Let’s talk about Cats.
Do you remember when the Cats trailer dropped? I remember hearing one was in the works and thought nothing much of it. After all, musicals are big now. La La Land won tonnes of awards and you can still hear songs from The Greatest Showman on the radio. Seriously, I was in the car the other day and I heard A Million Dreams on a local radio station. And if you’ve heard the latest Script song the influence of that film is still out there. But then the trailer dropped for Cats. Oh boy. Everything about it was hated. The casting was criticised by Cats fans and for everyone else, it became the creepiest thing ever. The weird cat human CGI hybrids made everyone climb out of their skin and dove face first into the Uncanny Valley. Everyone’s minds were made up on this before it was released but let’s see how it goes.
So the plot of Cats, or what little there is, is this. There is one night of the year where all the cats get together to sing about themselves in order to impress one big cat who then decides which one gets reborn in their weird sort of heaven. It makes no sense.
But then again, the plot means nothing. It’s just an excuse to have a parade of songs. The movie goes like this. A new cat shows up, sings their song saying who they are, then there’s a few seconds of tension as someone new approaches. It then turns out to be a new cat who then sings a song introducing themselves. Rinse and repeat for the entire movie. Yes, even in the final third when we are getting to the end of the movie, new cats are showing up and singing songs about themselves. The quality of the songs are good, they are catchy and bouncy enough to be entertaining, but the fact every song seems to be self-bio gets really repetitive quite quickly. It also means the film don’t progress during the songs like what is meant to happen during musicals. Let’s go back to The Greatest Showman, not the best musical ever but popular. In the song The Other Time, Hugh Jackman persuades Zac Efron to join him at the circus. Not only is it a catchy, fun tune, but the plot progresses. This never happens in Cats. Songs happen but the plot stays stationary.
The most insulting part of the songs is how pointless the characters introduced then are. Let’s take Rum Tum Tugger for instance. He comes in with a catchy introductory song, laying out that he’s curious which is musical read for likes a good shag. So you think fair enough, I wonder what he’s going to do. Nothing. He does nothing. When they write the Wikipedia synopsis of this movie, they’ll say Rum Tum Tugger shows up, sings a song then hangs around doing the grand sum of nothing. This applies to a lot of the cats that show up to sing and it’s infuriating. What makes this even worse is the fact that the cats that do hang around and do something only get their introductory songs in the final third! That includes the villain Macavity and Mr. Miffles or whatever stupid name they gave him. The latter is also one of the few songs to have actual story progression which is quite marvellous. It actually becomes a film in the final third which is quite welcome.
So let’s talk about the creepy factor. We all know from the trailer that it is very unsettling but there is a reasonable belief that after some time, you will get used to it. Well let me tell you right now, you don’t. Throughout the movie, it continues to find completely new ways to make your skin crawl. It’s honestly quite impressive in that regard. So how does it manage this? Well the variety of cats and the fact they keep on introducing new ones means that a new horror face is just round the corner, ready to make you long for Midsommar as a tame alternative. Then there’s the motion acting. For the most part other than some walking on all fours, the cats act like humans and move like humans. Then they do something very cat like such as lapping up milk with their tongues or nuzzling each other which will make it feel like a million hemorrhoids have just grown in your bottom. It’s quite amazing how the movie manages to constantly make you feel on edge, especially when it’s meant to be a jolly musical.
And yes it is worth saying that the film is deliberately weird. At some point you do realise there is a serious attempt to make something incredibly odd but it isn’t odd in that fun way. Maybe it’s because you are getting creeped out all of the time because of the cats but it’s hard to enjoy the weirdness of it all. So yes, the production design is very nice and it’s obvious that a lot of love and effort went into it. But the complete changes of perspective throughout the film are just disconcerting and doesn’t help with the whole Uncanny Valley problem the movie has throughout. Then there is the ending which is rather unbelievable. I can see how it works in the West End and Broadway but in a film, you just aren’t sure what you are actually watching. It’s incredibly stupid as well.
Cats is terrible. The songs are catchy, the production design is impressive and there is an element of so bad its good in it, but it is mostly just bad. The songs as nice as they are, mean nothing because they rarely progress the plot and mostly do the same thing, introduce characters that will do nothing. The movie is just a succession of those songs with very little plot and what there is of it is incredibly weird and offputting. And yes, the actual cats themselves are just weird to look at and they do make you feel a little sick because of the Uncanny Valley. I’m not sure how similar this is to the West End and Broadway musicals because they are well revered and have been running for decades so I can’t say if this is a bad adaptation. But it is definitely one of the worst musicals to put in cinemas.