Your Jellicles were so preoccupied with whether Jellicles are and Jellicles do and Jellicles do and Jellicles would and Jellicles would and Jellicles can and Jellicles can and Jellicles do, they didn’t stop to think if Jellicles SHOULD.
– a quote comprised mostly of the actual lyrics to CATS
What Was Wrong With CATS
CATS (2019) is a display of staggering incompetence the likes of which only comes around once in a lifetime. Every single decision that went into creating, developing, producing, promoting, and distributing CATS was a baffling miscalculation. I could publish an omnibus about what’s wrong with the movie CATS, and still need to release supplemental volumes on a regular schedule as my brain continues to process what it has seen.
It is not humanly possible to describe to you every detail that contributed to the 110-minute trainwreck that is CATS. Madness would take us both. Instead, I’m just going to focus on what I’ve helpfully nicknamed The Four Horsemen of CATS:
1. The “Plot”
2. The Set Design
3. The Fucking CGI, My God, The Fucking CGI
4. Taylor Swift
Here we go.
Several cats compete in a magical moonlit talent show in the dirty back alleys of London, and the prize is permission to die. That is the plot of CATS. I would say it makes more sense in context, but the entirety of the context is that this story is called “CATS.”
You may be tempted to defend CATS by pointing out that this is the same plot as the original play. And I say to you, that’s no defense. That’s just an explanation of why adapting the Broadway musical CATS into a film was a fool’s errand. As soon as you remove the spectacle of live theatre from this equation, you are charting a course for failure. Some storylines don’t translate to a new medium. Some movies should never have been made.
CATS is one of those movies. Only two options existed for the filmmakers: make a faithful adaptation of a play that has no discernible story, or add enough plot to create a tangible narrative and end up with something that wasn’t really an adaptation of CATS.
Somehow, they managed to split the difference and add just enough additional plot that the story made even less sense than the play. None of the changes do anything to fix the existing plot issues. Every element that was added to the plot served the purpose of justifying other elements that were added to the plot, in an endless self-perpetuating cycle of unnecessary bullshit that still couldn’t pass for a story on the best of days.
The Set Design
The only explanation I can attempt to offer for the continual inconsistency of scale in this movie is that none of the filmmakers have ever seen a cat. If they have, they certainly haven’t seen it standing beside any common household objects. They may not, in fact, have ever seen any common household objects. I don’t know. I truly have no hypothesis here.
If you’re reading this review and you worked on the movie CATS, please do me a favor and complete the following questionnaire. This assessment will be used to determine what the actual fuck you were thinking.
Question One: How big do you think a cat is?
Question Two: How big do you think a mouse is?
Question Three: How big do you think a cockroach is?
Question Four: How many cats do you believe it takes to push closed a standard-sized interior door?
Question Five: How many cats do you think can fit into a railway train compartment?
Question Six: WHY ARE THE CATS SMALL ENOUGH TO WALK ALONG THE RAILROAD TRACKS LIKE ANTS CRAWLING ACROSS A BRANCH BUT BIG ENOUGH TO SIT IN THE STOOLS IN THE MILK BAR THEMED RESTAURANT THAT IS CLEARLY MEANT TO BE FREQUENTED BY CATS YET SOMEHOW THE ENTIRE BUILDING IS DESIGNED TO HUMAN SCALE?
Question Seven: Was that supposed to be a cat-sized tugboat or were you even still trying by that point?
The Fucking CGI, My God, The Fucking CGI
All of the actors have human hands instead of cat paws. The CGI of their cat fur just stops at the wrist. They all hold their hands like cat paws, but they do not have cat paws. Just human hands. Judi Dench still has a wedding ring on.
The actors do have cat paw feet, except for the scenes where they don’t. Sometimes they just have human feet again. Sometimes they’re wearing sneakers. Sometimes they’re wearing ballet pointe shoes that are CGI-colored to match the rest of their fur but are absolutely not cat paws.
At no point does any of the the CGI fur look good. Judi Dench looks like she’s floating underwater, and her tail disappears from shot to shot. Jennifer Hudson looks like she’s wrapped in an old fishing net and black garbage bags. Idris Elba just looks like a smooth brown Ken Doll with little tiger stripes and green contact lenses. Rebel Wilson has a patch of pubic hair on her fur suit, which I’m calling a fur suit instead of a cat costume because she at one point CGI-unzips it to reveal a circus performer tutu thing underneath. Sorry, did I say that happens once? Yeah, it happens twice.
And can we talk about the faces?
Much like the decision not to bother with cat paws, a decision was made not to bother with cat faces. Or even putting some cat-esque stage makeup on the actors. No, the $95 million budget of CATS was better spent just using CGI to sort of lazily insert human faces onto the cat heads.
Remember a few years ago when those face-swap apps were really popular, and sometimes they would accidentally flag a cat in the room instead of the person you were trying to take a photo with? Remember that? Every character looks like that’s what happened to them.
Again, this movie had a budget of $95 million.
After the disastrous first impression made by the trailer, we were told that the cats would appear more androgynous in the final cut of the film. Granted, we still may not have seen the final cut of the film considering that within a week of release a patched version had to be shipped to cinemas because the editing wasn’t finished yet.
But it seems like what actually happened was that, instead of going for androgyny, all of the cat titties were redistributed to Taylor Swift’s character.
A character who flies in on a moon like a goddamn vaudeville routine, singing a song that she stole from another character in the show, while sprinkling Spanish Fly catnip on the collected ensemble inducing them into a frenzied dance-orgy of choreography entirely too sexual to watch without taking a shower afterwards, and the whole time she has conspicuous cat boobs.
I will close this review with one positive remark about CATS: Jennifer Hudson knocked “Memory” out of the park. For those brief few moments, I could almost forget the crime against humanity that had lead up to them.
I won’t tell you whether or not to go see CATS. That’s a decision that you must make for yourself, as only you will have to live with the consequences. But allow me to share an anecdote with you:
My fiancé and I were standing on the curb waiting to cross the street after leaving the cinema, and I said, “Oh my god, that was such a bad movie.”
A random woman also waiting to cross the street immediately turned around and said, “CATS?”
“YES,” we said. “It was SO bad.”
“I saw it too,” she said emphatically. “I knew the critics were saying it was bad, but I wanted to see if it was really THAT bad.”
“Us too,” I said, before we all three stated in unison, “I just didn’t think it was going to be THAT bad!”
Readers….CATS is that bad.