"If Dante had seen Cats, he would have included a 10th circle of Hell."— Chris Stuckmann
"This is the worst thing to happen to cats since dogs."— Ricky Gervais
"The problem with the film was that Tom Hooper decided that he didn’t want anybody involved in it who was involved in the original show, the whole thing was ridiculous."— Andrew Lloyd Webber
Cats (also referred to by many as Cats 2019) is a British-American 2019 musical fantasy film based on the Broadway musical of the same name. It is the second musical film directed by Tom Hopper, with the first being the 2012 film Les Misérables. The film premiered at Alice Tully Hall on December 16, 2019 and was theatrically released on December 20, 2019, by Universal Pictures.
After being abandoned in the streets of London, a young cat named Victoria is introduced to the tribe of other cats called the Jellicles. The Jellicles have a yearly ceremony called the Jellicle Ball, where the cats can compete in to go to the Heaviside Layer and be granted the one-time ability of reincarnation. One of the competing cats, Macavity, plans on kidnapping other competitors to increase his chances of winning.
Why It's a Catastrophe
- To get the cat out of the bag (no pun intended), the designs of the cats are very creepy, uncanny, and don't even resemble real-life cats; they look more like humans in fursuits especially since they have hands and feet instead of paws. They are also reminiscent of the infamous 2003 film adaptation of The Cat in the Hat, which Universal also distributed.
- To make matters worse, when a character turns or tilts their head, their faces barely move, making them look off-center.
- Not helping is that there was already major backlash for Sonic the Hedgehog's nightmare fuel character design in the live action Sonic the Hedgehog movie months prior, so as a result, this received worse backlash, to a point where they claim that Sonic's "Uh, meow?" line was a warning for what was yet to come. Unlike the former however, these designs have not been fixed to look much less nightmarish, but rather fixed because of technical issues (which we will get to later), resulting not being delayed and critical and box office failure.
- Absolutely horrendous CGI:
- The computer-generated rotoscoping work used to portray the characters is hideous and can be considered nightmare fuel for some people.
- It overuses computer-generated imagery, which causes almost everything in the film to feel fake. Even simple objects could have been props instead of computer-generated imagery.
- As the film was apparently only finished 48 hours before the premiere, there were many glitches with the computer-generated imagery in the original theatrical release, particularly in one scene when Judi Dench's hand, complete with her wedding ring, that appears instead of her character's cat paw. After poor reviews, Universal had to send another copy to theaters with improved visual effects.
- What doesn't help matters is that Tom Hooper had no prior experience working in movies heavily reliant on CGI and special effects, despite some being used in his previous works. For example, he didn't use motion capture suits for the actors, instead rotoscoping the "digital fur technology" on them manually, causing the aforementioned glitches.
- Poor grasp of the source material. The setting of the film, for example, isn't set in a junkyard like in the original Broadway musical. It also lacks the dark tone of the original.
- The singing is really bad (save for Jennifer Hudson). For example, in the first song "Jellicles Songs Part 1", all of the singers sound uninterested, non-energetic, or just out of breath.
- Although they are not as bad as the character designs, the design in most of the areas are also ugly as they either lack color or have too much color, and seem like they have been abandoned for a very long time.
- The original musical barely had any plot, forcing the writers to basically make one up for the movie. When it appears, it is usually presented through the songs throughout the movie which can be difficult to follow.
- Even if one were to understand what the plot is, they will find it to be a boring and uninteresting one.
- There are even many plot holes, such as; how did Victoria get abandoned on the streets in the opening, despite the rest of the film taking place in Purgatory and not in the real world?
- Most of the characters are introduced through songs, but some don't appear at all after their song, making them mostly pointless.
- The acting is so bad (especially considering those involved in the cast) that it can appear unintentionally hilarious to some. The horrible character designs don't help matters at all as they will cause people to take the acting even less seriously.
- Questionable casting choices, most notably casting actors who have little to no involvement in the music industry such as James Corden and Idris Elba, and musicians who have little to no involvement in the acting industry such as Taylor Swift and Jason Derulo.
- Despite being cast as the lead character, Francesca Hayward had no experience in the acting or music industries, with her prior work being only as a ballerina. Not surprisingly, her performance is by far the worst in the movie (with the arguable exception of only Rebel Wilson, and even then Wilson later admitted she knew the movie was going to suck, and so likely wasn't really putting in a full effort).
- The acting itself can also sometimes be inconsistent. When Rum Tum Tugger is first introduced, he speaks in a British accent, but once he screams "Let’s dance!", he's suddenly American, before proceeding to sing his musical number, going back and forth between accents.
- Jennyanydots (Rebel Wilson) and Bustopher Jones (James Corden) are annoying characters who try to be comedic, but nearly all of their "comedy" is cringe-worthy and unfunny, such as using cat puns that are even worse than Catwoman. They also fat shame themselves.
- Many of the characters act horny, like real cats when in heat, which is very inappropriate for a PG-rated movie (or G rated in Australia).
- Macavity, the main antagonist, is portrayed as very generic and a major downgrade from the original musical, as he is just one of those villains who does bad stuff just for the sake of it.
- The sizes of the characters are inconsistent, as they sometimes appear to be as large as a human, or as small as a mouse.
- Some scenes are very disturbing, especially that one anthropomorphic cockroach scene where one of the cat characters eats a cockroach from under a table.
- A few of the actors do a good job portraying their characters, despite the bad script (or lack of one altogether).
- Taylor Swift's brief appearance as Bombalurina is by far one of the best parts of the movie.
- The music is fairly decent to listen to, despite most of it being unoriginal. Jennifer Hudson's cover of "Memory" is a particular standout.
- Some could get some ironic enjoyment out of how utterly insane and bonkers the movie is.
Upon release, Cats was critically panned by critics and moviegoers, who criticized the CGI effects, plot, and tone, with many calling it one of the worst films of 2019 or even of all time. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a critic approval rating of 19%, with an average rating of 3.68/10, and reads "Despite its fur-midable cast, this Cats adaptation is a clawful mistake that will leave most viewers begging to be put out of their mew-sery.". On Metacritic, the film has a critic score of 32/100. On IMDb, the film has an average user rating of 2.8/10. On Letterboxd, the film has an average rating of 1.4/5. Cinemascore gave the film a C+, while PostTrak gave it 1/2 star out of 5.
Angry Joe gave the film a 1/10, the same score that Holmes and Watson received the previous year, calling the film "a total waste of money". His two friends Other Joe and Alex both gave the film a 2/10. Chris Stuckmann gave the film an "F" and described the movie as a "drug trip" and stated that there was "nothing redeeming" about the film.
Despite the negative reviews, the user scores on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic were mixed with an audience approval rating of 55% and an average rating of 3.25/5 on the former and a user score of 5.5/10 on the latter.
Universal themselves found the movie to be so bad, that they made the movie ineligible to receive a nomination or award at the 92nd Academy Awards with the ceremony itself even poking fun at the film when two of the film's cast members showed up dressed as their respective characters, complete with actual make-up and cat-suits in contrast to the CGI characters.
The musical's creator, Andrew Lloyd Webber, also disowned the movie.
Cats became a box office bomb. It grossed around $60 million worldwide against a budget of around $95 million, and that the film's release date was when large-scale releases like Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Frozen 2 were dominating the box office, and lost at least $71 million.
At the 40th annual Golden Raspberry Awards in 2020 (which became a YouTube video dubbed "The Lock-Down Edition"), Cats won six trophies, including "Worst Screenplay" for writers Lee Hall and Tom Hooper, "Worst Director" for Hooper, "Worst Screen Combo" for "Any Two Half-Feline/Half-Human Hairballs", "Worst Supporting Actress" for Rebel Wilson, "Worst Supporting Actor" for James Corden, and "Worst Picture".
- Amblimation (animation company of Amblin Entertainment) was originally going to make a traditional animated musical film based on Cats in 1997. Unfortunately, the project was abandoned because of the failure of Balto competing against Pixar's Toy Story and leading to the closure of Amblimation Studios which was later folded into DreamWorks Animation (now owned by Universal since 2016).
- There's an internet rumor that an original cut for the movie that featured several CGI anuses exists, dubbed the "Butthole Cut". The producers have somewhat confirmed that it's real, although one of the buttholes is said to be left unedited by accident.
- Steven Spielberg served as an uncredited executive producer.
- The designs of the cats in this film became a meme due to how bad they are, like how the original Sonic design from the 2020 Sonic the Hedgehog movie became a meme for being creepy.
- Given how the first cases of Covid-19 came around the release date of this movie, some people on social media are lead to believe that this movie is so bad, it caused the Covid-19 pandemic.