There are some things that do not deserve to be spoken about, remembered, or commemorated with the written word. Cats (2019) is undoubtedly among those things. Unfortunately for you all (and most unfortunately for me), I promised some people I respect very much that I would write this review. Unquestionably the most grueling part of this process was the actual viewing of the film. Me-ow.
Cats is, simply put, hard to look at. It is a visual ordeal. I couldn’t take notes fast enough to truly encompass everything that was coming at me; it felt like an attack on my optic nerve. This was certainly not helped by the pleasant man who told me to put my phone away as I frantically tried to describe the accursed and now infamous Gumbi Cat song, starring Jennyanydots (Rebel Wilson). The last note I feverishly jotted down was something along the lines of “please Rebel, do not scratch your crotch.” I can’t tell you how far into the movie that was because I truly lost all sense of reality. (I checked the time briefly and I could not believe that we had only been there for half an hour. “How,” I wondered aloud, “could there possibly be more movie?” But more movie there was. So much more movie.)
The spectacle of Cats as a Broadway production has oft been mocked throughout its near two-decade run: trained dancers dressing up as animals and singing songs based off of a book of nonsensical poetry about the peculiar habits and characteristics of cats is kind of ridiculous. But it’s musical theater and a classic at that. It may not be for everyone, but it has an audience.
However, I have absolutely no idea who this movie is for other than the “ironic” viewers with whom I shared the theater. Fans of musical theater might enjoy the soundtrack — the performers certainly deliver in that regard — but humans with eyes might have a little more issue with the physical experience of being exposed to this film. Usually, I can attribute such monstrosities to corporate greed, but everyone in this movie is giving it their all, artistically-speaking. The star-studded cast does not show any sign of breaking at any point, much to the chagrin of the casual viewer. Is it a disconnect? Is it a lack of original content? I’m truly at a loss.
The actual plot of the movie is not particularly brilliant; I think most of the issues with pacing can be accredited to the nature of musicals. As a stage show, it makes sense. As a movie, it doesn’t.
Cats, as Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench) reminds us repeatedly, are not dogs. I would like to remind Tom Hooper that cats are also not humans. There are a lot of things that cats are not and many attributes they do not have. Cats do not have human hands, feet, pants, shoes, or faces. Cats’ noses do not run. (The running of Grizabella’s nose is used to signal an emotional climax, but what emotion is that? Fear? Confusion? I don’t think it really matters, because they send her in a hot air balloon to her death as a reward. Google it.) Cats walk on four legs.
There are so many things I hate about this movie. Idris Elba’s Macavity looks legitimately naked. Taylor Swift’s Bombalurina has …breasts? All the cats seem oddly — I can’t think of an appropriate way to put this — attracted to the lead. I have never been so passionate about cat abstinence. A cat is not a dog, and Cats is not a good movie.
But is it so bad it’s good? No. No, it is not. If everything is done in service to be more catlike…why not just animate cats? Why does the cast need to be recognizable? Cats are not people. I don’t get it, and I don’t think the people who made it do either. Ewewew I hate it. Thank you for reading.