Cats begins with Victoria (Francesca Hayward), a cat-human hybrid escaped from the island of Dr. Moreau, abandoned on the streets of London. I am shocked that the location is not called “Meow Town”. Is this mercy? Is Cats mostly harmless, a little weird and off-putting but not sunk so low to make bad meow puns? Yes, it looks hellacious, with its “digital fur technology” and strange cat-human bodies and cat-human faces, but it has not sunk to “Meow Town”. Maybe Cats is just a harmless movie with bad CGI.
Victoria meets other cat people and they have names like “Munkustrap” and “Macavity” and “Rum Tum Tugger”. Many of these names sound like sex acts from the 1920s, which is fitting because Cats is horny. Like, SUUUUUUPER horny. The cat people writhe and grind across the stage, every cat that sees Victoria wants to rub on her, the Rebel Wilson cat suggestively scratches her non-existent vagina, the brother-sister cats have a distinctly Lannisterian vibe. I begin to feel cold fear creeping up my spine. Hideous CGI cat people who are desperate to f-ck in an ostensibly family-friendly film? This feels less and less harmless with every passing moment. What am I in for? What danger am I facing?
The Victoria cat meets the other cats. These introductions take the form of songs, and every cat sings a song about what kind of cat they are. In fact, every cat sings all of the time. And every cat introduces itself and this is all that happens. The entire two-hour movie is just a bunch of cats singing songs about what kind of cat they are to other cats. A chill descends and my soul quakes. Cats is not harmless: Cats is a threat. It threatens me with bad 80s synth music and endless songs about different types of cats. There is no end in sight. I now fear for my life.
THEY NEVER STOP SINGING.
Eventually, Judi Dench appears as a floating head. There is a hulking, hirsute cat body near her head, but thanks to the CGI, she has no neck and so her head floats in front of her body like a grim warning of what happens if you watch too much Cats: In order to save itself, your brain will attempt to eject your head from your body. I can feel it happening, the pull within my neck, the strain on my clavicles, the pounding ache between my ears as my brain desperately tries to separate from the body holding it in place, forcing it do endure such horrors. I am trapped in my skin, a desperate spirit tethered to the mortal plane by the cruel folly of fate; I have no home here, I belong among the stars where there is no noise NO SINGING
The Idris Elba cat is the bad cat, Macavity. The cats are competing to die, and he wants to die the most, the first and only motivation in Cats that I understand, as I, too, wish for the sweet release of death. Macavity seems to have magic powers, as he can make other cats disappear and teleport himself. When he teleports, he says, “Meow!” in a way that reduces Idris Elba’s attractiveness by 15%. This is insanity and they are STILL SINGING and I am desperate, desperate to escape but I am trapped in this Orphean nightmare I might be dead am I dead I think I am dead it is the only reason for my suffering I am dead and this is hell and oh please JUST STOP SINGING what god have I angered what ancient Chthonian curse have I absorbed to endure this eternal punishment of endless song and off-putting sexy cat dancing and ….
Ian McKellan is an old cat that lives in a theater and he laps water from a bowl and my body physically hurts with second-hand embarrassment this is hell and my torment will never end I never should have asked What is Cats? for only primordial gods can know the secrets of Cats. I have dared to tread where the gods walk and I am being punished, Jennifer Hudson belts out “Memory” and she is a sad cat that wants to die a lot and I understand her, set us free please just set…
Cats comes to an end. The sad Jennifer Hudson cat is free, mercy-killed by the cat people so that she can be born anew. I am not so lucky. I am drained, a husk, a mere carapace. Cats has stolen my life force. I understand it now. Cats is a punishment, a rending of your soul, a tithe to be paid for some unknowable insult dealt to the eldritch gods. I am but a shell now, a cursèd wretch to know no comfort or relief ever again. A part of me is trapped there, subjected to Cats, forever. I will always hear the terrible ceaseless singing make it stop oh please make it…