Starring: Francesca Hayward, Idris Elba, Jennifer Hudson, Judi Dench, Jason Derulo, Taylor Swift
Tom Hooper
Writer: T.S. Eliot, Lee Hall, and Tom Hooper

It’s been 48 hours since the advance screening of Cats I so regrettably attended. I’ve been struggling with processing what exactly I witnessed and how on earth this terrifying film was funded, produced, and released to the masses. I have so many questions. I’m not quite sure how to express this mix of disgust, shock, and awe into words.

Out of respect for my dancer and musical-theater-loving friends, I will admit I have not seen the stage production of this musical. Nor would I call myself a musical theater fan. I have an acquired taste in that department. All that said, I did do some research regarding the stage production and storyline. I even tried going into this disaster of a movie with an open mind.

In the film version of Cats, director Tom Hooper and screenwriter Lee Hall try to fill in some of the holes in an already non-existent story plot. My understanding is the term Jellicle—which is repeated so consistently during the first song you can feel your ears begin to bleed—is the name of this particular tribe of cats.  One evening Victoria (Francesca Hayward) is dumped in the trash by her previous owners and is found and welcomed by the Jellicle cats.

Victoria is told there will be a Jellicle ball that evening to decide which deserving cat will be chosen to ascend to the Heaviside Layer. There, they will leave their current life and be granted a new one. As you watch the film, you realize this is more of an annual sacrifice than a true reincarnation. They will send off the chosen feline in a chandelier-decorated hot air balloon into the sky where no doubt they will eventually starve to death.  It’s weird how many of them are vying for this spot. I imagine being born into a better life would include no longer being part of this movie. If that’s the case, can I blame them? The wise old cat named Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench) gets to make the final decision. To be considered is where the musical aspect comes in.

At the first song, it became evident to me that little was done to modernize the horribly outdated, synth-heavy arrangements. Each song after another sounded almost exactly like the one before it. All of them about a cat with a hideous name introducing themselves. What kind of names are Rum Tum Tugger,  Bombalurina, and Rumpleteazer? WHO NAMED THESE CATS?!

Except “Memory,” of course! I now understand why this song is the only one worth remembering. It’s the only one that isn’t as mind-numbing and cringe-worthy as the rest of them. Also, the only song that isn’t about a cat with a shitty name. Performed by Grizabella — played by Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson — this song is maybe the best performance in the entire 1 hour and 50 minutes. But unfortunately, the orchestra downs it out. God-awful camera close-ups show Hudson’s mutant cat face weeping in emotion as she sings about old days when life was beautiful then. She plays the fuck out of the moment, but it’s fleeting.

Many fans of Cats tend to love it for the choreography. It’s considered more of a “dance” musical, and it’s easy to see why. There is A LOT of dancing. Hamilton’s Andy Blankenbuehler’s beautifully crafted choreography is handled by Tom Hooper with little-to-no knowledge on how to film dance numbers for the big screen. Hooper cuts from long shots to medium to close-ups instead of letting the audience appreciate the impressive steps and beautiful moves. Some of it is even digitally altered to resemble “cat movements” that are just disturbingly visceral. During the Jellicle Ball dance number, the cats go on all fours and push their butts in the air while their tails shake and rattle in the most unpleasant way, something I’ve unfortunately seen cats do before mating. It’s imagery further ingrained in my mind’s eye.

In some scenes, the cats are tiny among massive backdrops, and in others, they are life-size. “Sloppy” is an understatement with how bad these CGI effects are! One character during the tug boat scene stands in the background colored in grey and smoothed out. Resembling a creepy ghost or human statue, I eventually realize she is a fellow cat; they just forgot to digitalize fur on, her ears masked by a green beret. Other cats in the background are done with less care than those in starring roles, which isn’t saying much.

Consider how bad these humanoid felines look with their hands and choice clothing. Some even wear shoes! SHOES! And one wears a pair of suspender pants. WHY?! Why didn’t Hooper go with the campy spandex and fake fur costumes and makeup is beyond me, because this is just horrifying! The campy level just wasn’t enough for the man. As soon as the tap-dancing cockroaches show up with their digitally added human faces, I wonder if I was slipped some terrible drug or am being punished for a past crime. Is this what they screen in Hell?

Living their musical-theater kid dreams, this all-star cast involved in Cats give it their all. But the talent of most is heavily misused. You can tell each one has passion and dedication for their respected role, all seemingly unaware that this will tarnish some of their careers. But it’s just not enough to make this movie entertaining, let alone watchable. I would much rather suffer through my cat trying to throw up a hairball than sit through this again. Tom Hooper needs to have his Oscar revoked for bringing this mutant monstrosity of Frankenstein proportions into the world.  This film is so bad it doesn’t even cut it as a future cult classic but is a sure contender for a Razzie worst picture award. For the love of God, take this one out of the box office and straight into the litter box.



CGI Effects


Overall Storyline




Character names




Credits (cont)

  • Sloppy CGI work creating terrifying "Cat" characters.
  • The overuse of the word "Jellicle."
  • Outdated, Synth-heavy song arrangements.
  • Shitty Character Names
  • Non-Existant Story Plot
Mia Santos
Mia is a Toronto based writer and filmmaker. She is a self proclaimed comic book nerd, film buff and cat enthusiast. She has one short film under her belt titled Catch Up (2012) and you can read more of her film reviews on her blog The Catty Critic on WordPress.

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