Renegade Review: Cats (2019)

Jaida Topuzoglu and Leah Lentz

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A musical based on Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, a book of poems by T.S. Eliot, the most recent box-office failure of 2019 has dropped off the grid. After having seen it, understandably, critics are not enjoying it. Cats (2019) debuted in December and since then, the movie has received nothing but well-deserved criticism. If you’re asking yourself, “should I go see Cats?,” and you just want to answer that question, the answer is yes. Cats is a painfully good movie for all the wrong reasons.

Cats is about a group of cats that perform at the annual Jellicle Ball in order to have the winner be “reborn.” It’s hard to understand why they want to be reborn because of the convoluted nature of the movie, which makes following the plot a struggle. Calling themselves “jellicle cats,” the cast appear on the movie screen with heavy CGI, causing re-occurring mishaps in the animation. Shockingly, the cats are actually quite good dancers, with the majority of the cast being chosen solely for their dance abilities. This is likely the case with the female lead, Victoria, played by Francesca Hayward, a principal dancer at the Royal Ballet. She demonstrates her point skills throughout the film, but besides this, she’s decently inconsequential to the movie, despite her leading role. 

The second cat introduced is Jenny Anydots, played by Rebel Wilson. Wilson’s character has a heavy use of CGI, making Wilson look terrifying to audiences; but she gives the best performance she can given the circumstances. Jenny Anydots is described as being a performer who has trained the mice and cockroaches to tap dance and sing on command. While the mice are adorable, the cockroaches are vile creatures that look horrifying. They are not fully edited either, giving them the appearance of people in cockroach costumes rather than cockroaches. At one point, Jenny eats one of them, and threatens the rest that she’ll eat them too if they step out of line. She is undoubtedly one of the scariest cats in the film, despite the lighthearted nature of her song.

Enter: Jason Derulo. He plays Rum Tum Tugger, and he does so uncomfortably. He acts out his character in a disturbingly flirtatious way, forcing appeal where there clearly should be none. He says that Jenny’s act is outdated and boring, and proceeds to perform an equally boring musical number. He never appears again in the film after performing this number, despite being a contestant at the “jellicle ball,” (more on that later). Jenny is upset about Rum Tum Tugger interrupting her song, and is led astray by Macavity, played by Idris Elba. Macavity is so poorly CGI animated that he doesn’t even look like a cat humanoid- rather, he looks like a really bad drawing of an alien.

After Derulo’s performance, we meet James Corden’s character, Bustopher Jones, who is essentially James Corden in a fursuit. Bustopher Jones is unfunny and boring, and adds nothing to the storyline. It’s not that he’s the worst cat in the movie, but he is absolutely terrible in a way that I’ve never seen. When Macavity appears again to kidnap Bustopher, it’s almost relieving. I loathed Bustopher.

Despite the many flaws in the movie, one character we meet is Mister Mistoffolees. I cannot iterate enough how much I adore this character, played by Laurie Davidson. His only goal in the movie is to succeed at a magic trick, attempting this many times throughout the movie. Mister Mistoffolees seeks Victoria out because he doesn’t want her to miss the arrival of Old Deuteronomy, played by Judy Dench. Old Deuteronomy is lame, and reminds me of a cult leader. I hate the character for the sole reason that she’s a creep, and all the cats are way too desperate to touch her. She is also the judge of the all-too-important Jellicle Ball.

The Jellicle Ball is where the cats have been planning on going all night. Every year, one cat is chosen to go to the Heaviside Layer to be “reincarnated.” The Jellicle Ball is honestly quite boring considering how impactful it is towards the plot. Shortly after, we meet Grizabella, played by Jennifer Hudson, who is famous for her soulful ballad, “Memory.” She looks upon the Jellicle Ball as an outsider when Victoria approaches her and sings a new song. Victoria’s singing voice is very obviously auto-tuned, but the song is nice nonetheless. This scene is important because it establishes a relationship between Grizabella and Victoria, foreshadowing the ending.

We soon meet Taylor Swift’s character, Bombalurina. She sings a song about how Macavity causes trouble but is never caught, mentioning Macavity has supposedly has “broken every human law.”

The ending of the movie is as confusing as the conflict, in which Victoria turns to Mister Mistoffolees and says, “You’re a magician,” as if Mister Mistoffolees has any magical ability whatsoever. This leads “Mister Mistoffolees,” the song, about how good he is at magic. During each chorus, he attempts to conjure Old Deuteronomy, but fails nearly every time. Finally, he succeeds, and they rejoice by singing. Eventually, Old Deuteronomy chooses to send Grizabella to the Heaviside Layer, in which everyone agrees. Why specifically Grizabella you may ask? It’s because the other cats were being discriminatory towards her disheveled looks. And with that, the movie ends.

Was Cats worth the $13 I spent? Absolutely not. Nonetheless, I am grateful for the experience. It was artfully terrible, yet, hilarious. It was an awful and uncomfortable experience, but quite the experience nonetheless. If you’re wondering if you should see Cats, the answer is an undivided yes, for the sole fact that it’s so bad, you’ll get enjoyment out of watching it.