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In the 24 hours that have passed since I watched Cats, two major things have happened. For starters, in a move that’s never been seen before, the film is receiving an update three days following its release. Yes, you have read that correctly; Cats is being retooled in an attempt to fix its dire visual effects. No matter how bad a film’s special effects have been, none of them have ever released a new version while the current one is still playing in cinemas.
Surely, the reason behind this is that the troves of fans who flocked in to get their Cats fix opening weekend want to see an even crisper version of the film. Unfortunately, we should address the second major incident. Cats has been a catastrophic (sorry) flop at the box office. The $95 million budget horror movie opened with $6.5 million dollars in the US. Even people who don’t know anything about the box office know that number is abysmal.
Those watching from afar are thinking “Surely it can’t be that bad?”. I’m here to tell you that yes, this musical is as bad as the word of mouth is screaming at you. If anything, we’re only beginning to scratch the surface of how awful this is.
An adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, which itself is based off a T. S. Elliot poetry collection, Cats tells a story unlike any other property. A tribe of cats called the Jellicles must decide yearly which one will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new Jellicle life. Yes, that is the plot of the movie. You are not hallucinating right now. Although, Cats for its near two-hour runtime feels like a hallucination. Let’s try to break down the film from its synopsis shall we?
First off we must ask the question that’s on the tip of our tongues; what is a Jellicle cat? The film opens with the song Jellicle Songs For Jellicle Cats, from which we learn nothing about what exactly a Jellicle cat is. From what I gathered a Jellicle cat is a cat that has a celebrity’s face creepily stuck onto its body. Even hearing the word Jellicle sends shivers through me.
What was that about a reincarnation ceremony? Basically, the cats decide which cat to send to heaven in hope of a new life by having a talent show. Imagine a world where all major decisions were made like this. Forget elections, have the candidates perform a song or juggle.
To its credit Cats certainly prides itself on being a musical. There are roughly two minutes of the film that aren’t sung. This could have been a unique concept if the tunes had any kind of variety. Instead what you get is a cat introducing itself through song with an odd synth beat in the background. We get tracks from the sad cat, the twin cats and the hungry cat. Hell, even the tap-dancing cat gets a three-minute song. I felt like my cinema seat had been transported to the depths of hell. Four separate people walked out during the film. Had I not a review to write I would have joined them. There’s no movie in this movie. Imagine if 12 Angry Men was two hours of them introducing themselves before the credits began to roll. Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore had a better plot for crying out loud.
Every member of the cast will never be forgiven by me for having to sit through this nonsense. Poor Francesca Hayward probably thought she landed the gig of a lifetime in playing the film’s lead Victoria. Yet, the esteemed ballet dancer is given nothing to do besides walk around and observe the insanity that is happening around her.
The cast is stacked with big names who should really know better. Idris Elba plays the villainous Macavity who sexually purs and kidnaps cats. Elba goes full ham, knowing there is no way he can save the sinking ship. Judi Dench plays Old Deuteronomy the leader of the cats who gets to make the decision of which cat to sacrifice to the gods. Dench goes for a lovely old lady vibe, but it’s haunting due to her cat having the weakest effects. She also breaks the forth wall in the final scene of the film because of course she does.
Rebel Wilson and James Corden, meanwhile, give two of the worst performances you’ll ever see as two separate characters whose sole purpose in the film is to be at the butt of fat jokes. It’s funny because they like to eat which is funny because obesity is a laughing matter apparently. Ian McKellen slowly and sexually (a running theme) licks milk from a saucer, there’s nothing else to say about his character really. Jason Derulo stares into your soul as he thrusts and grinds against his CGI cat friends. Fun for all the family indeed.
Tom Hooper won an Oscar in 2011 for The King’s Speech. That was only eight years ago. He followed it up with Les Misérables and The Danish Girl, two films that also won Oscars. Now he’s making all his actors go to cat school to learn how to behave like cats; this is not a joke. Can someone please make sure that Mr. Hooper is okay? There’s no explaining what made him think this was a good idea. Either he’s an avid fan of the musical or he couldn’t turn down the chance to work with Taylor Swift. Hooper’s filmmaking technique is evident in Jennifer Hudson’s performance as the cat that everyone bullies. You can picture Hooper calling for Hudson to have more tears every time the camera focuses on her, it’s hard to remember a character who’s cried so much.
Much has already been said about the effects. But let me reiterate, they are garbage. The cat’s faces are bad enough. Yet what’s even more disturbing is their hands. These giant cat people have human hands. It’s nightmare fuel. It’s not just the cats who will appear in your nightmares. Baby mice and cockroaches also have faces glued onto their poor designs. Hooper has said that he didn’t finish the film until the morning of the premiere. He effectively burned a meal beyond repair and hoped that no one would notice. Unfortunately for Hooper, we all did.
The Cat in the Hat, Nine Lives, Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever, Catwoman and Garfield: A Tale of Two Kittens are all atrocious cat movies. Yet, compared to Cats any of them are worthy of winning Best Picture. This is a cinematic failure unlike any other we’ve seen in history. From the first trailer, we knew it was coming. We hoped and prayed that it was all one elaborate joke by Universal; it wasn’t. There was months for Tom Hooper to turn it around; he didn’t.
Perhaps Cats is what the world needs at a time like this. The universal hatred of the film could bring us all closer together. If fighting together against unnecessarily sexualised cats doesn’t unite us then I don’t know what will.