*Raises hand in the air*
*Looks rather sheepish*
Last night I watched Cats.
*Puts hand down*
*Still looks rather sheepish*
OK, full disclosure: Back when the original trailer for Cats dropped I had no real interest in watching the film. I knew very little about the original musical and based on the trailer alone, I thought Cats looked abysmal.
So, why did I go and watch Cats last night?
Simple, my husband and a group of friends wanted to watch it, so we took a trip to the cinema.
Oh, and because a few days ago, Universal Pictures replaced the original version of the movie with a tweaked copy (with improved visuals), and this intrigued me. If Universal went to the trouble of resubmitting the movie to cinemas, I figured it really must be a bad movie – and that’s something I simply had to see.
So, is Cats bad?
Over the years I have watched some truly awful pictures (seriously awful), but it is rare that I see these films at the cinema. If a film is that much of a stinker, then it usually gets buried on DVD or appears in a graveyard slot on television.
I’m trying to recall when I last saw something truly awful at the cinema and the only film that comes to mind is The Spirit. Yep, that was a bad movie, and one that I’ve never returned to after a theatrical screening back in 2008.
But as much as I dislike The Spirit, and I think it is a shocking film, it is still head and shoulders above Cats. It’s practically Citizen Kane in comparison.
Cats is without doubt, the worst film I have ever watched at the cinema. I genuinely can’t understand how this picture made it to the big screen.
Making movies involves a lot of people – it’s not just one person who has the final say over everything (even the Director has to answer to Producers etc). So, with this in mind, I have to question why no one shut this film down at any point during production?
Did Universal Pictures or director Tom Hooper really believe they were onto something with this film? Did they really think this was good enough to screen worldwide, for paying customers?
Cats has opened against Frozen II, Jumanji: The Next Level and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – three big movies predicted to make a killing at the box office this Christmas. Did someone at Universal honestly think Cats was good enough to go up against any of these films?
If that is genuinely the case, then it’s either down to arrogance or ignorance.
Jeez, I’ve made it clear that I believe The Rise of Skywalker has huge problems, and I wasn’t bowled over by Frozen II either, but at least I can see the box office potential in both of those films. Just one glance at the trailer for Cats should be enough for any studio to hold an emergency meeting.
Earlier this year, Paramount Pictures released a trailer for Sonic the Hedgehog. People took one look, said it was terrible and Paramount Pictures addressed the issue accordingly – putting the movie’s release date back until the problems could be addressed.
By openly admitting Sonic was falling short, Paramount:
- a) Won respect of paying punters
- b) Came back with a vastly improved product
This is what Universal Pictures should have at least tried to do with Cats. Would it have solved the problem? Possibly not – but it would have been a start.
So, what is wrong with Cats?
In truth? A lot.
The biggest and most discussed problem is the visual effects, which are inescapable, as they run throughout the entirety of the movie. And no amount of post-release tweaking has been able to fix this issue.
First and foremost, the human-cat characters look atrocious. Truly atrocious.
What is Hollywood’s obsession with trying to make animals look like people (or vice versa)? Audiences don’t like it!
It didn’t work for 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (fans hated the look of the ‘humanoid Turtles’) and as mentioned above, it didn’t work for the initial design of Sonic the Hedgehog, which made Sonic look like a bizarre hedgehog-human hybrid.
What’s wrong with making fantasy characters look like pure fantasy?
So yes, you’ve heard critics say it and if you’ve watched the trailer you’ve seen it with your own eyes – the character designs in Cats are horrid. Judi Dench’s character, Old Deuteronomy, is arguably the worst, and looks like something that has been chewed up and spat out.
But that’s not even the biggest issue. I can accept a bad design if the visual effects team honestly believe it is a good idea; but what I can’t accept is the way the effects work is so poorly executed.
At various stages throughout the movie, the size of the cat characters change. The characters are also not proportionate to their surroundings.
If these cats are supposed to be real felines, then why are they so small? Why are they so tiny when stood next to scenery and objects?
The visual effects aren’t just poor, they’re amateur. How these effects were ever signed off and let out of the door is beyond me.
The version of Cats I watched last night was the tweaked version, with the slightly improved visuals. It’s clear that giving this film a quick polish was not the answer – the visuals needed completely scrapping.
Is this the fault of the effects team (who ironically worked on Sonic‘s recent makeover)? Or is this the fault of the director Tom Hooper?
For me, Hooper has to take responsibility here. He should have told the team to start again.
I also have to question why none of the cats in this movie act, well, cat-like?
When Disney put the 1994 version of The Lion King into production, the animators studied how wildlife moved. Before pen was put to paper, the team needed to understand the subtle movements of lions, antelope and elephants and so watched films of each animal to get a real feel for them.
Because of the research that took place prior to animating The Lion King, the film is regarded as one of Disney’s best-loved and best-animated movies. It is also incredibly realistic for a 2D animated film.
The same can not be said about Cats. The actors prance around on screen as if they have never seen or owned a cat!
Am I to believe that not one person involved with Cats thought it might be a good idea to try being a cat? Not one? Could no one even Google ‘cat videos’ on their phone and maybe show it to the director?
I appreciate that some people will tell me that the performances on offer in the film are reflective of the stage version of Cats and that’s why the actors don’t act like cats. Well that’s not good enough.
The stage version has limited resources and is unable to make actors become cats. A movie does not have the same limitations.
If Hollywood can convincingly de-age Samuel L. Jackson for the entirety of Captain Marvel, or somehow give Adam Sandler a successful career, then it can make humans act like cats. And it starts with the director getting his cast to take this approach.
Speaking of the cast, not one single actor comes off well in this film – and it’s not their fault. The cast have been let down completely, especially Francesca Hayward – a relative newcomer to film – who should be using this picture to launch her career, not sink it!
Hayward deserved better. As did Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Idris Elba, Jennifer Hudson, and everyone else who appears in this movie.
But even if the visual effects had been scrapped, and the cast had been given better direction, the film would still be underwhelming as there is simply no story in this film. It’s threadbare and the narrative pretty much consists of song after song, with no real thrust or drive.
I know long-term Cats fans are going to come at me in the comments section (that’s fine), but the narrative on offer is weak. This might work on stage, but it doesn’t work on film – at least not in this film.
Cats is boring and painfully so. Not even the songs liven it up.
It’s rare I score films out of ten, as I usually prefer to discuss the successes and failures of a picture to convey my feelings. However, while sitting in the cinema last night I asked myself what would I score Cats out of ten?
Unable to find any redeeming features in the film, I figured that maybe I would score it one out of ten (possibly even two) if just one song could blow me away. And of course, I expected that song to be ‘Memories‘, the musical’s signature tune.
But ‘Memories‘ came and went and it did nothing for me. Even with Jennifer Hudson belting out the song in a way that only Hudson can do, I still felt nothing.
So, that one (maybe two) out of ten was lowered to zero. And that is all I can give this film.
Cats is appalling. It is a pretentious piece of cinema that thinks it’s something special but is deluded. It is a film which made a number of choices and every single one of them was bad.
There’s simply nothing to recommend here and there are no redeemable qualities.
Last night’s screening was pretty full at my local cinema, but that’s because Vue were screening Cats every other hour and in their smaller theatres. The impression was that a fair few people were in attendance, but like the film it was all just smoke and mirrors.
I can see this film dropping out of cinemas very soon – and that is for the best. Audience members (myself included) laughed at what was being put on screen and when the movie ended, yet more laughter erupted. People weren’t laughing with the movie, but rather at the movie.
If you are weighing up whether or not to go and see Cats, even if it’s for simple curiosity, then heed my warning: Don’t waste your time and money. This film should never have made it into theatres and is easily the worst film of the decade.