The Best of the Worst: Cats (2019)

The Best of the Worst: Cats (2019)

Derek Arcand

        Cats is a 2019 film adaptation of a 1980’s play which is in itself a theatrical adaptation of a collection of poems by T. S. Elliot.  Cats also has a surprisingly star-studded cast involving roles of Judi Dench, Sir Ian McKellen, and even Taylor Swift. But, sadly enough, the best way I can describe the movie is biting into a piece of fried chicken but the breading is burnt and the chicken is raw.

       The film opens with a musical number that explains what the Jellicle cats are with mostly made up verbs and it is not explained well. At this point in the film, I blacked out.  After that, we go to Rebel Wilson explaining how she teaches house mice to sing scat jazz by day and by night teaches cockroaches vaudeville acts.  Before you believe this film can’t get any stranger, they pull Jason Derulo out of thin air to have him sing about how his character is a curious cat. Then James Corden as Bustopher Jones comes out to sing a song about how he is “remarkably fat,” that’s all I had to say about this scene. 

After James Corden is never to be seen again, we move to the next cast of colorful characters.  Their names are Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer, literal cat burglars.  They go on about how they are the Bonnie and Clyde of the cat world and after they are done, you will never hear their names again.  We then follow our main character (who’s name has never been said) into the theatre, and we see Sir Ian McKellen sing a four minute song about how his name is Gus.  Before you think that must be the end of the film with that great finisher, we pop into the train depot to listen to Skimbleshanks about how he is in charge of the railways and personally, I don’t mind this musical number.  The biggest problem with this film is that the choreography just feels off and really awkward. This scene doesn’t have too much dancing … until he begins to tap dance.  After we watch him ballet twirl into the air and turn to dust (not even joking), we then watch Taylor Swift drug everyone and I will leave it at that. 

When I first watched this movie in theaters, I don’t remember having such a guttural reaction to this scene, but when I re-watched it for this article, a sense of primal anger and fear entered my body. Then, this next scene is magical Mr. Mistoffelees.  This scene is the embodiment of chaos, but it’s just a musical number trying to encourage him to use his magic to get back Judi Dench’s character, but this is also where it hits you how bad the CGI cat suits are.  They have a lot more standing shots of the actors, making it clearer.  The only reaction I had to describe this scene is, “Why do the cats have human hands?”  At the point after no longer feeling the fight or flight reaction, they finally get to the best song in the film, “Memories”.  This song is so beautifully sung by Jennifer Hudson that I almost forgot what movie I was watching. This performance had so much emotion and power behind it.  In the absolute end of the film we watch our cast take a final bow in front of a post-apocalyptic town and the musical concludes.

        Would I suggest ever watching this? No, just listen to the soundtrack.  Even though Cats is thought to be the ugliest movie ever, that doesn’t take away from the musical genius that the original musical was.  No one had high hopes for Cats but if you close your eyes while you watch it, it’s probably better than anyone could have expected.