‘Cats’ is a nightmare, deserves to be clawed to shreds

January

Israel Wheatley

iwheatle@uccs.edu

You enter the theater to see “Cats,” two hours pass and all you can remember is a fever dream starring Edris Elba in silky fur, and Rebel Wilson unzipping her pelt twice and eating anthropomorphic dancing cockroaches. What happened in those 110 minutes? 

     The movie, adapted from the classic musical of the same name and T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” centers around Victoria, a cat abandoned by her owners and in search of a new community. One group of cats, the “Jellicle Cats,” adopt her into their theatrical gang, and she learns what it means to be one of them.  

     But you will not be able to say what exactly a Jellicle cat is after watching this movie. 

     After all the (negative) hype tearing up this movie upon the release of its trailer months before its premiere, rest assured, “Cats” lives up–or down–to the expectations. And there is no way it will land on all fours this time around. Apparently, it has used up its nine lives. 

     But how bad is it, really? Not as bad as it looks, and it looks ridiculous. Visually speaking, it is pretty much leveled with a nightmare, and it is still shocking how any of these A-listers (Elba, Wilson, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Jennifer Hudson, Taylor Swift and Jason Derulo) actually agreed to do this movie. 

     They all do pretty stand-up jobs, even the hair-raising moment where Dench lifts a single leg in approval. But still, Elba’s near nudity is hard to get over. 

     Again, what is a Jellicle cat? One of the sole problems of this movie outside of the graphics is the confused plot, and there seems to be a complete lack or failure of explanation in the goals of these cats, or who they really are. We never find out any good reason why Hudson’s scroungy character is an outcast and hated by all the Jellicle cats, or why some of these cats are magical, or, most importantly, what the “Heaviside Layer” is. Do the winning cats die, or do they come back? We will never know. 

    There are just way too many confusing elements about this movie. It is tempting to consider the entire plot or origins of the story as equally ridiculous as the film says it is, but there is a shred of hope that maybe, just maybe, this could be better without the CGI. Something that works with the play is the absurdity of the abstraction; that we are supposed to imagine everything differently. Instead, we are left trying to look for Jason Derulo’s bulge edited out in post-production. 

     And still…what is a Jellicle cat?