Cats reviewers don't have a lot of nice things to say about the new movie
Weird fiction author HP Lovecraft was never much of a film reviewer, but he might have accidentally nailed the critical consensus on Tom Hooper's new film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd-Webber's classic stage show Cats.
So far, Lovecraft wrote in The Call of Cthulhu, humanity has been protected by its ignorance of how vast and terrible the universe is.
"The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age."
That day, reader, is today. The reviews for Cats are pretty forthright. In fact, the rampant inconsistencies, bizarre stylistic choices and straight-up horniness of Cats seems to have broken the brains of many reviewers. We've collected the exact moments at which that happened.
"What does it mean to be jellicle? The closest we get to an answer comes when Cat Judi Dench snaps, 'You will never be my jellicle choice' at Cat Idris Elba, as he forces her to walk the plank on a barge on the Thames. But the problem with singling out absurdities or inconsistencies in Cats is that it only brings other problems to the fore. Yes, 'jellicle' means nothing — but then, why do some of the cats wear shoes? Why are they sometimes as big as a human and sometimes as big as a shopping bag? Why do some walk and some crawl? Why do they have necks but no anuses?"
– Caspar Salmon, Prospect
"It's amazing to see what Adult Swim can accomplish with a $100 million budget. I never knew Tom Hooper was capable of making a surrealist nightmare that would rival Jodorowsky, that could baffle David Lynch, that would prompt even the dark god Cthulhu to emit an impressed eldritch shriek of 'nehehehehehe'."
– Kyle Buchanan, New York Times
"To think of the money wasted in creating this monstrosity is to wonder if we really deserve nice things at all, or if hell is empty, and all the Jellicle cats are here."
– Hannah Woodhead, Little White Lies
"Are the coats that some of the cats, like Macavity (Idris Elba) and Old Deuteronomy (Dench), wear actually made from the skin of other cats? And if so, does this mean that Jennyanydots, who at one point unzips herself out of a full-body fur suit, is a kind of Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs type? Why would you ever put 'Beautiful Ghosts', the underwhelming new addition that Swift and Webber wrote for this adaptation, right up against 'Memory'? Is the implication that Grizabella, played by Jennifer Hudson, became an outcast because she did sex work intentional, and if so, what does sex work for cats entail and why are the other cats so goddamn judgemental about it?"
– Alison Willmore, Vulture
"The biggest drag in the seemingly endless series of featured felines is Grizabella, the so-called Glamour Cat, whose youthful beauty has given way to mange, causing her to be shunned by the Jellicles. Jennifer Hudson tirelessly over-emotes in the role; she limps around hemorrhaging snot and looking either miserable or terrified, like she's been watching the dailies."
– David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter
"Yet these cats are never even momentarily plausible as cats either, obviously. Rather they seem to be grotesquely deformed human beings. There are moments when this film seems not so much an adaptation of a nonsense classic as a horror story, nearly as obscene as The Human Centipede."
– David Sexton, Evening Standard
"[The cats] are forced to contend with Idris Elba’s malevolent Macavity, who appears in their midst every so often and for some inexplicable reason is armed with the power to make his fellow felines disappear in a puff of smoke, such that they re-emerge as prisoners on a barge manned by Ray Winstone."
– Patrick Cremona, Radio Times
"How — how — was a show this bizarre and plotless, with songs this mediocre, one of the most successful Broadway shows of all times, on both sides of the pond? What was happening in the 1980s? Is Cats ... like ... a secret metaphor for something? Why can’t I figure out what it is?"
– Alissa Wilkinson, Vox
"Then Rebel Wilson unzipped herself and stepped out of her fursuit and proceeded to consume hundreds of tiny human/cockroach composites she trained to dance for her amusement. There's no coming back from that."
– Alex Cranz, Gizmodo
"At some point during Cats — I think I was trying to distract myself from the richly metaphorical image of James Corden sifting through garbage — it occurred to me that only one letter separates its title from Pixar’s Cars, to name another hermetically sealed, digitally polished, heavily anthropomorphised family-friendly entertainment set in a world from which actual human beings are creepily, apocalyptically absent."
– Justin Chang, LA Times
– Nigel Andrews, Financial Times