Cats (2019): Cult Classic or Catastrophe?


Sullivan Reilly and Jackson Wyatt

Graphic Design by Jackson Wyatt


Tom Hooper’s 2019 adaptation of Cats has been making waves since its debut, with both critics and audiences decrying the film for its variety of plot and CGI-related issues. Some have shown support, but a majority have deemed it as a financial and critical failure.

The film follows a community of stray cats known as the Jellicle Cats and their annual celebration of the Jellicle Ball, a talent contest between the felines to impress the matriarch, Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench), and be the chosen one to ascend to a cat-like heaven called the Heaviside Layer. 

Is Cats as bad as many say it is or is it an underrated gem not meant for mainstream audiences? Is it a total cat-astrophe or future cult classic? Two writers have teamed up to debate the case.



Cats (2019) is a future cult classic

by Jackson Wyatt

After watching multiple online videos hinting at the sheer CGI monstrosity that is Tom Hooper’s 2019 Cats, I felt an indescribably strong urge to run to the nearest theater and catch a showing. Was it a weirdly shameful feeling? Definitely, but I felt it nonetheless. 

Even crazier, I managed to rally my group of friends and convince them to see it with me. We spent the twenty-ish minute car ride to AMC Showplace 14 discussing how bad of a trainwreck we were about to experience, and the anticipation in the air of our moderately-full theater was electric. We were about to witness an experience, and an experience was definitely what we got.

Is Cats an amazingly nuanced, Oscar-winning movie? No way. It is a fundamentally flawed work, both in its almost non-existent plot (which is debatably the fault of its source material) and atrocious visual effects, with every character resting in an uncanny valley of semi-human existence. It is hard to take the actions of feline-person hybrids seriously in the first place, but it is even harder when the sheer sight of them is laughter-inducing. 

Drama may not be its strong suit, but above all else, Cats is a spectacle. Just reading the Wikipedia description of its plot or people’s video summarizations of it is extremely entertaining due to the oddity of the film’s essence. The characters are weird, the songs are weird, the plot is weird and that is precisely the point. Cats feels like going to an arthouse performance or high-concept opera in the middle of a fever dream, completely off-center and unbelievable in its proceedings. Rebel Wilson’s character keeps mice and cockroaches as indentured dancers, Sir Ian McKellen plays a grisled actor that periodically lets out loud meows and Taylor Swift appears a villainous henchman that drugs an entire room of innocent people with catnip. It should be the dictionary definition of insane.

All of this makes for an amazing viewing experience. The run-time may drag on a little longer than it has to, but Cats is so fascinating that you can barely notice. It is the most fun I have had in a theater in a long time due to how much it made me laugh, cringe and just generally react. It was a full-body experience, unafraid to go to the depths of uncomfortability and eccentricity. 

Cats is highly underrated and misunderstood by critics and audiences alike,” said Hunter Morrison, class of 2020. “[It takes] risks and decisions that a normal film would never dare to take.”

To call Tom Hooper’s film a failure is pretentious. It does not succeed in being a ground-breaking or even powerful story (it more plays like a cat-based talent show), but it is capital-e Entertaining. The set pieces are extravagant, the cinematography is dynamic, the musical numbers are extremely fun and each of the actors seems to be giving their all without any shame. 

In a way, Cats is a musical adaptation through-and-through due to the fact that it subscribes to the spirit of many live shows: To fully invest yourself in what you see before you, you must suspend your disbelief and ignore the frayed edges to value the energy and passion hidden beneath.

Cats is hardly perfect, but it is a definite must-watch, even if you just need something to laugh at or stare incredulously at.



Cats (2019) is an absolute catastrophe

by Sully Reilly

 Cats was a bad-bad movie. That is not a typo, either.

   Before it even came out, Cats, directed by Tom Hooper, was expected to not be the best. It would be bad in a good way, they said. It would be a messy but fun, they said. THEY were wrong. 

   Going into this dumpster fire, I had high hopes. My “friend” [referring to co-writer Jackson Wyatt] told me it would be a “good-bad” movie, meaning it would be so bad that it could be considered good or fun to watch. I love movies like this. What I did not know, though, was that he was lying. 

   First off, the plot hardly existed. There was no story to follow until the very end, which was too little too late, since I was already trying to get out of the theater by then. 

   “It was the most unbearable movie I have ever seen in my life. I’ve seen some terrible cinema that is, like, still watchable, but I ran out of the theater once the movie ended,” said Mimi Bach, class of 2020 and viewer of this appalling movie.

   Somehow, Cats had many well-known names, spanning from R&B star Jason Derulo to Pitch Perfect’s Rebel Wilson to even Sir Ian McKellen. Here is the catch, though: the characters they play do NOTHING for the movie. They do not contribute to the story in almost any important way.  The crazy amount of prominent names in such a horrid production is baffling. I will never understand it. They even had a gigantic budget for this movie. I expected more quality out of something that had a budget of around $100 million. The studio must be disappointed.

 “Most bad films are mainly bad because of a low budget, but this film could not even have that excuse,” said Bach.

   Another important part of the movie was the music, since it is one of the most popular Broadway musicals. Sadly, that was kind of a let down, too. It sounded okay, but there was nothing amazing…at all. Most of the time I could hardly decipher the lyrics for whatever reason. This is an issue when most of the dialogue comes out of this singing. 

   “The musical storyline just did not translate well into a big Hollywood film, and you can tell because you are kind of left absolutely confused on that the heck is going on the entire time,” said Bach. 


   The ending for what there was of the plot was abysmal. Throughout the movie, they included Jennifer Hudson as Grizabella, a left-out cat that almost every character literally hates for the shallow reason of her leaving them to be with the villain Macavity, who was played by Idris Elba. This would seem rather interesting, but throughout the movie there is almost no indication of any importance in her character. She is just some sad cat that has a few appearances. She ends up winning the competition thing that lets her come back with a new life. Any character could have won this and nothing would have changed. 

   ALL AND ALMOST EVERY character was interchangeable with one another. Their roles were not big enough and meant nothing to the story, like I have said multiple times. 

   Overall, I do not like this movie. I know that ‘hate’ is a strong word, but I need to know a word that is stronger than hate. I despise this movie.