CATS Review: Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here

Tom Hooper's adaptation of the hit Broadway musical is an abomination. It's also critic-proof.

Everything you've heard about Tom Hooper's Cats is true.

Yes, it is filled with grotesque CGI work. Yes, it has barely any plot to speak of. Yes, it is alarmingly horny. And yes, it is essentially critic-proof: I could rattle off 1,000 words about how truly horrendous it is, but that would accomplish very little. Cats, the movie, is a fairly faithful adaptation of Cats, the musical, and that thing's been running for years. Nothing you, I or my fellow critics have to say will change the minds of those who consider Cats to be Good, Actually. It'd be like writing a negative review of the sun, or trying to convince someone that numbers aren't real. Its badness is monolithic, possibly part of the point, and utterly unconquerable.

It is, to borrow a catchphrase from The Irishman, what it is.

Hooper's Cats tells the story of...wait, I'm already getting this wrong. Cats doesn't "tell" anything so much as it grabs you by the shoulders and screams in your terrified face for two hours, and using the term "story" here would be a gross overstatement. Let me start over: Cats is a frantic, obnoxious assault on the senses. One by one, it introduces a series of cats (read: humans slathered in "digital fur technology", their various bulges and humps either smoothed over or removed completely) who stomp onscreen and spend maybe 10 minutes apiece singing songs about themselves. Some of the cats are more playful than others - indeed, one of them, Idris Elba's Macavity, may or may not be the literal Devil - but all of them share one dominant trait: they are gigantic assholes.

The cats are introducing themselves, by the way, as a means for auditioning for death. We learn early on that one of them will soon be selected to die and ascend to The Heavyside Layer (which is basically the cats' version of Heaven), and the entire movie is about finding out which of these gigantic assholes will win the Big Prize. Along the way there are pratfalls, screaming, terrible puns, bullying (again, these cats are giant dicks to each other) and a truly shocking number of crotch shots. Whatever circle of Hell this is, it's an incredibly unpleasant place. At first it's kind of funny - you honestly can't believe what's happening onscreen, that anyone would have spent roughly $100M bringing this abomination into the world - but soon enough its commitment to sensory overload becomes overwhelming. At a certain point, I felt like I was going insane. 

Speaking of crotch shots, we should talk about the horniness. That horniness kinda worked onstage, where the dancers are covered head-to-toe in spandex and look more like actual human beings, but it doesn't really translate to CGI fur-covered bodies. Tails are pulled between legs and brandished like dicks. Legs fly apart and hips thrust in every direction. All of the cats clearly wish to be fucking (despite wanting nothing more than to ascend to the Heavyside Layer, I submit to you that what these cats really want is to be smashing each other's brains out, on every available surface), but the cats do not fuck. Instead, they gyrate and squeal and hump at the air. How this movie attained a PG rating is beyond me, and I suspect it will result in the sexual awakenings of many adolescents who will go on to seek out the most troubling sort of pornography. Let's hope they stop there.

Are the performances in Cats good? I don't know. I guess? Everyone seems onboard with Hooper's insane vision, and some of them (notably Taylor Swift and Jason Derulo) really go for it. I honestly didn't think too much about the performances while I was watching Cats. How could I, when everything else happening onscreen is so distracting? What difference does it make that the songs are performed well when the songs suck, and sound like they're being made up as they go along? Jennifer Hudson absolutely nails "Memory" (aka the one decent song in Cats), but good luck focusing on her performance when all you can do is stare at the mortifying CGI that's been applied to her face. On a technical level, Cats probably has a lot going for it, but it'll be years before anyone notices.

Look, we've had a lot of fun giving Cats the business over the past six months or so (the internet's meme-ing of Cats has been top-notch; the day the first trailer dropped was one of the funniest days in recent online memory), and I understand that some of you are eager to see Cats, in the same way that one might be compelled to peek into a dumpster upon being told that it contains a dead body. But I hated this movie with every fiber of my being. It gave me a raging headache, I slept terribly after witnessing it, and if there's any justice in this world I will never, ever be compelled to watch it again. 

Tom Hooper's Cats is now in theaters.