still from Cats

Review: Cats (2019)

I’m someone who normally gives pieces a more positive and optimistic shot than most. My higher than normal review scores are indicative of that. I always try and find something good to latch on in a movie and have fun with it. I saw the reviews for this movie on opening day and realized the potential horror of what I was walking into. I held onto some hope, because I loved Les Miserables, and thought that even a bad Tom Hooper musical would be okay. I was wrong. Not just wrong – horribly mistaken. By the time the first hour had passed I was literally just praying for the movie to end. This isn’t just the worst movie I’ve seen this year – it’s one of the worst I’ve ever seen.

The movie follows a series of horrific anthropomorphized cats as they talk about this vague competition that leads to an eventual rebirth. I’ll be the first to say I never saw or read about the Broadway show, and the plot was near incomprehensible to me. I’m someone who likes subtitles, so the fact that most of the exposition in the movie was sung hurt my ability to comprehend the movie. That normally wouldn’t be an issue but the film never takes a break to develop any themes or ideas. It literally follows the same structure the whole time- introduce cat – have song – maybe Macavity (Idris Elba) makes a slight cameo- then repeat. The lack of change in editing makes the whole movie drag on and I felt like I was being forced to endure the length of the film. The whole thing would have felt better 30-40 minutes shorter because at least then the absurdity of the film would stop while it was fresh.

Unlike most typical good bad movies like Troll 2, this film takes its sweet time being subpar so you can’t even laugh at the monstrosity at hand because it never stops or changes. There are few movies that have ever made me want to walk out in frustration – this film has joined the not so prestigious list. It’s not just that its bad- it’s that it won’t stop being bad so you can never laugh at how bad it is because you’re constantly being bombarded by worse elements.

The film goes at a breakneck pace but also feels incredibly slow because nothing meaningful ever happens. The movie could best be described as almost non stop exposition followed by an ending that tries to be emotionally resonant but fails on every note. This is because literally no character arcs or emotional bonds are ever set up in a way that could be conducive to any meaningful development. It’s a shame that the “antagonist” feels like a plot device instead of a meaningful character. I love Idris Elba and seeing him being used in such a poor fashion is upsetting. At least let him give the character some personality as opposed to be being a random bad guy. The only characters that give the movie any personality are Old Deuteronomy (Judie Dench) and Gus (Ian McKellen). The former takes command of the scene whenever she appears and makes the events feel more justified even though they’re just as haphazard as we think. The latter adds some emotional panache that gives the film much needed personality and actually helped jolt me awake near the end of the second act (or third act it’s confusing). The lack of real character motivation or explanation makes the whole movie feel like it’s a series of meaningful unrelated events. It literally feels unfinished.

Tonal whiplash is the name of the game and experiencing the shift from puns/comedic moments to the more serious nature of the competition the movie sets up(?) feels out of place. James Corden and Rebel Wilson are usually funny, but their style of humor and incorporation into this film feels forced and out of place. I can’t take the movie seriously if the characters in it make jokes about it and poke fun at the holes. Normally this tactic would be fine if the movie didn’t take itself seriously – but it does- and worse than that – it tries to be emotionally resonant. That’s a no-no and absolutely took me out of any immersion I had tried to feel.

Honestly, the biggest issue with the movie is how unappealing the film is. Forget a boring plot. Forget the uninspired songs. Forget the fact that most of the movie feels like an exposition reel through song. Hell, you could forget about all of that if the movie was at least fun. But it isn’t fun. It’s hollow and feels like a quick cash grab. The characters are one dimensional and just repeat lines with no personality. No one’s motivation is explored. The CGI looks unfinished and terrifying at the same time. Some of the characters literally look like humans with “cat” like additions which feels at odd with other characters and makes the shoddy CGI more apparent. The characters are also all strangely sexual. Parents please don’t take your kids. The way the cats licked the milk, flicked their tails, and stretched themselves had me cringing not only in embarrassment but also sheer dread at how horny the whole thing felt like. I guess maybe if you’re a furry you could get something from these moments- but that’s a pretty niche market group.

Rating

TLDR: Cats broke me. I used to say “no movie is that bad.” But no – some are. You can’t find something great in every piece of media.

Final Rating: 1.8/10. This movie is hard to positively react to. If you’re a furry maybe you might like it if you can ignore all the awful portions. If you take a shot every time there’s an awful cat pun or a strange sexual moment you might find something fun – but I can’t guarantee anything. Honestly – there’s not a lot here and I’d recommend staying away unless you really like bad movies. At the very least the movie might make influence the zeitgeist so that a future Cats like movie is never created again.

Is there a point in a spoiler section? I don’t think so . Save yourself.

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