Cats got my tongue: a review on Cats

Shelby Hansen and

Cats was a movie that no one saw coming. Sure, we all saw the trailer, but no one was expecting a live-action of the popular Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. Absolutely no one. After the horrific trailer, most people immediately ruled that they were not going to see this movie. Except me because I sometimes enjoy living on the edge by subjecting myself to bad movies. As a Broadway buff, I felt like I was required to see this movie and inform the general public how terrible it is. However, I did not understand what I was getting myself into until I walked out of the theatre. I already knew the basic information on Cats and the bare minimum of the plot, but I was extremely unprepared for the movie, both mentally and physically. This movie took everything out of me, and yet, I could not stop talking about it. So, here we are. Cats is separated into three categories for me: the animation and overall look, the plot and the artistic side, such as the music and dancing. These three points are wildly different, and each brings a concerning point that makes the movie what it is today: a trainwreck.


Let’s start with the main concern that most people had upon watching the trailer. The animation. The way that these animators did this movie is the dirtiest thing I have seen in Hollywood in quite awhile. It seemed very careless, and there wasn’t much done to make the actors look like real cats. It felt like the actors’ faces were floating on top of animated cat bodies. You could see a line on some of the foreheads of the cats where they had to blend their actual face with the strange-looking cat body. The cats also did not have paws. Their hands were just transformed into the color of their cat. With this in mind, a lot of the things the actors were told to do are very strange, a mix between human and cat. Some of them will be crawling around on the floor like cats do, while others will be walking on two legs like the average human. The only remotely cat-like thing they do is rub their heads on everything, but considering the fact that they look extremely human, it just looks weird and not like a cat. The final thing about their appearance is the presence of clothing. Some of the cats have clothes, hats and shoes on, yet some of them don’t. Rebel Wilson’s character even does a bit where she unzips her “outer layer” of fur to reveal the same fur but with a bright pink dress on. Aren’t they supposed to be stray cats? How are they getting this clothing, much less clothing that would fit a cat? I know this movie is probably not supposed to be realistic, but come on. That’s a little too much for me. Overall, they just looked and acted too humanoid to be taken seriously. I believe that this human-ness is what made the movie as awful as it was. Perhaps if they had done CGI real cats, as Disney did in the live-action The Lion King, Cats would have had a shot in being good, or at least taken seriously. Sure, it was probably made like this so that it would be more similar to the musical, but I just don’t think that this was the right route to go. 


Now, if you have gotten past the trailer and decided to brave the movie, this is where you’ll notice the strangeness of the plot. There’s a lot to unpack here, so I’d recommend grabbing a snack first. The plot is honestly very hard to understand fully. I pay attention well in movies, and it’s typically not too hard for me to follow plot points, yet this movie had me beat. The definition of most things is very unclear, which makes it hard to latch on to certain phrases and ideas. In the beginning, the narrator cat, whose name is not introduced correctly, starts to talk about Jellicle cats, their naming system and the Jellicle Ball, but before you can even ask yourself what the heck a Jellicle cat is, they move on. They never explain it. And it’s like this with a bunch of things in the movie. I had to figure out that Jellicle cats are just that specific clan of stray cats on my own. Adding to that, I didn’t know most of the cats’ names. Some of them have songs where their names are repeated countless times, so it is easy to get it (ex. Rum Tum Tigger aka Jason Derulo cat, The Magicial Mister Misoffelees). Others have names that are just so ridiculous that you have to remember them (ex. Jennyanydots aka Rebel Wilson cat, Old Deuteronomy aka Judi Dench cat, Bustopher Jones aka James Corden cat). Some have names that you just don’t learn or are sung really fast so that you forget (ex. Skimbleshanks, Growltiger, Gus aka Ian McKellen cat). I had to look up the narrator cat’s name in order to find out that he is named Munkustrap. And some are just really main characters where their name is said a lot, so you have to know them (ex. Victoria, Macavity aka Idris Elba cat, Grizabella aka Jennifer Hudson cat). Speaking of Jennifer Hudson’s character, Grizabella, her entire storyline is never fully explained. All of the Jellicle cats shun her and hiss at her. They say she had an affiliation with Macavity, the “evil” cat, but they never say how this affects her now. All we know is they don’t like her for some reason. It was after the movie when I looked it up that I discovered that Grizabella was once a glamorous cat that left the Jellicle clan to work with Macavity, he used her and now she is old and not accepted by the Jellicles. The only way that I understood the situation was to look it up. Thinking about it, you have to look up a lot of things afterward or beforehand in order to fully understand everything happening in the plot. It’s a lot sometimes, and it can be extremely overwhelming, but I think that’s apart of the experience. I went to the restroom during a song about halfway through. I didn’t even have to use the restroom that bad, but I went because I simply needed a break and could not take any more of the movie. Some scenes in this movie could make people generally uncomfortable as well, for a wide variety of reasons. I can’t name a few of them because I have burned them from my memory, but they are definitely there. Finally, the last thing about the plot is that most of the jokes that are said aren’t funny in the slightest. In the ending scene, Judi Dench’s character makes a bunch of cat-related “jokes” about cats not being dogs, and she even breaks the fourth wall by looking directly into the void that is my soul through the camera lens. However, I did not laugh. I didn’t even snort or nose huff. I just stared at the screen. The only time I actually laughed was when I was too overwhelmed or something was just utterly ridiculous. And that’s the plot for you. It’s so much, and I didn’t even talk about how weird the general plot of releasing a cat into the “Heaviside Layer” is. 


Lastly, I have to discuss the music and dancing of the movie. After all, it is a musical. Not everything about the movie is bad. The music, although very fast-paced and confusing at times, is actually pretty good, and so are the vocals. The highlight of this movie is when Jennifer Hudson’s character, Grizabella (the shunned cat, if you remember), sings her song, Memory. This song is so beautifully written, and seeing it on screen made it powerful. That is, if you ignore how Jennifer Hudson looks as a cat. I think this song makes you understand her character more than anything else, and it helps highlight how she used to be beautiful and glamorous, and now she has nothing but her memories to keep her company. It’s very sad and haunting, but it is undoubtedly the best part of the movie. On the other hand, all of the other songs were repetitive and hard to understand at times, but they were sung well. I think some of the songs and how close they were together added to the misunderstanding of the plot and specific plot points too. As for dancing, I think that the overall effect it had was fantastic. If a dancer wanted to watch this movie to study ballet techniques, I would recommend it. I haven’t danced in years, but I still know what looks bad and what doesn’t. Either way, the artistic side of Cats is not what ruined it in the box office. 


Now, after all of that, one might ask if I recommend seeing Cats. The surprising answer is yes. Although Cats is completely terrible and one of the biggest box office failures I’ve ever witnessed, I believe everyone should experience it at least once. The way I would describe Cats is “a fever dream that you can’t wake up from until the credits roll.” It almost doesn’t feel real. We will probably never see a movie of this caliber on the movie screen ever again, especially with how badly it failed in money-making. With that in mind, I would say that everyone should see this movie at least once. I also would recommend seeing it at the theatre. I know most people probably don’t want to spend money on it, but the experience in a theatre is unlike no other. You can’t pause for a moment to look something up or take a breather or absorb what just happened. You have to keep going. If you don’t it loses that acid trip feeling and effect. Either way, everyone needs to see it. Heck, I’d go again in a heartbeat just to get the rush and try to fully understand everything. The theatres are starting to only show Cats once a day, so I’d hurry up and go if you’re going to see it. Or you could rent it if or when it comes out on DVD. Whatever you do, please see this movie. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and although you’ll hate it, you’ll finally understand why everyone else hates it too. And that’s how you join the bandwagon.