‘Cats’ is a cataclysmically awful movie

The unanimous worst movie of 2019


Courtesy of Cats Facebook Page

By Tyler Clardy, Assistant Arts Editor

“Cats” is a perplexing film that fails fundamentally on every level of its filmmaking. The film is directed by Tom Hooper, the Oscar-winning director of the critically acclaimed “King’s Speech,” who has a talent for creating engaging and thought-provoking dialogue-heavy films. The film also stars a plethora of talented musicians and respected actors. Despite the immense talent both in front and behind the camera, certain elements of the film are amateurish in their presentation.

It is impossible to discuss the enigma that is “Cats” without first mentioning the abhorrent visual effects utilized in the film. Not only are the designs objectively perturbing, disconcerting and ugly but the film’s own world-building is shattering by the visual effect choices. The actors animated in “Cats” maintain distinct human facial features that are slightly altered to have feline qualities. However, the film makes the choice to leave their hands and feet unanimated creating a horrific mixture between a cat and a human. There are also numerous visual effect mistakes that coincide with reports that Hooper finished editing the film a mere 48 hours before it was set to premiere in London. There are also bizarre choices to give some of the cats sneakers when they are dancing which ruins the immersion of the film. Instead of the animation working to increase intrigue in the world or allowing for the designs to establish and build character, it becomes another element of what makes the  film disturbing. The animation as a whole is spectacularly jarring because in every scene something appears to be unnatural, which creates an uncomfortable viewing experience.

At its core, “Cats” is a musical, as the film was based on the successful Broadway play of the same name. Thus, it is to be expected that regardless of its presentation and performances, arguably the two most important aspects of a film, the music will be enjoyable, catchy and add life to this monotonous excuse for a film. As with everything else in the movie, the music in “Cats” is lifeless, meandering, and bland. There is not one memorable or enjoyable song in the film. Each song serves as a vehicle of exposition to introduce a new character. On the surface, this does not necessarily appear to be a bad way to both present exposition to the audience and propel the narrative forward. However, with the runtime of “Cats” standing at about 102 minutes, around 80 minutes of that is spent introducing new cats through song. The vast majority of the film uses the same formulaic beats and patterns with each new song. Even with talented musicians such as Taylor Swift, Jason Derulo and Jennifer Hudson, the film’s music has no originality. Thus, the main selling point of the film is fraught with continuous tedious elements.

Eliminating the connection to the Broadway play, how does “Cats” fare narratively? Film, as a medium, requires some semblance of a narrative to keep itself moving, characters progressing, and most importantly – the audience engaged. “Cats” appears to forget these basic elements of filmmaking, opting instead to completely eradicate the standard 3-act plot structure in favor of an 80-minute act one followed by a brief conclusion to the film. As stated before, the majority of “Cats” is spent introducing new characters, only to have them be whisked away and ultimately be inconsequential to the plot. Despite this, there is an attempt to give these characters an end goal, but that goal is so bizarrely unexplained and confusing that it creates more questions than answers. It simply doesn’t make sense and is never explained. The characters attempt to shed light on the plot throughout the film, but they only provide the same brief explanation, it is as if the audience is witnessing an unfunny inside joke that is never explained, thus becoming pointless and irrelevant.

There are many other instances of questionable editing and sequences. The film often jarringly switches between grandiose green screen sets with heavy special effects to smaller, more intimate sets. These physical sets are often brief and inconsequential to the film, yet they are so maddeningly disconnected from the rest of the presentation of the film that they do nothing but infuriate the audience. Macavity, the villain played by Idris Elba, has magical powers that are never explained and are often relegated to snickering and sneering at the protagonists from the shadows, thus never really serving as any sort of antagonist or threat to the characters. There are multiple instances of the cats being overly sexualized with unsettling imagery. There are also times where not only are the cats animated with human faces, but smaller animals, such as rats and beetles, are given anthropomorphic qualities that bring into question the world presented. The editing consists of unnaturally maneuvering from scene to scene with no clear way to establish where exactly the characters are or where they are moving.

As a whole, “Cats” is a colossal failure on every level from its redirecting to music to animation. It is a bewildering cinematic experience. However, despite its numerous baffling elements, “Cats’” biggest sin is that the film is unrelentingly boring. There is not a single ounce of fun or enjoyment to be had watching this film. It is miserable and an abysmal chore to get through. This movie should never be watched by anyone and will reside in the catacombs of cinema as one of the worst movies ever made.

Tyler Clardy is an Assistant Arts Editor and can be reached at [email protected]