As I sat in the theater watching the horrifying nightmare that is Cats, I couldn’t help but wonder what in my 32 years of existence did I do to deserve this. It’s one of the most bizarre and terrifying movies I’ve ever scene. Like the Ark of the Covenant, you won’t be able to look away as it melts your face off. It’s a glorious trainwreck that will make you question everything about film. Cats is one of the worst movies in the best possible way.
I’ve never seen the stage musical Cats before but I am familiar with it and its 18 year Broadway run. Every year, all of the Jellicle cats come together in celebration and choose one lucky cat as the “Jellicle choice” who then gets to ascend to the heavens and return to the world with a new and better life. Ultimately it’s Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench) who decides which cat is the “Jellicle choice” but this year the trickster Macavity (Idris Elba) has a devilish plan to guarantee he’s the cat chosen, no matter the cost.
I honestly don’t know where to begin with Cats. The film immediately jumps into its song and dance routine, giving audiences no time to adjust to the nightmare fuel that is the actors faces pasted onto anthropomorphic cat bodies. While I may be able to warm up to de-aging effects after a bit, I was never able to stop myself from feeling uneasy seeing big names like Idris Elba, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, and Jennifer Hudson prance around in skin-tight “cat suits.” Those images will forever be engraved in my memory.
Speaking of which, my mind was constantly racing, wondering why and how this movie got made. How in the world did all these huge stars agree to sign up for this? Why did Tom Hooper, the award-winning director behind such films as The King's Speech and Les Misérables sign on to direct? It absolutely boggles my mind that this film exists.
And yet from the very first moment I was captivated by its horror. The characters stare directly through your soul with their floating faces on top of cat bodies as they sing and dance around the stage. One of the first big musical numbers involving Rebel Wilson features mice with the faces of children and marching cockroaches, as if the cats weren’t enough. Nothing in this world can prepare you for Cats.
Characters will randomly make cat sounds and lick themselves or paw at each other in the background. There’s a magical cat, Mr. Mistoffelees, who performs real magic tricks of sorts. It’s the same for Macavity, who can make cats and himself vanish in an instant without any explanation. It’s hilarious to watch, and you’re in a constant state of bewilderment because absolutely anything can happen. And everything does. Every moment is more ridiculous and absurd than the last.
Cats may take all nine of your lives and then some to get through, but it’s a movie that is so bad it’s good; a film that will be talked about and dissected for years to come. As much as I hated the film, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. Nothing works in the film and yet it all comes together in a beautiful ballet of mayhem and horror. There’s absolutely nothing like it.