Sometimes a movie struts its awfulness with such glee that it becomes an enjoyably sadistic pleasure rather than a chore to watch.
Such is the case with “Cats,” the big screen adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1982 musical that became one of Broadway’s longest-running shows. The stage version of “Cats” has grossed over $4 billion dollars, so of course Hollywood had to get their greedy claws in the mix and bring it to the local cineplex (where it promptly flopped). Anyone with a brain could see that all of this would prove to be a huge mistake, because when the source material is god-awful, how would you expect the film to turn out?
Let’s start with the good: the costuming and makeup artistry are both brilliant, if creepy. At first it’s disturbing and laughable to watch humans prance around and groom themselves but it doesn’t take long until you actually start to see them as cats. (And yes, it’s precisely the type of disconcerting feeling that will provide haunting nightmares for years to come). The dancing is beautifully proficient and the choreography creative, with some lovely ballet numbers. Those who enjoy classic theater and dance will find plenty to keep them engaged.
That’s where the positives end.
The movie’s plot closely follows the Broadway play, which means it’s just as awful. The gist is that a tribe of street cats all gather together on the night of the Jellicle moon and perform in a feline talent show so head cat Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench) can decide which cat is worthy to ascend to a new life. It’s a creepy story that’s made even more disturbing when you stop and think about it.
To keep today’s idiot audiences engaged, director Tom Hooper throws in your standard issue fatty-fall-down slapstick gags and crotch hits that are sure to elicit a tornado of laughter. And although every cast member appears downright terrifying as a human/cat hybrid, the worst is the cameo from Taylor Swift as a sexed-up feline provocateur and purveyor of enchanted catnip. Yikes.
Weber’s repetitive songs are even more grating when translated to the screen (but hey, at least there’s “Memory”). The vocal performances are second-rate too. Jennifer Hudson has become a self-parody with her overacting and oversinging. Hudson’s angsty, tear-filled, snot-flying rendition of “Memory” is hilariously awful. Rebel Wilson‘s tap dance feels like an acid trip gone wrong as she trains her army of child-faced mice to dance for her pleasure (as she gleefully bites live cockroaches with human faces in half as they scream for mercy).
I’m not sure if anyone should see this movie of their own accord, but it absolutely could have legs as a midnight movie a’la Tommy Wiseau’s “The Room.”