If you don’t want to read plot related details concerning cat poems from 1939, a musical from 1981, or a movie in 2019, here is your warning: there be spoilers.
In the holiday season of 2019, in which cinema was visited by the spirits of Star Wars and Uncut Gems, I naturally skipped ahead to the most terrifying specter of all, Cats.
The tale of “Cats”, based upon what I’ve cobbled together from friends and my own viewing experience, goes as follows: In a world not unlike our own, there are cats who do typical cat things. Drinking milk, eating mice, sniffing each other. They also sing songs at the drop of a hat, perform intricate dance numbers and, once a year, send one lucky member of their gang into the sky in a hot air balloon, presumably never to return. Their destination? The Heaviside Layer, some sort of Heaven stand-in where the selected cat will be reborn into a new life. The decision process of precisely which cat to select takes place at the annual Jellicle Ball where, after several songs introducing the candidates, the leader of the Jellicle Cats, Old Deuteronomy, makes the final selection based on the quality of the cat’s soul. Do not ask me what a fucking Jellicle is. I do not know. No one does.
That is *a* summary of the movie. I much prefer this one:
Seemingly, from the second the Cats trailer hit the internet, it was met with a mix of curiosity, confusion and, most importantly, utter revulsion. “Digital fur technology” was a not a phrase I expected to use in 2020, yet here we are. Actress Rebel Wilson (“jennyanydots”) shared some behind the scenes photos of the cast and, if you had guessed that filming this movie would involve painting whiskers on your face and frolicking around the set in a green suit, you’d be right! In this writer’s opinion, if it wasn’t for the disturbing CGI this would be considered just another musical in a sea of musicals. But alas, that 2.8 rating on IMDB is too tempting to resist…
Reader, you will forgive my lack of timestamps as I recount these horrors to you. As it happened, time ceased to exist after I found my seat, leaving me at the mercy of “Cats”, which only deemed to free me after my agony became trite and uninteresting. So, about 1 hour and 50 minutes.
Arrival at Theater/Purchase Snacks/Find Seats: The theater is completely empty.
Trailers: Eh. Some Pixar shit. The soul-sucking RDJ Doolittle thing. Sonic the Hedgehog, post makeover. Maybe some other stuff. Random groups of teens are beginning to file in.
“Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats”: Victoria the Ballerina Cat’s owner puts her in a sack and leaves her in an alley, perhaps the best decision made by anyone in this entire film. I begin to wonder exactly what horrors I am subjecting myself to. Cat Idris Elba appears. How ominous! Naturally, I only recognized this song because it is Princess Caroline’s ringtone on “Bojack Horseman.”
“The Old Gumbie Cat”: jennyanydots’s time to shine. I imagine this was the beginning of the end for most cowards who couldn’t stick around for the entire movie. As other reviews have mentioned: the singing mice have the faces of human children. jennyanydots has a trained company of dancing roaches (more human faces), some of whom she eats? Oh, she also unzips her skin, revealing yet more fur and also a stylish outfit. Some people begin to leave the theater, I believe one of them is giving The Finger to the screen.
“The Rum Tum Tugger”: JASON DERULO! He is singing about being fickle and never content with anything. I think? JASON DERULO! Oh, and he says the studio “CGI’d the dick out” because it was “too big.”
“Bustopher Jones: The Cat About Town”: Bustopher Jones is the name of the rotund feline played by James Corden. It is also an alias for a fake adult film star invented by a teenager. To me, this song is about eating garbage. I can relate, I paid to be here.
“Mungojerrie and Rumpleteaser”: I’m not even comfortable typing these names. I think an internet nazi called me “Mungojerrie” once. Anyway, these are troublemaker cats, dancing around and stealing jewelry and wearing human underwear and etc. They convince Victoria to join in the festivities but bail on her once the heat is on.
“Old Deuteronomy”: It’s Dame Judi Dench, everybody! One day, you’re M, 007’s tough as nails, no-nonsense boss. The next, you are singing in a feline fur coat while the studio reedits your scenes because your human hand and wedding ring are visible. I don’t remember what the song was about. Sorry.
“Beautiful Ghosts (Victoria’s Song):” Written by Taylor Swift and Andrew Lloyd Webber, this song is a departure for the character of Victoria, who doesn’t have any solo songs in the stage show and instead communicates through interpretive dance. I wish I was a ghost. I could mist out of the theater and go haunt someone on the toilet or something.
“Gus: The Theatre Cat”: The Ian McKellen cat is old and used to act. The human Ian McKellen is old and continues to act. #Analysis More people are leaving the theater. Not sure why this particular number was the straw that broke the camel’s back after everything else we’ve been subjected to.
“Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat”: It’s Skimbleshanks! The Railway Cat! He wears suspenders and tap-dances. Plus he hangs out on the trains. Do people still ride trains? We should.
“Macavity”: It’s Macavity, aka “The Nude Idris Elba Song.” This number is an excuse for Taylor Swift to swing, Elba to gyrate and thrust around, and all the other cats to overdose on catnip. A very bizarre and nightmarish scene. Apparently, we have Taylor’s father to thank for that. Thanks, Scott.
“Mr. Mistoffelees”: This song is about worshiping demons and how it’s cool and good to do. The magical magic of magical Mr. Mistoffelees (no relation to Mephistopheles, of course!) is required to rescue the old lady cat from the naked guy cat. Why didn’t they call him Meowstoffefleas? Something to think about.
“Memory”: Hey everybody, it’s that Cats song. You know the one.
“The Addressing of Cats”: A nonsensical time filler! (At this point in the evening I had to go to the bathroom really bad so this may have impaired my judgement.) No, I’ve thought about it and it still sucked.
Well, that’s that. The homeless cat, Grizabella (Jennifer Hudson) reveals her pain, regret, and growth and becomes “The Jellicle Choice.” The other cats realize their unfair mistreatment of her and she flies into the sky in an enormous balloon and no one really knows what happens after that. Macavity tries to tag along and ends up stuck on top of Nelson’s Column. And nothing else happens to him, so he definitely learned his lesson and will definitely not try to disrupt next year’s Jellicle Ball. That’s as much as I got from this. The plot doesn’t matter, nothing matters. Who cares?
The theater empties out in stunned silence. My stomach churns with soda and popcorn. I head to my car to cry in the parking lot for the foreseeable future. Time resumes, everyone outside the theater has aged 5 years and wears cat ears. A cat is president.
Cats is now playing in theaters, but you should probably do something healthier and drink an entire bottle of Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey in one sitting. Mmm, Skrewball. – DT