Last weekend, after months and months of tense anticipation, Hollywood spat out a huge CGI disaster filled with famous people. This left hordes of filmgoers confused, horrified, emotionally distraught, bored, and plagued with way too many existential crises. The entire production seemed misguided from its very inception, yet took itself so seriously, with every actor giving it their all and the director seemingly ignorant of the fact that he was working with no coherent plot, no meaningful character development, nor anything remotely interesting, destroying any goodwill he mustered in the past.
This disaster, of course, is Tom Hooper’s Cats. What else could it have been? Star Wars? Anyways, Shana Vaid and Hannah Lazar both went to see the film, and you could say that curiosity killed the film reviewers. Beware of spoilers… but don’t worry too much about them. You don’t want to suffer through this film.
Hannah: So, what did you think of Cats? I needed to hug my dog for a solid ten minutes after I got home...it was a lot.
Shana: I stayed until after the moonlight song and still couldn’t figure out what the plot was, so I left.
H: Yeah, that’s fair, you honestly didn’t miss much. The plot kinda manifests later on, but it’s not anything to write home about. I stayed for the entire thing somehow, though I zoned out on numerous occasions, because the constant music is just hard to pay attention to.
S: I kept going on my phone to tell people the film had no plot (I was in the back of the theater so it didn’t bother anyone). If there’s no actual plot breaking up all the musical numbers, or within the musical numbers, it’s pretty hard to sustain an audience’s attention.
H: Definitely. I also sent people my reactions because it was so boring! No one complained, though I’m pretty sure my theater was filled with people actually taking the movie seriously. My friend and I were the only people laughing at the unintentionally funny moments, and we consistently just made eye contact when we were confused beyond belief.
S: Somehow the theater I was in was actually full, which was really unexpected and I’m surprised I was the only one who left early. Though the audience was mostly little kids, so I guess I get why they removed all the genitals.
H: Didn’t stop the camera from hovering over Taylor Swift’s boobs whenever she was on screen, since she was supposed to play some sort of seductress cat? Or the film from creating those terrifying humanoid marching band cockroaches, whose animation was rendered even worse than the cats somehow. I think those will stay in children’s nightmares longer than anything else.
S: Why do the cats even have boobs anyways? Like, isn’t the film aimed at families and children? Cats don’t even have boobs. Also the singing mice were strangely small. In proportion to cats, they should have been the size of dogs, but instead they’re as small as they look to humans. Their animation was also disturbing tbh.
H: Oh, not the mice...the fact that they were played by children made it so much worse, especially when the cats were casually talking about eating them.
S: They were also grabbing and eating the cockroaches while they were dancing, which was really disturbing and I don’t understand how others in the theater weren’t also cringing.
H: It’s just so bizarre. I don’t understand why they decided to make this movie, and include weirdly specific things like that. Musicals can get away with this sort of weirdness because they’re more about the spectacle, and actually watching real people do all of these crazy things. When you turn Cats into a movie, you don’t have any of those benefits.
S: It’s all just a bunch of CGI, which removes the impressiveness of a live cast performing the dances in a musical. In person, the characters aren’t offputting, but in the film, they feel like something out of the uncanny valley, where human-like figures cause a person to feel a sense of unease because they look both human and inhuman at the same time.
H: Yeah, I looked up some recordings of the musical, and the costumes are quite impressive. They also look more like actual cats. When you rely on CGI, which everyone already knows is fake, instead of costumes, you exacerbate the uncanny valley’s effects. During the movie, I’m terrified of the fake CGI people; during a play, I would admire the work put into the practical costumes and be willing to do the additional work to imagine them as cats. Though, that’s not to discount the hard work done on the film’s visual effects. It just doesn’t look complete, or good. Film is simply the wrong medium for this story, in far too many ways.
S: The musical also gets away with the fact that there’s no plot because of the live performances, but in the film the lack of plot just makes it boring. The plot is just *cat sings song*, *cat is forgotten*.
H: Technically there’s a story about Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench), leader of the Jellicle Cats (which I’m pretty sure is a cult), choosing a deserving cat to be reincarnated into a new life. My friend also told me they’re chosen based on the quality of their musical number, which is why they’re all about introducing the cats. But, that’s not really a film plot, it’s an excuse for flashy performances.
S: But then there was that scene where Victoria (Francesca Hayward) ends up in that house with those two twin cats and it just seemed really pointless. They’re having fun destroying stuff in the house, then the dog comes, then the scene is over and we don’t see the two cats again(?)
H: They show up as accomplices when Bombalurina (Taylor Swift) and MaCavity (Idris Elba) come to kidnap Old Deuteronomy, and then completely disappear. They really didn’t deserve that much screen time though, especially because things that should be important are never explained clearly. I had to look up what Grizabella’s deal was after the movie, though Jennifer Hudson really put her heart into the musical performance. Also, going back to MaCavity, I weirdly respect Idris Elba for going all out in his role? He looked like he was actually having fun, and whenever he did his magic trick he always shouted “Meow!” in the most hilarious way.
S: Yeah, some of the performances were actually enjoyable, like James Corden’s performance. During his musical number, he’s at the end of a catapult. Another cat jumps on it, but because he’s too heavy, he doesn’t fly into the air, and becomes really insecure about his weight, so they have to get a heavy weight to launch him.
H: That was pretty funny. I also enjoyed how much Ian Mckellen just seemed to go with the flow. There’s not really a performance I’d even call “bad,” but they’re all hollow, because the writing was embarrassingly thin.
S: Ian McKellen’s expression here is how I felt throughout much of the film.
H: Same. Though, I’m sure the film wanted us to look like Francesca Hayward. The number of times she stares wistfully at something is...beyond comprehension.
S: Literally every performance is just a sequence of the cat starting to sing, Hayward’s wistful look, some dancing, another wistful look, repeat.
H: Yup. I’m happy she enjoyed what she was looking at, at least. I certainly wasn’t. Everything blended together into a huge conglomerate of nothing, because the sets and choreography, while impressive, were very repetitive, and all the music sounded the same. The only song I liked was Jennifer Hudson’s Memories, and that’s mostly because she’s such a great singer. Her range alone almost made the finale worth watching. Though, that makes this entire thing even sadder. The people here are talented, and know how to make movies, but decided to pour their talents into a film adaptation of...Cats. Did anyone even ask for this?
S: What would have been great would have been if they’d taken the musical, made more of a plot out of it, and had the actors wear costumes and makeup instead of having the creepy CGI faces on the cats. This would have been more original and interesting, and would avoid the uncanny valley aspect to the film. If we even look at the Crazy Ex Girlfriend parody of Cats, it simply feels much more comfortable and entertaining than this film almost solely because there’s no weird CGI.
H: I definitely agree. A healthy dose of self-awareness would’ve made the film enjoyable too. Part of the reason it’s so boring is because as weird as it got, it wasn’t weird enough. Nearly everyone involved took the production way too seriously, even though they had nothing to work with. So, instead of something fun like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which is equally if not more incomprehensible than Cats, we got a CGI nightmare that isn’t remotely entertaining beyond “wow, that was weird I guess.”
S: Yeah, the main problem with the film seems to be its lack of self-awareness. If they had embraced the absurdity and plotlessness of the musical and been more original with their interpretation of the story, the film could have been something more enjoyable for filmgoers, instead of a boring, plotless stream of musical numbers.