Watching the movie Cats puts me in the rare position of being able to actually tell you why it does – or does not! – suck, because my opinion is not based on a trailer, stills, or zoomed-in memes. I actually sat through the entire one hour and 49 minutes – unless some of those minutes included the credits. Hey, I went to the theater on an empty stomach, and then they were all out of pretzels. I needed to eat!
This post won’t be the movie review version of a recipe blog. If you’re wondering whether you should see it on the big screen, I would say no. In my opinion, this is something to stream at home, or better yet catch when it happens to run on one of the network stations. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t absolutely terrible. More importantly, I left with the distinct impression that this movie was a labor of love for somebody. It wasn’t some pompous attempt at high art by somebody who though the entire world was encompassed by the ring of his rectum. I really believe that whoever put together this movie did so out of love. I respect that, not to mention it’s a helluva lot better than somebody who thinks, “As someone outside of a marginalized group, I am the best person to tell their stories.”
Let’s discuss “Cats”! On a purely opinion based level, the movie was a weird visual. I wondered why they didn’t just make it into an animated feature, or even purely cgi cats. The technology is there; one of the preceding trailers was for “Call of the Wild,” which had a fake dog. I spent most of the first part of the movie feeling squicked out. Once I was desensitized, I couldn’t stop thinking that the choreography would probably be better on a live stage. The various perspectives and angles did not, as I’ve heard many consultants say at a former job, “add value.”
Constructive (or so I hope!) criticism: there was not enough world building. I know that the group of cats call themselves Jellicles. Once a year, the oldest among them, Old Deuteronomy, chooses one cat that gets to go to the Heaviside Layer and be reborn. That’s it. It was like the equivalent of being told, “Michael Scofield goes to prison to breakout his brother who was wrongfully accused,” followed by songs and dancing, and then Lincoln and Sara are in the Dominican Republic (don’t get mad at me about ~spoilers~. That run ended over a decade ago. You had time to watch). Personally, I would have preferred less music and more information about the mythos of the Jellicle clan, as well as to get to know each cat. Overall, the movie felt like an outline instead of a proper story.
The casting was cute, and, once I got over the weird visuals, the mannerisms were reminiscent of cats. This made it easier to get caught up in the movie. Jennyanydots (Rebel Wilson) was pretty much every cat I have ever lived with, destroying everything in sight while the humans are asleep. Bombalurina (Taylor Swift) was like the pretty kitty who lets you come close just so she can scratch the heck out of your knuckles. Macavity (Idris Elba) is supposed to be the villain, but I can’t help but feel that he would be a very good kitty if he just had a family who loved him. Grizabella (Jennifer Hudson)… She made me cry, because in her I saw every old lady cat who should be in a warm and loving home, not abandoned and all but forgotten.
I know this is going to sound like a backhanded compliment, which is totally not how I mean it so please hear me out: I’ve seen way worse movies. Seriously. I’ve watched movies from arrogant people, and/or with horrible characters and white savior complexes. “Cats” doesn’t deserve all the derision it has been receiving.