I, unlike many of my peers this holiday season, did not go see Cats while high. Instead, my mother and I sat in a small, nearly empty theater while completely sober and took in the horror show that is Cats. In all honesty, the movie wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected it to be. Maybe this comes from the fact that I’ve listened to a lot of Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals in my lifetime and prepared myself for the worst, and maybe it stems from the fact that I didn’t have any substances exaggerating the comical nature of what was supposed to be, at times, quite serious. Either way, I still wouldn’t necessarily say I enjoyed Cats. I experienced it, maybe. I didn’t dislike it. But I don’t think I got out of it what Tom Hooper was hoping I’d get out of it. This is, of course, the general consensus. I had seen tweets about people walking out mid-showing, but then 5/7 of the other people in the theater walked out half an hour into mine and I couldn’t help but bust up laughing. Here’s the thing though: Cats is going to become a cult classic. I say this with complete and utter seriousness because it’s true. It has all the elements necessary to complete the transformation in the next ten or so years.
First, it has a notable cast that’s genuinely trying their best with what they’ve got. No one can say that Judi Dench isn’t exactly as austere as you’d hope her to be, or that Jennifer Hudson doesn’t completely kill her final performance of “Memory”. They’re good performances of horrifying material, courtesy of the depths of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s T.S. Eliot-addled brain and Tom Hooper’s hubris. It almost makes it more tragic when you can tell that the cast thought there was hope at some point or another. There’s another thing every good cult classic musical needs: a pop star. Rocky Horror has Meat Loaf, Cats has Taylor Swift. She flies in on a moon, drugging everyone, only to disappear after five minutes. It’s the ideal performance for someone who has proven that her acting skills are sub-par but loves pizzazz.There are a couple of other things that point to its eventual descent into cultdom, namely that people have been singing along and dressing up. Much like the midnight showings of Rocky Horror that began decades ago, it seems as though these responses are organic, born out of an absurdity that is at once endearing and alarming.
There is one thing that could, ultimately, stop Cats from becoming a cult classic: the budget. It’s been much-talked-about in the past several weeks, but Cats had a budget of $95 million USD. Thus far, the title of cult-classic has been earned mostly by low-budget films, and even the higher ones have rarely gotten to the absurdly high levels of 95 million dollars. The only way Cats will have a lasting legacy is if it can earn cult-status without that creating a barrier. There’s no way of knowing what will actually happen to Cats within the public’s mind over the next couple of years, but I hope I’m right. I hope that in eight years there are college freshman lining up at night dressed in cat costumes with human noses, ready to scream at Rebel Wilson for unzipping her skin and throw glitter everywhere to imitate Taylor Swift and yell in time with the cast that a cat is not a dog. I hope they leave the theater, arm-in-arm, singing “Magical Mr. Mistoffelees.” There is nothing more absurd and satisfying to me than the idea of all of this coming true, but only time will tell.