cats 2019

Photo Courtesy of Working Title Films, Amblin Entertainment, Perfect World Pictures, Monumental Pictures, The Really Useful Group, and Universal Pictures.

This is a genuine example of a once in a generation event. This is a live birth of a future midnight movie phenomenon, that will pack drive-ins for decades as audiences cackle at the screen, tossing cat toys and popcorn with wild abandon. Its rare to see something like this before the zeitgeist that will inevitably take it over, because “Cats” is just really that bizarre.

Don’t be mistaken, its also a pill of cat shit in virtually every way. This film is a textbook example of the stark difference between something being entertaining and something being good. “Cats” is thoroughly entertaining, at least half of it is, but few, if any, moments could even be called decent.

The cast is a who’s-who of Hollywood darlings and annoying comedic actors. Idris Elba seems to be having a lot of fun as Macavity, the villain of the film, and therefore is probably the least embarrassed of the final product. He’s the only one who gets out alive though, as the likes of Judi Dench, James Cordon, Taylor Swift, Jason Derulo, Rebel Wilson, Ian McKellen, and Jennifer Hudson all seem like they’re being dragged limp through the set, propelled only by their agents offscreen with fishing rods baited with cash.

Its less upsetting to see such A listers tumble into this garbage pit of a film. Oh no, Taylor Swift was in a bad movie! What is she to do? Her career will be soooooo hurt by this. No, what’s legitimately upsetting is seeing the chunk of the cast made up of legitimate ballerinas and stage dancers forever have their resumes tarnished with such a film. Francesca Hayward, who gets an “Introducing” credit in the trailers, needs a bit more introducing in the film, as all she really does is stare wide eyed and do some, admittedly impressive, ballet moves. A few of them are even good, like Laurie Davidson as Mr. Mestoffelees or the brief stint from Steven McRae as Skimbleshanks.

The few moments that make “Cats” entertaining are slap dashed and clearly accidental. A sequence involving Jason Derulo thrusting his crotch at various female cats in a milk bar and he screams “MILK” is the kind of hallucinogenic experience most people take fashion drugs for. What about the moment when Rebel Wilson’s character strips off her skin and eats singing and dancing cockroaches, who are also played by humans? Or when Taylor Swift literally drugs the entire cast into a purring sleepy mess as she sings about her crush?

All of these moments are bewilderingly enjoyable, thanks to the mixture of bad effects and poor acting, but that’s not the linchpin of it all. Tom Hooper, the ACADEMY AWARD WINNING director of “Les Misérables,” has tried to create a three-act structure within a musical that has famously never really had a plot. It results in a story that’s insanely hard to understand, not because of the songs, but because of the film. The weird bits that are actually fun to watch are so spread out, with stretches of some semblance of incredibly boring plot trying (and failing) to stitch it all together.

Let’s make one thing very, very clear, all of the problems with “Cats” are problems with the film and not the source material. This is an eclectic, very queer and extravagant musical that purposefully goes for the extreme and outrageous that Hooper and Universal have tried to squeeze into a PG-rated, less than 2-hours Hollywood musical. These constraints just turn this into a bloated and uncanny mess.

Yet, it is so bizarrely entertaining. You laugh at it, not even remotely with it, and eventually after the horror of the visuals subsides, it becomes clear; this was never going to be good. Even if the effects were done in time and they were flawless, it’s an unfilmable musical.

Midway through the movie, there’s a musical number featuring Skimbleshanks, the railway cat. The song is catchy and the visuals of it all are purposefully weird. This is what the film should’ve been; a purposefully and knowingly weird musical that knows its place as a piece of weird pop culture from Broadway. That weirdness has been contorted into a self-serious piece of nightmare fuel that the Hollywood musical will never recover from. “Cats” is extremely entertaining and utter garbage. 1/5

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