I Watched Cats Four Years After Its Release— And It’s Still Acid To The Eyes

Abby Meacham ‘25 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

I thought it would be funny to take an edible and watch Cats, the 2019 movie musical directed by Tom Hooper that people absolutely despised, whether they were acclaimed critics or actual cats. I know I’m four years late to the trend of talking about this movie, but to me, that means I didn’t fall victim to the siren song of Twitter memes and YouTube reviews. Besides, I’m a theater kid to the bone, and the original musical is a Broadway darling. Armed with snacks and a weighted blanket, I set up the projector, and me and my emotional support roommate settled in just after midnight. Here’s how it went.

12:26. The movie has just started. The opening set looks beautiful and is immediately ruined by the sight of the CGI cat feet. I say a quick prayer on behalf of the overworked and underpaid VFX artists.

12:32. I realize that I’ve never actually listened to the music of Cats all the way through, so I’m going into half of the musical numbers with no context. The lyrics are weird, but the harmonies are pretty decent.

12:42. Why are they making Rebel Wilson do the three-part Gumbie Cat harmony by herself? 

12:43. Oh dear God help me, the mice are children. 

12:50. The one compliment I can give Jason Derulo is that he committed to this role. He could have not committed. Granted, he also could’ve opted out and saved us the sight of CGI Jason Derulo.

12:52. I realize that the cat’s ears aren’t positioned correctly on their heads. I can’t unsee it.

12:54. It finally dawns on me that the songs are about the different personalities and appearances of house cats, and referring to a tuxedo cat with white paws as having “white spats” is kind of adorable. I’m already too far gone to appreciate it. James Corden isn’t actually that bad in this role if you ignore the mid-song dialogue breaks.

1:01. “Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer” is the first song where the cats stop being uncomfortably sexual, and I feel like I can breathe. I like the giant house sets. Male calico cats are extremely rare, but whatever.

1:05. Mr. Mistoffelees is very queer-coded in the original musical. Not in this movie. Fur or not, I know a quirky white man character when I see one.

1:10. I know everyone jokes about the plot of this musical being “the cat who dances the best is chosen to die” but I realize that I truly don’t understand what the equivalent of this ritual is in the meta-narrative, where these cats are normal cats. I’ve never seen real house cats conduct ritual sacrifice before. Maybe I’m just not paying attention.

1:12-1:15. My roommate and I sat in complete silence during our first grace period in this movie. The choreography during the Jellicle ball must be directly from the musical, because it’s stunning to watch. Francesca Hayward is a very talented ballerina, and a full three minutes goes by in which no one is singing or saying the word “meow.” It’s Jellicle bliss.

1:16. Jason Derulo returns. Somehow his British accent is worse.

1:18. Our first snippet of “Memory.” My roommate and I listen in awe to the bastion of freedom that is Jennifer Hudson.

1:22. We both look at each other and ask if the song Victoria is singing is in the soundtrack. I pull up Spotify. It’s not. This song, “Beautiful Ghosts,” was written by Taylor Swift just for the movie. I have no clue why. It serves less narrative purpose than the other songs, which already serve no narrative purpose.

1:24. To quote my roommate: “They cut off Jennifer Hudson for this shit?”

1:25. Dame Judi Dench says “would you like to see me make the Jellicle choice?” She’s just talented enough to make it sound genuine and kind. A miracle, honestly.

1:27. Sir Ian McKellen makes me feel sad about a humanoid cat named “Asparagus.” The fact that two actors in this movie have knighthoods is terrifying. If they’re not safe, no one is.

1:31. At this point, the edible is fully underway. Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat is starting off his song, which I like a lot in the original. I don’t know how much of my enjoyment of this number is the gummy, but I’m thrilled by the tap-dancing sequences and the harmonies are very rich. The 7/4 time signature meshes well with my developing madness.

1:36. The sultry bass kicks in. Neither of us know what’s going on. My roommate looks over at me with a horrified expression and simply says, “It’s her.”

1:39. I’m about to say the worst thing. It’s the Worst Thing, but I’m putting it on the public internet. And it’s this: so, I’m not a Taylor Swift fan. But she’s an attractive woman, and I won’t take that away from her. All of this being said, in the haze of my depersonalizing brain, I am absolutely enchanted by Taylor Swift in CGI cat form as she performs Macavity’s song, and for the span of three minutes, I think she’s the most beautiful and talented person I’ve ever seen in my life. Bombalurina is a bombshell.

1:41. Why is Idris Elba’s fur the same color as his skin? It’s so terrifying. I hate everything about this. He’s a ginger cat, they just sang about it. I don’t care that he’s a black man and it could be “problematic,” just make him a ginger cat. You couldn’t ignore sociopolitics for one second and think about what was best for our collective sanity, huh, Tom? Not even a little bit, Tom?

1:47. Again, I think it’s adorable that Mr. Mistoffelees is the kind of house cat that steals things, and that makes him a “magician.” This song goes on for way too long though.

1:50. He starts flying. I ask my roommate if we’re seeing the same thing because it feels like a hallucination. She is seeing the same thing. I’m going to cry.

1:55. We start our full rendition of “Memory.” Again, both of us are silent. Much like Grizabella, I remember the time I knew what happiness was.

1:58. Jennifer Hudson belts her heart out and officially earns this movie one star. No notes. You ate, ma’am.

2:02. Of course, Grizabella is the Jellicle choice, so they usher her into a hot air balloon and it’s very dystopian.

2:05. Judi Dench looks me right in the eye and talks to me about cats for what feels like twenty minutes. When the harmony kicks back in, I feel viscerally attacked. I ask my roommate if hallucinating is a common symptom of edibles because none of this feels real. I’ve already asked her this. I need to hear the answer again. She assures me that everything I’m seeing is real and somehow that makes it way worse. Judi Dench needs to stop looking at me.

2:11. They take their final bows. The movie is over. 

8:38 a.m. I write an email to my professor. Some elements are fictionalized.

Dear Professor,

Unfortunately, I’m not going to be in class today. You see, “Skimbleshanks: the Railway Cat” was playing in my dreams as I slept off the edible, and I’m a haunted woman now. Not unlike Plato and his allegorical cave, I have seen something I can’t unsee, been exposed to knowledge that has chemically altered my brain. They say your frontal cortex stops developing around the age of 25. I think I’ll need a couple more years.



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