Cats: An Affront To Nature


In the 120 years the medium of film has existed, filmmakers, directors, and visionaries have been painstakingly honing their craft to create awe-inspiring masterpieces that will be remembered for centuries to come. This artistry, this pure dedication to cinema, is something that the 2019 movie adaption of the famed musical, Cats, lacks to such a degree, that I feel like anyone who has the displeasure of viewing it will immediately develop an immense hatred of musicals, felines, and the human race in its entirety.

Upon seeing Cats with my own two eyes, I knew it was necessary for me to extract and dissect this furball of a musical. I must preface my ramblings by saying one thing. I have never seen the Andrew Lloyd Webber theatrical original, however, I can also safely say that no amount of source material, context, or bribes can compensate for the innocence that was so violently stolen from me when I first saw Cats.

This depraved nightmare begins with the introduction of a character who is unsweetened cardboard personified, Victoria. Her defining characteristics include being useless and making a vague worried face at any given moment. She enters the world of Cats like many of the viewers did, blissfully unaware of the horrors that are to come. The first musical number begins, and it is immediately terrifying. It takes a few minutes for me to mentally process what exactly is happening on screen.

Firstly, this would not be a review of Cats without describing the emotionally distressing CGI. Without a doubt the worst production choice among the various other flaws, the concept of cats being played by humans is terrifying enough already, however the fact that these 6 foot tall humanoid cats have these unmistakably human faces and these featureless, naked, bodies covered in ultra realistic cat fur… it is so off putting that it was difficult to focus on the plot of the movie. Well, “plot” is a strong word. 

The first musical number introduces the audience to the Jellicles. Going into this movie I did not know what a Jellicle was, and to this day I still have no idea. Among the Jellicles are Mr. Mistoffelees, the timid magician who befriends Victoria, as well as Munkustrap, Cassandra, and Demeter, whose names I had to look up because they are utterly forgettable as characters. 

We are sprung into the next musical number, which explains the annual Jellicle Ball, a talent show where the winner is rewarded with a chance to go the Heaviside layer and be granted a new life. 

It is not surprising that these cats are so eager to escape this ceaseless hellscape with a highly-coveted Jellicle death. The bizarre focus on reincarnation and overt religious tones throughout the entire movie lead me to believe that Cats is not a lighthearted musical about singing and dancing cats, but rather an exposé about a deranged furry cult obsessed with ritualistic sacrifice.

Up next, the main antagonist, Macavity, is introduced. And after spending all their budget on CGI, it’s no surprise that the extent of Idris Elba’s Macavity costume is neon green contacts from Spirit Halloween and leftover scraps from the costume closet of Will Smith’s 1999 hit Wild Wild West. Before the audience can get any meaningful introduction, it appears that the directors got a little exposition trigger happy and gave every last meaningless character their own song and dance number, taking up valuable time that the viewers could be using to not watch Cats: The Musical: The Movie.

There’s Jennyanydots, portrayed by Rebel Wilson, who in a cockroach-themed jazz scat number, unzips her fur (skin?) for a very unnecessary and horrifying costume reveal. Next is Bustopher Jones, played by the impeccable James Corden, who makes up for his lack of talent with his very cool and original jokes about being fat and eating. Skimbleshanks, the Railway Cat, an admittedly talented tap dancer who at the end of his performance just ascends into the air and evaporates, Rumpleteaser and Mungojerrie, the kleptomaniac henchmen-but-not-technically of Macavity, Gus the Theatre Cat, played by Ian McKellen, who mopes around about no longer being in his heyday, and finally, Rum Tum Tugger, played by none other than Jason Derulo, who croons about milk and hits on every female cat on stage.

As the movie trudges on, all of the plot threads and characters meet for the final Jellicle Ball, and the Jellicle Choice, where all the previous characters perform their show stopping numbers in front of Old Deuteronomy. Macavity is bound determined to be made the Jellicle choice, so after zapping away all the competition to a barge in the Thames river, Taylor Swift sings a song about Macavity’s many abilities, including committing crimes and being sneaky.

However, Old Deuteronomy knows that she would never allow such a one-dimensional villain to be made the Jellicle choice, so it’s only fair that forgettable and reluctant protagonist Victoria pipes up and decides that the choice belongs to Grizabella the Glamor Cat. 

Grizabella is this sad, homeless, lounge singer played by Jennifer Hudson, who pretty much the entire rest of the cat cast hates for no reason besides she left the Jellicle clique many years ago in her youth and that means she has to be shunned forever. Jennifer Hudson is a very talented singer and her rendition of ‘Memory’ was one of the few shining moments of the film. Except for the fact that the poor sound mixing meant that her voice just blended into the deafening instrumental and ruined a perfect climactic moment. 

After the music fades, Judi Dench chooses Grizabella and she is sent away in a giant hot air balloon, seemingly with no way of steering or stopping. It is assumed that she successfully made her way to the Heaviside Layer, and as she fades away into the skyline. 

This all culminates in Judi Dench cat staring directly into the camera and addressing the audience about the many things learned throughout the movie, as the rest of the cast joins in a haunting choir. The screen fades to black, the credits roll, and I, along with the rest of the people in the theatre, sit slack-jawed as we attempt to comprehend what exactly happened. 

Overall, I’d give this movie 1.5 weird mo-cap dancers out of ten. It’s decently tolerable and ironically enjoyable with the right group of people, but I don’t think I’d ever want to voluntarily see this again.