The first trailer for Cats was a textbook example of nightmare fuel. A second trailer was released which didn’t look quite as bad and offered the hope of something possibly fun. Then the press screening came along and confirmed everyone’s fears: Cats is the worst film of the year. Filled to the brim with horribly staged, awkwardly shot/edited dance sequences, sketchy CGI, and absolutely no plot or characters. Try as co-writer/director Tom Hooper might, Cats is even worse than it looks.
The plot is surprisingly simple. Victoria (Francesca Hayward) has just been thrown out by her human and the surrounding Jellicle alley cats whisk her away on an adventure to find out who Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench) will grant access to the Heviside Layer to come back to a new life as a Jellicle cat.
Seriously, that’s it. Oh sure, Hooper — who also directed the ill-conceived Les Miserables and allowed Russell Crowe to “sing” — tries to flesh things out a little. There’s a new subplot involving the “Sphinx Theater” where auditions for a new 10th(?) life is held. But the film is so head-scratching it’s amazing Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical has been a thing for 40 years. Universal scrapped their intended Wicked adaptation for this?
I do love a good trainwreck, but to be so-bad-it’s-good has to be earned. This is just straight up bad from start to finish. Taylor Swift may show up to try and liven things up, but can’t keep her accent from line-to-line. Meanwhile, Rebel Wilson and James Corden are relegated to fat jokes, Idris Elba surprisingly can’t sing—despite his so-called rap career, and Ian McKellen simply mopes around when he’s not licking milk from a saucer. (And that’s not a euphemism for chewing scenery.)
It doesn’t help that Hooper can’t keep the film in perspective. What size are these cats? It seems to fluctuate from shot-to-shot and from set-to-set. There’s no scale whatsoever. Combined with the haphazard CGI — one characters face literally looks as if it’s floating — and frantic editing, you never get to grasp any sense of wonder into the feline world.
Universal has themselves a mighty huge cat-astrophe. It’s too boring to keep the target audience captivated and too unsightly for the uninitiated. The last musical number also comes off as condescending with Dench’s tone during “The Ad-dressing of Cats” and even Jennifer Hudson’s “Memory” is boring and by the numbers. The only sequence that passes for entertaining is “Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat,” but you’ll forget it even happened once you suffer through the mundane repetitiveness of “Mr. Mistofelees.”
If you really wanna do yourself some mental harm, load up on “catnip,” sit back, and revel in the year’s biggest dumpster fire. After all, that’s pretty much the only way to describe such a horrific curiosity. Hopefully it won’t kill your holiday season.