[Review] ‘CATS’ can’t land on its feet in weird screen adaptation

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Preston Barta // Features Editor

CATS

Rated PG, 110 minutes
Director: Tom Hooper
Cast: Francesca HaywardIdris ElbaJudi DenchIan McKellenLaurie DavidsonRebel WilsonJames CordenJennifer HudsonJason DeruloTaylor SwiftRay Winstone and Danny Collins

After the release of one of the most widely ridiculed movie trailers of 2019, you could say Cats had me as curious as its titular creatures. Sometimes I just get this itching to see something when the internet will not stop hammering into it.

The trailer deserved its claw marks, too. I could not take anything seriously when the computer-generated feline details rob the characters — and what they’re singing about — from having any emotional impact or stakes. Even Jennifer Hudson going full Anne Hathaway with her Les Misérables moment — wailing her heart out, singing “Memory” — wasn’t enough because the distracting look sucked out its soul.

The film is no different.

The advertisements are calling Cats the most “joyful event of the holiday season.” That statement isn’t coming from a critic, either, because they would likely say the opposite is true. I sure would.

Aside from the Tim Burton-esque production design and lighting, Cats is a harrowing experience where happiness goes to die. It’s so unfathomably weird and nonsensical that it’s miserable.

I could not tell you what the movie is about. I had to look it up. Apparently, it’s about singing and dancing cats who, each year, decide who will ascend to the heavens and come back with a new life. But watching these cats (portrayed by Francesca Hayward, Robbie Fairchild and Laurie Davidson, among others) move about is about as exciting as watching paint dry.

Thankfully, there were a few refreshing gags when James Corden and Rebel Wilson appear. They don’t save the movie from losing itself in the litter, but they at least provide some humor and deconstruct the absurdity of what they’re doing. However, such moments too few and far between.

I cannot express how weird this movie is. There’s a scene where cats eat cockroaches who have human faces on them. If it wasn’t for the upbeat music, you would think you’re watching something dark on the level of Pan’s Labyrinth when the Pale Man eats the fairies. Parents should proceed with caution. Cats might confuse your children, and you won’t even know where to begin in your explanation.

Also, don’t let Taylor Swift’s role bewitch you. She’s barely in the film and has one song. I couldn’t tell you a memorable aspect of it.

So, bottom line, this movie is a nightmare you let live out its nine lives alone.

Grade: F

CATS is now playing nationwide.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.