conjunction with the creepy Uncanny Valley humanoid felines should have earned this movie an R rating. There were moments where the actor’s creepy cat faces were so close to each other that I could have sworn they were going to make out. Max and I walked out of the theater convinced that the Jellicle cats were all having sex with each other.

I am having war flashbacks just thinking about it.

I would say my eyes were on screen for about 60% of the runtime. 20% of the remaining run time was spent looking at Max in fear, disgust, and shame. Another 10% was covering my eyes - as I mentioned, there were moments when the cats got a little too into each other and the weird sexual tension was so unbearable that I needed to disappear. The final 10% of the time was spent thinking about how this movie would have worked better if it were animated, not live-action - I had visions of Aristocats dancing through my head during the more painful scenes of Rebel Wilson choreographing mice that had children’s faces.

Speaking of which…

 

The dancing, moving, even the background, was completely unrealistic.

Ok, I wasn’t expecting REALISM from a movie about cats who have dance/sing-offs in order to please their cult leader and be reincarnated via a hot air balloon (there’s your movie, folks!). I was, however, expecting some consistency. There really wasn’t much. 

There were scenes where I was convinced the cats were floating. It was clear during many of the dance numbers (especially the dance number involving these accursed cockroaches) that the characters were CGI’d in; all you needed to do was look at their feet and you could notice they were floating. I actually found a clip of the cockroach scene, which also includes Rebel Wilson unzipping her fur…. I think it sums up the movie’s CGI failure (and the movie in general) quite well.

On top of that, the sounds added to the dance numbers were overdone- instead of making it feel like the actors were on the stage, it had the opposite effect. Have you seen those “Realistic Sound” videos? It was a little like that, except it had an added level of “fakeness” to it that took me out of the movie in ways I didn’t know were possible.

The CGI was also poorly done for the cats’ faces. When I even bothered to look at the screen, I would notice delays between the CGI head and the human faces - the actor would turn but their face would stay put. Awful. I hated it.

And that’s not all! The sizing of the cats and the objects on the set was also inconsistent, if not incorrect. It was clear the actors were sized down to be cat proportions, but then the prop sizes were all over the place. Take this picture, here:

Ignoring the terrible CGI hat boxes and the cat’s weird floatiness (this shot is worse the more you stare at it)… the ring on the white cat’s left arm is LOOSE on the wrist. I know that my cat could never fit a ring around her wrist. This makes me feel like the cats are really small. Fine, I’ll accept it, but why is that red couch in the background cat-sized? What kind of human furniture is small enough to only fit two or three really tiny cats? It’s even shaped like a couch, implying that its use in the human world was to act as a piece of furniture and not as some other object for tiny things. And even if the couch were human-sized, there would be an issue with the hat boxes! Are the hat boxes couch sized, then?

Side note: why is there a scene where you can see Judy Dench’s wedding ring on her finger? She wasn’t much bigger than these other cats, and yet, the ring was finger-sized. Talk about a continuity error.

On top of the multiple visual discrepancies, there were constant cuts and jumps from shot to shot that did not flow well. Cats would suddenly be in different positions in different shots that distracted me. I can only imagine this was done to disguise the terrible CGI, but it did more harm than good.

 

The tonal shifts gave me whiplash.

If the bad editing wasn’t enough, the tone of this movie jumped all over the place. I was never sure whether a scene was going to be serious or be funny because the tone just kept flipping around. There would be a dramatic scene where the cats were attempting to use magic to rescue their leader, followed by a celebration, followed by an emotional song from the outcast character begging to be accepted. Rebel Wilson and James Corden were as campy as they usually are: constant fat jokes and physical comedy… but then they’d get captured by Idris Elba and chained to a boat. What?

 

An interlude: Here are a few things I enjoyed about this movie.

The movie was not completely irredeemable. I thought the dancing (thought it was overly sexualized) was well choreographed. The lead cat, Jessica Hayward, is a talented ballerina who honestly deserves better than Cats as her film debut. 

Jennifer Hudson sang beautifully, probably better than she should have for this litter box of a film. Honestly, the actor’s performances were all good (save for Rebel and Taylor). Once again, if it were animated, Cats could have been pretty good.

Not great, though. There is one major issue holding this film back:

 

There was no plot.

On paper, Cats: The Musical is like any other of the bad movies I have reviewed. It had a terrible trailer, a bad concept, and a stupidly high budget (especially for a stupidly low-quality product). But Cats stands out from the rest in very unique ways. This is because, unlike every other awful movie I have had the displeasure of watching, Cats didn’t have a plot.

This is actually a problem with the musical. I am familiar with the music and the show (on a minor level, I have yet to see it on Broadway), and there isn’t a plot there, either. Nothing about the source material lends itself to a film. The whole thing is character introduction: here’s this cat that wants to go to heaven, here’s another cat that can do magic, here are two cats that like to steal things, here’s a cat that is old, here’s Jason Derulo. I couldn’t connect with the emotional scenes because I had zero connection to the characters - why should I care about Jennifer Hudson singing “Memory” when she’s been on screen for five minutes? It doesn’t help that I can barely look at her terrible cat face, but even if I could, I wouldn’t have any idea about her history, her motivations, her story. None of the characters had a story. 

To give the movie some credit, they tried to fit a character arc through Jessica Hayward’s cat, but it felt rushed and unemotional. There were just too many people to keep track of at all times. I am convinced this movie was greenlit because the producers could shove as many A-list actors into roles for advertising purposes - I mean, was The Lion King live-action film more than just a marketing ploy?

 

Conclusion

(god, this gif…  it looks so bad! Look at her clip through the screen!)

This movie is barely a movie. There is no plot, no visual interest, no point. It’s so hard to look at - not just because it’s scary, but because it’s incoherent. It isn’t even a good bad movie. It’s just bad. I would not recommend spending time watching this. It just… sucks. It’s boring. It’s a waste of a Fandango gift card. And the visuals are an affront to the lord. I am convinced this is a godly form of punishment. Awful. Terrible. 0/10.

But don’t take my word for it, take theirs:

“We Watched Cats on Opening Night and Lost All Nine Lives.” - Jezebel

“The Cats Movie Is a Boring Disaster Filled with Joyless Pussies.” - Daily Beast

“Oh God, my eyes.” - The Boston Globe

"I am not a cat person. After watching this frankly mortifying film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats, I'm not altogether sure I am a movie person anymore either." - RTE

 

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