REVIEW: ‘Cats’ is crazy, but its music is catchy

Cats are not dogs. This is information the movie really wants an audience to know, so much so that Judi Dench turns directly to the camera to say it. That’s just one of the lessons one will learn over the course of the cinematic experience that is “Cats.” It truly is something to behold.

Based on the stage play of the same name, “Cats” is set in London and follows a group of felines who love to sing and dance. The main character we’re introduced at the start is Victoria (Francesca Hayward), who’s introduced to the Jellicle cats. The Jellicle cats all have their own traits, quirks, and even personalized songs that they sing.

Victoria meeting with the Jellicle cats happens to be a meeting of destiny, as it turns out it’s the night of the Jellicle ball, where a single cat is chosen to have their life thoroughly improved. Over the course of the film, different cats sing and perform with the hope of being the one.

Truth be told, this review is coming out quite a while after much of the buzz around this movie. By the time eyes were set on this feature from director Tom Hooper, this critic had already heard everything from worst movie of the year, to worst of the decade. I can happily? report, though, that it’s not nearly that bad. Does that mean it’s good, great even? No, not really, it’s just not entirely bad.

There are flaws, mind you. For example, “Cats” is very lacking in much of a story. The main character doesn’t have much of an arc, character interactions and relationships, aside from maybe one, have very little meaning, and overall, a lot of things just happen by chance here. There simply isn’t much structure or urgency presented with this story, and as a result, it’s rather easy to become disengaged.

Courtesy Working Title Films and Universal Pictures.

Also, it’s fair to say that the movie goes to some bizarre territory, from the visual look of the cats and other critters, to some of the characters’ own actions throughout the feature.

The designs of the cats, and again, some other types of animals, just seemed a bit off. One could make the argument that it would have been better to just have the whole thing be an animated picture, either 2D or 3D, since that could avoid the whole uncanny valley aspect.

With all of that said, “Cats” is still a pretty fun movie experience, in a way. In all honesty, some of the songs, such as Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat and Magic Mr. Mistoffelees are actually fairly catchy. Some of the dancing is fairly entertaining, too. There are some different locations used, the scope of some of the musical numbers is pretty big and it’s enough to hold one’s attention and have them tapping their foot.

Again, it’s not to say this film is all that good. Along with some questionable visual cues and songs not always catching on, the movie also went on a bit too long. However, in a way, there’s some entertainment value to be had here. It’s actually similar to another movie I saw earlier this year called “The Intruder.” That wannabe thriller was so over-the-top and absurd that it actually became somewhat fun to watch.

The same is true for “Cats.” It’s a movie that maybe you don’t rush out to go see for a quality experience, but if you’re looking for something a little weird, a bit different, or something kinda silly and so-bad-it’s-good, “Cats” isn’t a bad option. 2.5 out of 5.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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