Review: Cats (U)

TV editor Sophie Hicks paw-ses to review the Cats film adaptation, which has received many sour-milk reviews

Sophie Hicks
2nd January 2020
Credit: IMDB

A new decade, and new ways to disappoint myself. Somehow, someway, I managed to convince my friend to go see Cats with me as our first film of the decade, and wow. Honestly, it's the purrfect film to make you feel better about your own life decisions if you need a pick-me-up, knowing you haven't lost $71 MILLION MAKING A CATS ADAPTATION. I would say beware of spoilers, but I'm so unsure of the plot, I'm not even sure which parts are spoilers here.

Review in short: This film is a total Jellicle Cat-astrophe worth clawing out your eyes and running meow-t the door.

Firstly, I would like to say that I came in watching Cats as someone who is an avid musical theatre lover who hates Cats the musical (but is an extreme cat lover!). When I heard that Cats was being adapted and the first painful CGI-ridden trailer came out, my friend and I immediately decided that we needed to see it together to witness the horror with our own eyes. In December when the film finally came out, the internet had an influx of brilliant cat-pun related reviews slating the film in every way possible. So, fair to say, I went in with an expectation level at floor height (not even cat height, couldn't bring myself to hope too high). However, despite the horrific reviews, the film still managed to leave me speechless at how it was even made.

Not one of Dame Judy's best moments. Image: IMDB.

Every year, these cats are so depressed by their own existence that they all compete, wanting to die and hopefully end up in a better musical.

If you're unaware of the plot of Cats, because who even understands what Cats is about, I'll try explain: a group of 'Jellicle cats' (yeah, I have no idea either) who basically compete to be chosen by Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench) at the Jellicle ball as a sacrifice so that they can die and be reborn with a fresh start if their current life is horrific. Yes, I'm not kidding. Every year, these cats are so depressed by their own existence that they all compete, wanting to die and hopefully end up in a better musical.

For the purposes of this review, I won't judge the storyline itself because Cats itself is absolutely insane, so of course, a film adaptation would naturally make no sense and thus make you question how this was even greenlit, or who even pitched this to studio execs and they were like "Yep! There's a wide demographic for that!", despite the literal hundreds of other musicals that would make better films. I mean, seriously, how on earth did a Cats movie come out before Wicked? But, I can judge it on literally everything else. So, the claws are coming out.

I never thought I'd see Elba with a hairy body with chiselled, cat-defined abs wearing a Freddy Krueger-esque hat, but here we are.

Firstly, I offer my sincere condolences to Francesca Hayward's career, as this was her first feature role. On the plus side, the CGI is so intense that I genuinely would not be able to recognise her in the street, so in that sense, the film is doing her some favours. Whilst I did think she was pitchy and the song 'Beautiful Ghosts' added in was a trainwreck, she certainly was not the worst actor in the film and therefore deserves a round of applause as she didn't make me want to evaporate from my seat every time she came on the screen. However, the CGI was not too kind to others. Idris, Elba, poor Idris Elba. I never thought I'd see Elba with a hairy body with chiselled, cat-defined abs wearing a Freddy Krueger-esque hat, but here we are. I think without a doubt one of the most random elements of this entire adaptation is making Elba's character Macavity magical. I think it was so that there could be some sort of plot, but it was so weird seeing Elba pour (or paw) mysterious dust over people or just vanish into thin air that I audibly laughed, A LOT. But not only that, he just kidnapped (or catnapped haha so funny, I know) cats to send them on a boat? But the film doesn't explain why on a boat, so there's just a bunch of characters just prisoners on a boat for half the film? But honestly, thank God because it meant less screen time for James Cordon and Rebel Wilson.

Maybe CGI hasn't progressed as far as possible. Image:IMDB

Personal highlights but not a comprehensive list, PURELY FROM MEMORY, include:

  1. Jason Derulo shouting "MIIIIILLLLLLK!" (he was actually one of the better singers and actors in this too, yikes)
  2. Every time the cats wanted to kiss, they instead nuzzled each other, and it was very, very disturbing.
  3. James Cordon deep throated a lobster
  4. Rebel Wilson scratching her thighs with her hairy cat legs wide open
  5. THEY ALL HAD HUMAN HANDS AND FEET (and some of them wore trainers which I assume were meant to be edited out? And Taylor Swift cat wore high heels? Very odd.)
  6. Ian McKellen licking a plate of milk
  7. Judi Dench's toes
  8. Judi Dench being asked to walk the plank?
  9. Judi Dench's wedding ring is very visible for half the scenes
  10. Judi Dench staring into the camera for 2 minutes straight
  11. Wow, Judi Dench was very weird in this film
  12. The female cats have boobs
  13. Instead of clapping and cheering the cats wagged their tails and all screamed "MEEEOOOOW!" as horrible cries for help from the actors
  14. Cats dancing on a train track looking tiny but then a wide shot shows them normal human size (this was a whole issue in itself, but I'm going discuss this later)
  15. All the cats hovered from the ground a bit because the CGI was horrific
  16. The entire catnip scene where Taylor Swift cat came down from a moon reminding me a LOT of It's Always Sunny in Philidelphia's 'The Nightman Cometh' when Charlie comes down from a sun singing whatever note came to his mind
The Nightman Cometh- Charlie's song.

By far without a doubt, the absolute worst scene in this entire almost two-hour film was when there were CGI cockroaches with HUMAN HEADS dancing around whilst Rebel Wilson took off her fur suit (Was that not her skin?) to reveal an outfit underneath, and then later on some mice with CGI child actor faces, WHICH THEY KEPT USING THROUGHOUT THE FILM. I can't describe the bizarreness, but it's something you must see to believe.

Cats (2019) Cockroach Scene.

A major issue of this film was the bizarre scaling that they chose to do. They decided to make the cats 'cat size' which meant that all the sets were giant, which was reminiscent of Goldilocks and the Three Bears when she says "This chair is too big!" because I kept repeating that in my head the entire film. I don't believe the people who made this film have ever seen a cat, nor know how big one is. A plate on a human-sized table looked ABSOLUTELY GIANT, but then in other scenes like in a bedroom, the cats looked almost human-sized? It was very odd. Oh, and at one stage they were dancing up and down some stairs and the cats entire body managed to fit on one step, so yeah. All in all, a very weird decision which completely disorientates the already weird film.

Jennifer Hudson was also a standout and if it wasn't in the context of this bizarre film, her rendition of 'Memory' might have evoked some form of emotion within me

However, I do have some mild praises. The use of lighting was very satisfying, and the dance routines themselves were well choreographed, which is a blessing because for 98% of the film they are doing an elaborate dance routine. However, they did get the same choreographer as Hamilton, so no wonder the dancing wasn't bad. Oh, and despite his creepy looks, turns out, in the end, I didn't completely hate Mr. Mistoffelees (Laurie Davidson) and my friend and I started swaying along to the self-named song, despite it literally being almost five minutes of the same lyrics. Jason Derulo also gets a special shout out for being one of the better singers and more charismatic characters of the cast, despite my initial hesitancy towards him. And of course, Jennifer Hudson was also a standout and if it wasn't in the context of this bizarre film, her rendition of 'Memory' might have evoked some form of emotion within me. The rest of the cats can be thrown into a bin.

Overall, was the film horrific? Yes, absolutely. But, was it a laugh with friends? Definitely. At least it was funny-bad, rather than just plain bad. Either way, I don't think I'll be able to muster up the courage to ever watch it in full again, so I wouldn't say that this is a rave review. In terms of stars, I'm not sure how to rate it. What's a traumatised face out of five? Meow-ch.

Rating: 1/5

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AUTHOR: Sophie Hicks
Former TV Sub-Editor for The Courier and BA Media Communication and Cultural Studies graduate

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