Cats is what happens when Hollywood producers smoke too much catnip, and believe they have a good idea for a 100 million dollar film. The problem is that they didn’t pass out some of that catnip at the cinema with the popcorn. This leaves you with the most bizarre viewing experience of the year, and some uncanny Valley-fueled nightmares. If you’ve seen Cats and are a cat owner, then consider leaving your feline friend in the bathroom before going to bed, to avoid further anxiety-inducing surprises in the middle of the night.

This is a musical film based on the famous stage musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber. While I’ve never seen it live, I’ve watched numerous clips on YouTube. It certainly has appeal, with performers bringing an infectious and hypnotic energy to the show with their physicality.

Unfortunately, there’s none of that appeal with Cats. The film barely has any choreography, and appears to be one big joke for the actors. Director Tom Hooper seems to have put the production through the CGI wringer twice, and then once again for good measure. They may as well call this an animated film, because it looks more like a low-budget video game than a live-action musical.

Director Tom Hooper’s Cats may well make you caterwaul

What’s more, the special effects are lacking. Sometimes, the humanoid bodies move a touch faster than the actors’ faces. What’s more, the feet occasionally float above the ground. Coupled with the weirdness of the actors trying to behave like cats and the creepy sexual undertones, Cats could be used by military intelligence to torture prisoners and extract information: “Please, I’ll tell you where the device is. Just stop showing me those scary felines.”

Certainly, Cats boasts a lot of talent. There’s James Corden (Bustopher Jones), Judi Dench (Old Deuteronomy), Jason Derulo (Rum Tum Tugger), Idris Elba (Macavity the Mystery Cat), Jennifer Hudson (Grizabella the Glamour Cat), Ian McKellen (Gus “Asparagus” the Theatre Cat), Taylor Swift (Bombalurina), Rebel Wilson (Jennyanydots the Gumbie Cat), Francesca Hayward (Victoria the White Cat) and others in a film about acceptance. Here, young Victoria finds herself alone on the streets of London, abandoned by her owners. Soon, she’s taken in by the cat community and experiences friendship and antagonism. This is essentially the paper-thin plot of a nearly two-hour-long film.

The performances are equally weird and inconsistent. Some of the actors, bless their hearts, take their roles seriously. They come across as especially unsettling because of the poorness of the special effects. Others clearly realise that this film is something of a litter box and leave their acting excrements for everyone to see. Their attempt at humour is so poor that you would rather let a cat scratch your eyes out.

This is a musical film based on the famous stage musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber. While I’ve never seen it live, I’ve watched numerous clips on YouTube. It certainly has appeal, with performers bringing an infectious and hypnotic energy to the show with their physicality. Unfortunately, there’s none of that appeal with Cats.

The only actor who stands out is Idris Elba as a villainous stray cat. On a side note to the producers of the James Bond franchise — it’s obvious that Idris Elba would make a great James Bond because, even in a catastrophic film like this, he can deliver a standout performance.

For this review, I tried to come up with something positive to say about the film, but I just couldn’t, aside from Idris Elba. As a lover of all feline beings, I say this with utter solemnity: Cats should have been put down before making it to the silver screen.

Rated PG for some rude and suggestive humour

Published in Dawn, ICON, February 2nd, 2020