With the holiday season fast approaching, moviegoers are already determining which movies they'll check out before the year comes to a close. In the midst of the sci-fi epic of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and dramas like Little Women and 1917 sits the already-infamous Cats, a big-screen adaptation of the Broadway musical of the same name. The film, which follows a group of cats essentially auditioning for a chance to reincarnate in cat heaven (yes, really), features an eclectic star-studded cast including Taylor Swift, Idris Elba, Jason Derulo, and Judy Dench. The ensemble is transformed into their feline counterparts through "digital fur technology", which has terrified and confused the world ever since the first trailer debuted.
With the Internet essentially being set ablaze every time a Cats trailer came out, movie fans were curious and worried to see exactly how bizarre the finished product would be. And if the first reviews for the film are any indication, it's an even weirder cinematic experience than you could have possibly imagined.
So, what exactly are critics saying about Cats? Read on to find out.
Charlie Ridgely - ComicBook.com
"Cats is a special kind of terrible, though. No matter how ridiculous it gets, the cast never once backs down. Every single one of them is all-in at every moment. It's a trainwreck from start to finish, but the sort of trainwreck that captures your attention with its audacity and never lets you go. It's gripping in the most delightfully horrible way and easily one of the worst movies of the decade, by leaps and bounds. It's such a unique and confident brand of awful, you'll probably want to watch it again.
This is the next Rocky Horror Picture Show or The Room. Years from now, theaters will hold midnight screenings of Cats where people will bring animals and sing along and throw glitter in the air when Taylor Swift appears on the screen. Cats will be a part of cult film culture forever. Because, as bad as it is, Cats is wholly and completely unforgettable."
Angie Han - Mashable
"I can't deny the sheer exhilaration of seeing how far I could push my own imagination. Cats is a 110-minute exercise in disbelieving your own eyes, in feeling yourself becoming gradually unmoored from basic concepts like "time" and "space" and "reality." Have you ever wondered what it feels like to try and gaslight yourself? Watch Cats, and you might get a taste.
In the final moments of the movie, a character addresses the camera directly for the very first time, to relay the crucial message that "a cat is not a dog." It comes just as the film seems to be winding down, which is to say just as the audience is preparing to put this chaos behind them and get their minds back in order before exiting to the theater.
Instead, this number severed whatever tenuous connection to reality I still had. I gasped with laughter, I covered my face, I pulled at my hair, I clasped my hands over my mouth to keep from screaming. Cats had broken me, and I'd never felt happier."
Karen Han - Polygon
"Hooper’s Cats defies all principles of linear time or practical storytelling. Cats is a fever dream, a hallucination, an approximation of what would happen if your third eye actually opened and you could suddenly see into the astral plane. The cats all look like larger versions of the cat Jemaine Clement turns himself into in What We Do in the Shadows — he says he “always gets the faces wrong” when he transforms, which is why he comes out as a cat with a human face superimposed on it. In the case of Cats, CGI fur, ears, and tails are superimposed on human actors, but the effect is so uncanny that it seems as though things were done the other way around. The faces have wills of their own."
Leah Greenblatt - Entertainment Weekly
"The aim is clearly dramatical-fanatical, allegorical, metaphorical, statistical, and mystical. But Oscar winner Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, The Danish Girl) doesn’t so much direct the action as duly place Andrew Lloyd’s Weber musical on camera. Even after 110 tumbling, tail-swishing, deeply psychedelic minutes, it’s hard to know if you ever really knew anything — except that C is for Cats, C is for Crazy, and C is probably the grade this cinematic lunacy deserves, in the sense of making any sense at all. And yet that somewhere under the Jellicle moonlight, it is somehow, too, an A++"
Richard Lawson - Vanity Fair
"The real villain here is Hooper, who has conceptualized a movie that claims to honor its performers while smothering them in digital makeup. Why even bother hiring the elastic, fluid dancers if their bodies were going to be rendered so inhuman? Or, rather, so unnatural—they’re not supposed to be humans, after all. In doing so much to make the world of Cats something approaching credible, Hooper completely fails imagination, ignoring the disbelief happily suspended for decades by the millions of fans of the stage musical. Nothing is accomplished by turning Cats into a garish CGI experiment, and just about everything is lost. The wacky texture of Webber’s surreal creation is made too literal, and is thus forsaken. As is the charm of Eliot’s weird little odes to neighborhood kitties—I much preferred when Mr. Mistoffelees’s magic was a joke to explain missing household items instead of actual magic."
Alex Cranz - io9
"I thought I could get past the digital fur and shapeless, sexless forms to just enjoy Cats. As Hayward tears her way out of a pillowcase and finds herself in a junkyard of Jellicle cats come out to play I was sure—positive—that I could experience Cats the movie like Cats the musical and just let the weirdness wash over me, allowing the songs and dancing to entertain. Hayward and Robbie Fairchild, who plays the narrator Munkostrap, are so talented as dancers and singers that I was positive I could forget the bad effects and creepy looks. (I survived and even loved Alita, didn’t I??) The cast is clearly deeply invested and having a great time in the film—like those theater kids who got a little culty in high school, only professional dancers and wealthy entertainers. Then Rebel Wilson unzipped herself and stepped out of her fursuit and proceeded to consume hundreds of tiny human/cockroach composites she trained to dance for her amusement.
There’s no coming back from that."
Justin Chang - The Los Angeles Times
"It’s heartening to think that someone, somewhere, might learn something from “Cats.” The Oscar-winning English director Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech,” “Les Misérables”) and his cast and crew probably will emerge with the most valuable lessons of all, though I doubt many will be inclined to share them publicly. Still, if you see this movie — and I offer that up as a hypothetical, not a recommendation — and arrive at the theater not excessively inebriated, you will indeed learn about several different kinds of cat, with stripe and spot formations as impressively varied as their personality types and domestication levels."
David Rooney - The Hollywood Reporter
"This Universal release from Working Title and Amblin is hobbled by a major misjudgment in its central visual concept. Once the idea of making Cats as an animated feature was rejected, there presumably were multiple tests to figure out a digital approach to rendering the pusses onscreen. It's almost unfathomable that this one made it through all the preliminary production meetings without someone sensibly calling a halt to the process by saying, "Wait a minute, those kitties are damn creepy!"
And let's not even get started on the tiny mice with human faces, or the dancing cockroaches, yes, which also serve as crunchy snacks for Rebel Wilson's Jennyanydots, a zaftig cat with showbiz aspirations who milks strained laughs from countless chunky-girl pratfalls."
Marissa Martinelli - Slate
"Die-hard fans of Cats will probably walk away with plenty of quibbles—like the choice to minimize the role of Rum Tum Tugger (Derulo), the contrarian cat, whose song is infuriatingly interrupted by dialogue despite being one of the best in the musical—while newcomers hoping to finally understand what all the Cats fuss is all about will probably walk away with more questions than answers. These questions will include Why do some cats have magic and others don’t? and Who built this human-size bar that seems to serve only milk? and How has an hour gone by without an appearance from Taylor Swift? and Why on earth does this movie exist? When Swift does finally show up as sultry Bombalurina, it’s with the confidence that only a true cat lover can embody—but it’s 80-year-old Ian McKellen who can best answer that last question, having the most fun of anyone as Gus the Theater Cat, lapping out of saucers and rubbing up against corners like the true thespian he is. And really, for all its flaws, what more could you possibly ask for from Cats?"
Eric Kohn - IndieWire0comments
"But there’s the rub: The argument against “Cats” also makes the case for its existence, because everything ludicrous about the show has been cranked up to 11, with a restless artificial camera and actors so keen on upstaging one another with excessive song-and-dance numbers they may as well be competing for a Heaviside Layer of their own. It takes some ambitious swings and works on its own terms in fits and starts, all while not really working at all. Like the T.S. Eliot poems that inspired it, “Cats” is an elaborate lark."
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