Cats movie poster


In theaters December 20, 2019


, ,

110 minutes

Directed by:

Starring: , , ,

I’m not sure what counts as spoilers for a movie based on a musical that’s been running nearly continuously for 40 years, but I’ll tread lightly. Cats tells the story of, well, cats, who have a dance-off for the chance to be reborn into a better life.

Victoria (Francesca Hayward) is recently dumped in an alley into the waiting arms of alley cats preparing for a literal dance-off to see who (literally) ascends to a place called Heaviside Layer to live their best life. She meets lots of cats – like the first hour or so is her meeting cat after cat and learning the ways of being a cat, how not to be a cat, which cats to avoid. Victoria spends the movie looking wide-eyed and empty-headed. I believe if she’d actually been left in an alley, she’d have been run over by a passing tin can and died. I’ve had cats missing a few marbles, and they looked more on the ball.

Cats is disjointed, unintentionally comical, and a little creepy – and folks, I love musicals. Everyone has a number from Grizabella (Jennifer Hudson), the fallen diva, to Mr. Mistoffelees (Laurie Davidson), the magician cat, to Munkustrap (Robert Fairchild) who acts as Virgil to Victoria’s Dante. Fat cats like Jennyanydots (Rebel Wilson) and Bustopher Jones (James Cordon) are supposed to provide comic relief, but it’s cringeworthy. Honestly, the whole tone of Cats is disjointed and empty.

My biggest complaint, second only to the endless parade of cats who dance and sing to or about Old Deuteronomy (Dame Judi Dench), was the CGI – it looks terrible. Nevermind all of the sleek, weird fur and twitchy ears, while you should never stare at a woman’s chest, Jennyanydots’ chest fur refused to stay still. It was a swirling, hypnotic mass (void?) that should have been corrected well before post-production. Whether dancing with mice or shimmying out of her fur to reveal an outfit over more underfur (???), her chest fur was still a writhing mass of Lovecraftian pixels. The PG rating shouldn’t cover that.

Bustopher Jones did his best to eat himself into a coma, and somehow that excessiveness is supposed to impress Old Deuteronomy. Macavity (Idris Elba) was the antagonist cat because he wanted to go to Heaviside Layer, but he was also magical (or demonic), so I don’t know. He could teleport BOTH Bustopher and Jennyanydots and other cats for nefarious purposes, but then he got cat naked, and I just wanted to go home.

Overall, the Cats’ feet never stayed on the ground. The wirework likely looks better on a stage from the balcony rather than close up on a 70-foot screen. It looks like the costume designer couldn’t decide on bare feet or weird shoe (paw) feet (either way, it’s weird). Then the CGI people couldn’t figure out how to make those weird feet stay in contact with any solid surface. It’s distracting once you notice it and then you can’t stop seeing it. It’s terrible green screen on top of weirdly bad CGI.

I feel like this is CGI-101, and it doesn’t even get a C for effort.

These Cats wore clothes, and I don’t know why. I can’t even get my cat into a festive collar without him letting the neighborhood know I’m killing him, but these guys were wearing full coats and dresses and hats – HATS.

I didn’t completely hate it. Jennifer Hudson can belt them out – but did she have to have a runny nose ALL THE TIME? The dancing was exotic, if repetitive. I think it was supposed to represent how lithe cats are but without any feeling. When my cats move, they do it with purpose and enthusiasm. The cast of Cats just looked choreographed, like a never-ending rehearsal, or losing a bet.

The train station cat was cool.

I like trains.

Anyway, if you see only one horror movie this year, maybe don’t make it Cats. There are other movies to fuel your nightmares, and I’m sure a high school is putting on Cats somewhere, and it’s probably going look better than this.

Cats is rated PG. There’s nothing objectionable about it except for the bad English accents and lack of genitalia. For a movie that’s only 110 minutes, it feels like a three-hour musical without an intermission.

Cats is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: MontiLee Stormer
MontiLee Stormer is a writer of horror, dark and urban fantasy. She’s also is a troublemaker, concocting acts of mayhem and despair for her own selfish pleasure. An avid movie watcher, she prefers horror but will see just about anything if you're buying. Poltergeist (1982) is her favorite movie and she actively hates The Shining (1980) due to its racism, misogyny, the butchering of the source material. She could host a TEDtalk on this single subject. Writing about herself in the third person is just a bonus.

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