Is “Cats” really that bad?


Abigail Cason, Staff Writer

On July 18, 2019, the Cats movie trailer was released, and the internet lost its mind. Almost everyone I spoke to promised me that they wouldn’t go see it just based on the questionable computer-generated imagery (CGI) alone. People kept their word and Cats opened with $6.5 million in ticket sales for the domestic debut and a 20% on Rotten Tomatoes. Anybody I discussed it with who went to see either sat through the entire movie and promised me they were scarred for life or left halfway through because they didn’t want to waste an hour and 49 minutes of their day. In the “I Hate It But I Love It” podcast that discussed the movie’s highs and lows, the hosts talked about how they only found ten minutes of the movie to be bearable and somewhat enjoyable. With the bar set this low in my mind, I forced myself to go to the movie theater to see the infamous Cats movie. As someone who has seen the musical live and knows the music and dances fairly well, I had some expectations for the dancing, singing, and acting in the movie. Since the movie’s cast featured renowned dancers, such as Francesca Hayward (a Royal Ballet principal dancer) and Robbie Fairchild (a former NYC Ballet principal dancer and a dancer on Broadway), my expectations for the dancing were especially high. As a standard movie-watcher, I also had expectations for the cinematography, CGI, and new dialogue that was written into the movie. As the previews played, I braced myself for the “train wreck” that I had voluntarily walked into. 

I want to preface this review by saying that I am well-versed in the knowledge of musical theatre and that I am one to enjoy musicals, both live and on-screen. This is the worst movie I have ever seen. Everyone who walked out of the movie theater after the movie was dying with laughter and not because Cats was comedic brilliance. I lost track of all the moments in the movie where I was grossed out, disturbed, or astonished by what I was watching. Actors who I have loved since childhood, such as Judi Dench, Ian Mckellan, and Idris Elba, were clawing about, yowling, and licking up milk from bowls. If I wrote in detail about everything wrong with the movie, I would be writing for hours so I will try to sum up the CATastrophe that the Cats movie is.

Let’s start with the CGI. I cannot speak on this issue much because I know very little about the world of green screens and CGI, but the choices that Tom Hopper made with this movie are just atrocious. The actors’ faces were plastered on human-like cat bodies, and their unedited human hands were often visible.  Jennifer Hudson’s large dark acrylic nails stood out all throughout the emotional song “Memory.” I came to the movie knowing that it was going to be bad, but I had a strong faith in the dancing. The professional dancers in the movie were clearly well-trained and had amazing talent, but the CGI made all the dancing look fake and unimpressive. Also, whenever a dancing section was happening, there would be many cuts to characters watching on the side, so the amount of dancing we actually saw was quite small—the most disappointing part of the film. 

The singing sounds like a Kidz Bop remake of the entire soundtrack. It sounded like the cast was singing along to the music rather than actually being in the soundtrack. Taylor Swift and Rebel Wilson were notably terrible when they were singing in the movie. Also, the orchestra in the background was rather disappointing because it sounded like only one instrument played at a time, and the orchestra was rather toned down. The new dialogue added into the movie consisted of cat puns, attempts to form a concrete plot, and overly-serious moments of conflict. Even though the plot-less musical is a bit confusing, the movie with the added dialogue and plot was even more so. There is not much to say about the cinematography since the entire film was purely CGI, but I must say that the buildings around them looked more put together than the actors. 

Most of the film’s problems were clearly the director’s fault, but I would like to take a moment to pick on the actors. Only a few ranged from decent to good in my eyes, such as Robbie Fairchild, Francesca Hayward, Laurie Davidson, and Steven Mcrae, as they were primarily cast for their dancing skills. Judi Dench and Ian Mckellan were acting as if they were creating a cute children’s film, and they did a good job but were dealt a bad hand in terms of the director’s choices and some of their co-stars. A surprise success was Jason Derulo, who did what he was hired to do: sing well. Rebel Wilson was given possibly the weirdest and most uncomfortable role in the show and did not give a performance worthy of the sparkly vest she was wearing. Also, the number of fat jokes made about both Rebel Wilson and James Corden felt very outdated and overplayed. Taylor Swift was given the “sensual” role in the movie, and she made everyone in the theater extremely uncomfortable. That is mainly Tom Hooper’s fault, but I must harp on Taylor Swift’s dancing skills because they are nonexistent. Idris Elba was an actual joke, and Jennifer Hudson’s magnified emotions overshadowed her singing talent. Her overdone crying and the excessive snot on her face took away from the dramatic moment. I would like to take a quick moment to outline the two grossest moments in the movie to give you an idea of the “disturbing” moments I mentioned earlier. At one point, James Corden was having a fight with another cat and coughed up a furball. An adult man in cat CGI doing this action is a haunting sight. Also, throughout the film, there are a couple of moments where Rebel Wilson “unzips” her skin to reveal a sparkly vest and another set of skin underneath. The entire concept of this baffles me, but it appears to me that her outside skin was similar to a tracksuit, even though it looks like skin and fur. This choice was very strange and felt so wrong.

To close out this very critical review, I like to say some positive things about the movie. The actors that I mentioned before that did a decent job really picked up the movie and made it more enjoyable to watch. My favorite scene in the movie was probably the Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat song and tap number since the actor playing Skimbleshanks, Steven Mcrae, was a professional tapper and was able to show off his skills and technique throughout his dance. The dancing overall was fantastic, and, even with the layers of CGI, you could see the technique, strength, and talent. During the viewing, watching this movie was quite unbearable, but it has transformed into a funny, strange experience unlike any movie viewing I’ve had before, and I am glad I went to see it. If you want to see a movie that will make you contemplate everything and lose any sense of time, this is the movie for you, and I honestly recommend that everyone see it.