I’d like to think of myself as a rational person, one who makes measured, well-thought out decisions. Sometimes, I make impulsive decisions, however. These are almost always bad decisions. My latest impulsive decision was to watch last year’s critically panned adaptation of the musical Cats. I have no idea what I expected, but all the internet chatter about how bad this movie is still didn’t prepare me for what I was to witness. I thought about giving it a conventional review, but this is not a conventional movie. So, instead I wrote this, a guide to watching Cats. I sacrificed my sanity, so you don’t have to sacrifice yours. You’re welcome.
Beware, there be spoilers . . . and incredibly creepy cats.
- Resolve to watch Cats after reading a series of random reviews and news articles about what a turkey this movie is.
- Think you know what you’re getting into.
- Nearly turn off the movie a minute in because the sight of people in eerily realistic cat fur CGI crawling on all fours toward the camera is like something out of a horror movie. One of them will become known to you as Dracula Cat because of how he slithers down a wall.
4. Wonder why you decided to watch this.
5. Realize the timer on your DVD player is broken, so you have no clue how much time is left in this movie. It will be a long night.
6. Call in emotional support by messaging Kelli, one of your coworkers, to tell her what you have done. Is this like the sudden impulse that people get to confess murders? “I’ve started watching Cats.”
7. Decide that you’ve just got to make your peace with how . . . catlike these people are going to be. I mean, it is called Cats. It’s all cool. Cats are gonna cat. Even if they’re not really cats.
8. Become incredibly disconcerted when the previously hyper-realistic catpeople (peoplecats?) suddenly start dancing and walking on two legs. Why were they crawling around on all fours before if they can walk on two legs? Cats apparently aren’t gonna cat.
9. Notice some of the cats are wearing clothes. But not all of them. Try not to think of the implications.
10. Notice the cats in hats have their ears sticking out of the hat. Wonder why they don’t just wear a hat over their ears. Do they customize their hats? Do the special cat hats come with premade ear holes? Wonder how you’d wear a hat if you were cat. Does this the way to madness lie?
11. Get sort of weirded out by the cat feet. Sometimes they are wearing shoes, other times they have human feet, and still other times they have CGI cat paw things. What? Try not to think too hard about the cat feet.
12. Try to follow the plot, such as it is. Protagonist Cat is thrown into the street and is introduced to a world of cats who spend a lot of time singing and dancing to introduce themselves. The most helpful cat is Exposition Cat because he knows who everyone else is and freely shares the information.
13. Try not to get creeped out by the chant-like cat naming song.
14. Wish one of the cats would define the word “jellicle” since they all use it a million times.
15. Groan when Rebel Wilson Cat shows up.
16. Nearly pause the movie because . . . are those—are those singing rats? With human faces? Yes, yes, they are.
17. Beg the rats for forgiveness because they are child’s play compared to the singing cockroaches. With human faces.
18. Oh God, a human-faced cockroach was just eaten by a catperson/personcat.
19. Start taking copious notes about this experience in real time. [Note: This was an understandable but regrettable tactical error, as will be revealed later.]
20. Get distracted thinking about the size ratios in the movie. The cats can dance on a kitchen counter, but a loaf of bread is the size of a cat’s head and a can of food is even smaller. How big are these cats?!?!
21. Start giggling maniacally at catpeople/peoplecats hissing at each other.
22. Wonder why Sad Cat is wearing a fur coat.
23. Start giggling uncontrollably when Sad Cat suddenly gets down on all fours to sadly crawl away from the other cats. They seem to hate her . . . for reasons.
24. Groan when James Corden Cat starts doing his shtick.
25. Wonder what poor Idris Elba is doing in this movie. He’s Villain Cat.
26. Start howling with laughter when Villain Cat meows and disappears in a puff of smoke. Is he a wizard cat? Idris Elba should probably fire his agent.
27. Become intrigued with the idea that Villain Cat is murdering his rivals for some sort of ball that all the other cats keep singing about. Maybe Idris Elba shouldn’t fire his agent. Jack the Ripper Cat?
28. Become embarrassingly disappointed that he’s just kidnapping (catnapping?) them and hiding them. What kind of Villain Cat is he? I guess a PG Villain Cat, that’s what kind of cat. He needs to fire his agent.
29. Be a little embarrassed at how disappointed you are the movie teases you with a dog but then doesn’t follow up and show you a dog. What would a dog look like in these people’s hands?
30. Be grateful that Kelli responded to your SOS. Type out such a string of absurd sentences in explaining what your eyes have seen that she feels compelled to start watching Cats too.
31. Shudder at the first appearance of poor Judi Dench Cat.
32. Try to calculate which cat is the most terrifying. Judi Dench Cat having fur that looks like a fur coat but is clearly not a piece of clothing is the clear winner.
33. Try to puzzle out why the cats are acting possessed, but realize that they’re just excited (?) about the start of the ball.
34. Have a rather in-depth conversation with Kelli about why nobody pulled the plug on this movie at any point during production.
35. Commiserate with Kelli about how nobody defines the word “jellicle,” despite using it approximately a million times in passing.
36. Look up “jellicle” and realize it is a nonsense word created by T.S. Eliot based on how his niece said “dear little cat.” Wonder why it seems to be a word universally known by all the cats in this universe. Wonder if T.S. Eliot’s niece was a cat. At this point, you’ll believe anything.
37. Feel bad for a lot of the performers because many of them are impressive dancers, even though it doesn’t make sense why cats would know ballet moves.
38. Be both impressed and disturbed by how into the cat persona Ian McKellan seems to be. He’s like Method Acting Cat.
39. Be just really disturbed at the leg lift that Judi Dench Cat does and a trippy sequence that involves lightning, cat applause, Ian McKellan’s tail, and Ian McKellan holding a really long note. Did you really just write that sentence? You note that Ian McKellan is a great actor but not much of a singer.
40. Decide that Judi Dench Cat is like the emcee cat of a cat talent show. They are all competing to see who gets chosen to progress to another life in the Heaviside Layer. Star Search: Cats.
41. Wish that there was a Career Paths Guidance Counselor Cat to talk about other life options to all these poor cats to save them from having a musical dance-off to decide who gets to escape their misery to have a better life. This realization is sadder to you than any overly maudlin plotline the movie tries to throw at you.
42. Have a conversation with Kelli about a mashup of Cats and Moby Dick. Don’t lie—you’d watch it too.
43. Get really weirded out by the Railway Cat . . . who is wearing high-waisted pants and suspenders. He’s like something out of the Village People. The Village Cats?
44. Be impressed by Railway Cat’s tap-dancing skills.
45. Spend an inordinate amount of time wondering if Railway Cat just has very distinctive whiskers or an actual mustache.
46. Wonder why nobody just disqualifies Villain Cat from the contest because they all know he’s shady.
47. Oh my there’s Taylor Swift Cat. Rocking a very fake British accent. She’s like Gun Moll Cat, you suppose, because she’s a big fan of Villain Cat.
48. Decide that, per the previous internal debate, the cats with clothes are less disturbing after Villain Cat suddenly loses his clothes. Muscle tone + CGI cat fur is not a sight one’s eyes will ever forget.
49. Be genuinely surprised when Villain Cat kidnaps Judi Dench Cat! Possibly because it seems like the first actual plot development in the entire movie. Bad kitty!
50. Have difficulty processing why there is a pirate plank on the Villain Cat boat. None of these cats are pirates. A pirate cat would have been pretty cool, though, and no less nonsensical than anything else in the movie.
51. Wonder which cat is the least creepy. As soon as you decide it’s Magic Cat, he starts to get on your nerves. Magic Cat is also pretty bad at magic. Why isn’t Villain Cat called Magic Cat? He can apparate and produce puffs of smoke.
52. Nearly spit a drink out of your mouth when Rebel Wilson Cat UNZIPS her fur.
53. Roll eyes at the cat fight. It’s like watching a bunch of theater kids dance fight each other. Actually, it’s not like that. It is that.
54. Enjoy Gandalf Cat hissing at everyone. There’s a lot of pathos in that hiss.
55. Roll eyes even harder at the cat group hug at the end of the fight. Earlier, they were nuzzling their heads together as cats do. (This will never not be creepy to you when catpeople/peoplecats do this.) So, why are they hugging each other now and not head nuzzling?
56. Realize from talking to Kelli that you missed an earlier scene of cat fur unzipping. There are not one but two scenes of a cat unzipping its fur. I repeat, not one but two scenes of cats unzipping fur. What even is this movie?
57. Exchange pictures with Kelli of your pets watching you watch this movie. Her cat glares in icy judgment. Your dog won’t look at you.
58. Be less than impressed by Sad Cat’s big song number because the whole thing is so overwrought. They might as well just have a neon sign that says “Sad Cat” over Sad Cat’s head because, in case you didn’t notice, she’s sad.
59. Realize some of the cats are wearing hats over their ears after all. What?
60. Become irrationally angry at how all the other cats are welcoming Sad Cat after they spurned her. What Mean Girl Cats!
61. Wonder about how you’d lash out at the other cats if you were Sad Cat. Claws, teeth, hissing. There’s a lot to work with in the cat arsenal. Come to think of it, why didn’t the cats rely on any of this during the fight rather than . . . dancing?
62. Wonder if any of these trains of thought mean you need some therapy for deep-seated issues.
63. Get creeped out by the cat sacrifice implications of the “happy ending.”
64. Wish Judi Dench Cat would stop singing and just let this movie end.
65. Start screencapping pictures of cats in the background who also seem like they also want this movie to end and send them to Kelli.
66. Be minutely grateful that someone finally bothered to define the word “jellicle.”
67. Praise the heavens that the movie is finally over.
68. Feel bad about guilt-tripping Kelli into watching this movie and vow to provide emotional support to her as she continues to suffer through the movie.
69. Stare with morbid curiosity at screencaps of Sad Cat’s snot, courtesy of Kelli.
70. Start distracting Kelli with news articles about how the actors went to cat school for this movie. Those poor actors.
71. Start forensically reconstructing where the missing first scene of Rebel Wilson Cat unzipping her fur happens. You fear you might be missing a key element of the Cats experience.
72. Finally cave and watch the scene again on YouTube because you can’t find it in the movie.
73. Realize it happened when you snapped from the sheer weirdness of it all and decided to start taking copious notes about what was unfolding, ironically causing you to miss one of the most bizarre and unsettling moments.
74. Wonder if the fact you rewatched the most terrifying scene in the movie to watch a cat unzip her fur means you have the Cats version of Stockholm Syndrome.
75. Watch scenes from the original Cats on Broadway on YouTube and see the appeal of the original, even if it’s not your thing.
76. Joke with Kelli, who has now finally finished, about the nightmares you’ll both have.
77. Realize the next morning that Cats won because you both did, in fact, have Cats-influenced nightmares about dancing and singing cats.
Note: I think it’s pretty safe to call Cats a misfire all around, but I do not blame the actors or even the visual effects artists. I blame whoever decided that hyper-realism was what they were going for in a movie about cats that sing and dance. I’m not sure there’s enough plot to really make a movie out of this story, but people in cat costumes singing and dancing is fine, as far as musicals go. Animated cats that sing and dance could have been really cute. But people who move and act like cats and are covered in terrifying CGI fur and cat features but still dance and sing like people? This is the stuff nightmares are made of. Literally. It’s a bizarre dichotomy that never lets you suspend any sense of disbelief. And I don’t think the movie even has any sense of awareness of how creepy many of the scenes are. But that’s part of what makes it such a hilarious movie to watch, especially if you have someone to snark on it with, either in person or remotely.
Do you love musicals? Did you watch Cats? What’s your favorite movie that’s so bad it’s good? Tell us in the comments! Here’s a link to our online library catalog if you want to seek out Cats. Come on. You know deep down you do.