Judi Dench as Old Deuteronomy in "Cats," co-written and directed by Tom Hooper.

Cats Review – Springtime for Kitler

Directed and co-written by Tom Hooper, Cats introduces ballerina Francesca Hayward as Victoria, a new cat in this strange world of the Jellicle cats. Over the course of a single night and through many introductions to the various feline characters, this cat tribe will make what’s known as the “Jellicle choice” and see which cat will ascend to the “Heavisaide Layer” and begin a new life.

What the fuck is this movie? Seriously.

Cats at first existed to me as that weird musical with that one song Miranda Cosgrove badly sang in School of Rock. And then it was announced that the undeserving Acadamy Award-winning director Tom Hooper, from The King’s Speech and Les Misérables, would be directing a film adaptation of the musical even though it opened 38 years ago and ended its West End and Broadway runs over 15 years ago. Sure it was the first megamusical and other musicals by Andrew Lloyd Webber have received film adaptations in the meantime like The Phantom of the Opera and Jesus Christ Superstar, but why Cats and why NOW?

And THEN, it was revealed that instead of the movie having actors like Idris Elba, Taylor Swift, James Corden and Judi Dench in cat costumes and makeup, or having them voice fully-animated characters like in the failed Dreamworks project produced by Steven Spielberg, all the actors would be performing with oversized sets and props while being covered in “digital fur technology” in post-production.

Ok…..what? How is that easier or better just from a concept stage?

Well let’s see what it’s going to be, and (trailer drops to thunderous laughter and horror)… oh… dear… God.

Cats became the internet’s new favourite thing to either be frozen in horror by or deliriously laugh at and be intensely excited for like The Room returning to cinemas or the new Neil Breen movie.

Now I have finally seen it and I can say that while it has enough of that wonderous stupidity that superfans of bad movies will absorb like cotton candy, it is nonetheless a relentlessly awful experience that may as well be the worst movie of 2019.

The first 30 minutes alone actually made me get up and walk out of the cinema just to catch a break and breathe or potentially vomit. I realised quickly that his movie wouldn’t just take characters and basic plot details from the original musical and make its own story that actually has stakes and characters. Instead it just does the musical thing of only introducing new characters, having them all sing whole songs about what kind of cat they are, like whole numbers dedicated to how Rebel Wilson’s “Jennyanydots” is fat and lazy and how one cat is a… ”railway cat”. Whatever the hell that is.

Everyone gets their own song to belt out at the highest registers, and just like with most Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, it sounds like everything in music and subsequently nothing resembling logic. For 90 minutes of the runtime we just keep meeting more and more cats, singing terrible number after terrible number until we hit a point of…climax?…and then the movie has to rush to get to a meaning or something that you could, in a vacuum, call a resolution to themes and characters, and then it just ends. None of the cats you’ve met in the last 90 minutes have anything to do with the story, the Jellicle choice is made, it’s some random cat who gets the best song in the whole thing because it’s the most famous and intelligible, and then Judi Dench turns to camera to tell us, the audience, that, TWIST ENDING, a cat is not a dog.

I’m so glad that I got a press screening for Cats because I left feeling horrified and disgusted, but it didn’t cost me a cent. If I had paid for it, I would have demanded my money back. Most of my problems with the film boil down to how the musical itself was written and constructed, which says to me that this should have never been a movie. Some things just don’t have to be movies, like Playmobil or an adaptation of The Goldfinch, and now Cats joins just recent examples of things that should have never been movies. Because the only thing that Cats has to offer the cinematic landscape isn’t challenging characters or an emotional story, but brand new technology.

It may be brand new, but the “digital fur” technology and indeed all of the CGI used here is pure nightmare fuel. Not only does it just look wrong and disorientating at first, but even as you start to get used to it, more things are introduced like cockroaches and mice with the faces of children or Rebel Wilson being able to zip down her own fur and reveal a secondary layer of a sequin dress. It was at this point of Tom Hooper and his digital artists just endlessly pummelling your brain with such disgusting imagery that I wanted to run away and never look back, but I didn’t. For some dumb reason I can’t explain, I pressed on and let the movie be what it was, and only when it ended did I start running. I didn’t have a bus to immediately catch, no deadline to meet, nowhere to really be soon other than home and in bed, but I felt this urge to start sprinting, to get the hell out of there and hope that this movie would be erased from my brain as fast as I was able to run.

It didn’t.

And now I’m left with absolute disgust and partial hatred at not just Tom Hooper for thinking he could make this kind of movie, have it look and be different to all his other films but still be just as painful and idiotic as most of Les Misérables and The Danish Girl, but also at Andrew Lloyd Webber for having conned so many people for over 50 years into thinking that he is the lord and master of musicals. He isn’t. He’s an overrated and talentless hack that still has too much power in the world of musicals even to this day. Cats is more awful in ways that I never thought possible. It’s a terrible waste of great actors and performers like Francesca Hayward, Judi Dench, Idris Elba, and Sir Ian McKellen, and it’s another vessel for woefully unfunny people like James Corden and Rebel Wilson to further convince people that they are so funny. They aren’t.

Cats has some of the worst CGI I’ve seen in my life and you should avoid this movie like the plague. At best, it’s weird and wild and laughable. At worst, this is one of the worst movie experiences I have ever had in my life. That is saying something.

Director: Tom Hooper

Cast: Francesca Howard, Jennifer Hudson, Taylor Swift

Writers: Lee Hall, Tom Hooper, (based on the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and the poetry collection “Old Possum’s Books of Practical Cats” by T.S. Eliot)

Christopher John

Christopher John is an emerging flim critic based in Perth and primarily writes for The Curb. He is a double-degree graduate of Edith Cowan University in Communications and Arts, and creates various flim reviews and video essays on his YouTube channel "Christopher John". Christopher has published online work with ECU's Dircksey magazine, Taste of Cinema, Pelican Magazine and Heroic Hollywood. His first love in flim is Star Wars, his newest love is Akira Kurosawa, and hopes his future love will be Tarkovsky and Studio Ghibli (he's getting to it).

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