Cats (2019) is a jellicle failure for jellicle cats. As popular as the Broadway show is, I always wondered why they didn’t make a movie sooner. The 1998 play put to film doesn’t count. I figured it would be some kind of anthropomorphic animated movie, but no one could’ve expected what we actually ended up with. Despite the combined talent of T.S. Eliot, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Academy Award winning director Tom Hooper, Cats bombed hard at the box-office. It’s truly a spectacular catastrophe with nightmarishly bad special effects, a 19% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a Razzie for Worst Picture. I find it laughable that Cats was seriously released around Oscar season. Even with his experience on Les Misérables, Hooper completely misses the mark. The use of humanoid cat people is both disturbing and uncomfortable. I know the original show was vaguely sexual, but this feels like a furry’s dream come true. Making me seriously question the “kid friendly” PG rating.
The CGI fur never looks right on anyone. It got to a point where the movie was re-released to fix glaring technical errors. Just as bad is the bizzare setting that dwarfs every cat in a giant stage-like moonlit city. To be fair to the show that I’m not the biggest fan of, Cats does cast the right people for each part. The songs are already good, but even those aren’t safe from new renditions. The non-plot is sort of ditched to tie each musical cat introduction together with cringey cat puns. Victoria the White Cat is essentially the lead played by ballerina Francesca Hayward. Robert Fairchild has some attention as Munkustrap, but Laurie Davidson is for some reason given an added subplot as magical Mr. Mistoffelees. James Corden and Rebel Wilson are particularly bad with their forced comedy as Bustopher Jones and Jennyanydots. Her scenes are especially disturbing with the inclusion of human faced mice & cockroaches. Skimbleshanks, Mungojerrie, and Rumpleteazer really feel tacked on in a movie.
Singers like Jason Derulo made sense for Rum Tum Tugger, but he ends up feeling like a cat pimp. Taylor Swift is surprisingly good as the sultry Bombalurina. She’s partially responsible for the Oscar bait song “Beautiful Ghosts.” Idris Elba is much more present as the villainous Macavity, but his brown fur makes him look naked. Not even the respected Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Judi Dench are safe. Although forced to drink from a milk bowl, McKellen is okay as the theatrical Gus. There’s nothing wrong with Dench playing a gender swapped Old Deuteronomy, but her solo is off-putting when she stares directly at the audience. Even with the restraint of bad CGI, Jennifer Hudson puts her all into Grizabella the Glamour Cat. Especially with her rendition of “Memory.” The cult-like Jellicles take her to the Heaviside Layer and I’m reminded just how wrong the story is. Cats has to be seen to be believed.