No amount of catnip will ever help me to recover from the travesty that is “Cats.”
I should have known when I was driving to the theater and got stuck behind a car with a bold bumper sticker that read “Cat Mom” that it was going to be a bad time.
I should have known from the sad look the employee gave me when she handed me my ticket; Things were not going to be OK.
Yet I persisted.
Tom Hooper’s take on the classic Broadway musical suffers from many ailments, the most obvious being the shoddy and weightless CGI. If you look too closely at the background, you will see the faces of the dancers nearly sliding off of their skulls.
Not only that, but the amount of human hands juxtaposed with feline bodies is more than enough to fuel nightmares for years to come.
The real issue with “Cats” lies in the highly anemic story. There is no real story or plot to begin with. The only real plot oasis to be seen in this desert is Grizabella, played by Jennifer Hudson, trying her hardest to be accepted back into the Jellicle cat community so she can ascend to the Heaviside Layer. In other words, she wants to die accepted and not shunned.
The film opens with the introduction of Victoria, played by ballet dancer Francesca Hayward in her first film role, who for all intents and purposes is our main character. She is tossed by her former owners into an alleyway in the dark, dank streets of London where an army of dancing cat people descend upon her.
With Victoria’s intro, it would be easy to assume that throughout the film, the audience would be shown an inkling of backstory or character development. Not so fast! She doesn’t actually say anything until 30 minutes into the movie.
Instead, she acts as a device to introduce a litany of stars who show up to sing a song and disappear, never to be seen or heard from again in any meaningful way. From the horrific song and dance performed by Rebel Wilson as Jennyanydots (featuring cockroaches with CGI faces that will haunt my dreams forever), to the hypersexualized performance of Jason Derulo as Rum Tum Tugger, nothing about the endless stream of introductions made for a good time.
Poor Dame Judy Dench as Old Deuteronomy looks like someone trapped her in a fur suit, for God’s sake.
The only true saving grace of this film is Hayward’s performance. When given the chance to sing, her voice is superb, especially when she takes the lead on the Taylor Swift-penned “Beautiful Ghosts.”
The biggest disappointment of the film, however, is Hudson’s performance. She sings “Memory”— arguably the most famous song from “Cats”— like there is a gun to her head. The second time she sings the tune (yes she does it twice, dear God I hate this movie), is slightly better, but is drowned out by a crescendo of horns and tympanies.
Ironically enough, this movie got nominated for outstanding achievement in sound editing by the Motion Picture Sound Editors Board.
Overall, “Cats” is not the worst movie ever made. It is undoubtedly bad, but will never ascend to the heights of Tommy Wiseau’s “The Room,” where it’s so bad that it’s good. Hooper’s film amounts to a decently budgeted meditation on how to make people hate musicals and felines.
The film asks the audience to judge a cat, and in turn another person, by their soul. That this presence of soul is what makes people special and cats Jellicle. Unfortunately, this film was as soulless as the awful CGI used to create it.