Cats: a Descent into Nightmares

Cats! Photo Credit:

Xandra Button '20, Photography Editor

Photo Credit:

Have you ever been walking down the street, casually going about your day, when you get hit with the sudden and uncontrollable urge to see Rebel Wilson as a terrifying feline monster who eats mice with human faces? Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, struck with the image of Jason Derulo’s cat face getting dangerously close to the toes (paws?) of other CGI cat hybrids? If you answered no to either of these questions, you are one of the lucky ones, one of the few who were spared from witnessing the complete trainwreck that is the 2019 film version of Cats.

For those who don’t know, the plot of Cats in both the original Broadway version and the 2019 production is pretty disturbing. One by one each cat sings about themselves, trying to impress the most powerful cat, Old Deuteronomy, played by Judy Dench. Why do the cats want to impress Old Deuteronomy, you may ask? Well, the cats are trying to die, of course. That’s right, Cats is a musical in which a series of people-feline hybrids sing their hearts out in an attempt to be chosen to die. They refer to this death as the “ascension to the Heaviside Layer.”

Add into the mix Taylor Swift in a computer generated catsuit and you have the Cats movie. It’s complete with Idris Elba’s CGI fur still somehow showing off his abs, and James Corden singing about how much he loves dumpster diving. Let’s not forget Judy Dench breaking the fourth wall at the end of the movie, speaking to the audience directly and giving the unsettling impression that she was staring at the viewers through the movie screen. Judy Dench’s fourth wall break felt so much like a horrible fever dream that two out of the five people in my theater got up, put on their coats, and walked out the door. It was also at this moment that a movie theater attendant walked in, presumably to clean popcorn from the isle, but she instead stopped dead in her tracks and stared at the screen in horror, mouth agape. It was this movie theater attendant who’s facial expression best summed up my, and everyone else’s, reaction to the film: a combination of terror, confusion, and most of all fear.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about 2019 Cats was its ability to render every viewer speechless. Besides emitting a pitiful crying sound, there are no ways to fully describe the experience that is seeing Rebel Wilson rip her CGI cat skin off. It is also almost impossible to explain the uncomfortable, perhaps too close for comfort cat ballet present in virtually every scene. After seeing this monstrosity of a movie, the only thing that ends up making sense is, surprisingly, the plot line. After witnessing the disturbing purgatory of the Cats universe, every audience member could understand the cat characters’ desire to “ascend to the Heaviside layer.” We, as the audience, would have very much liked that as well. Instead we must now live every day on a ledge, hoping we don’t trigger a memory that forces us to fall back into this computer generated freakshow.