Don’s review published on Letterboxd:
By now, you're probably aware that Cats has had a reception not dissimilar to Harold Shipman at a nursing home Christmas party. Seemingly doomed from the start, Cats has went from a perturbing trailer to a career-ending car crash from which no one will recover. 1.5 star average? Yikes.
And technically? A horrific film. The obfuscating cinematography and embarrassing visual effects come together to create a grimy, frightening orgasm of feline moans and dank, dark London streets that calls to mind a death-marked Dickensian tragedy, opening with poor Francesca Hayward being thrown into the rubbish like this film to the critics and continuing in this manner for forty minutes or so; it's depressing, confusing, bewildering and comically bizarre, oftentimes in the same musical number. From Rebel Wilson (awful, by the way) gyrating her way through an embarrassing Busby Berkeley-inspired mice and cockroach routine, to Jason Derulo (well-cast but again, gyrating) pirouetting and pop-and-locking whilst cats cover themselves in milk and squirt it into each others' mouths (and don't even get me started on James Cordon bounding through stomach-turning refuse), it feels like a bad acid trip from which there is no easy way to bounce back that doesn't require expensive therapy. Considering I hated the stage show and only went to see this to hate-watch and make snarky observations, this was just what I had expected.
And then, a strange thing happened... I began to enjoy it. Not in a judgemental, caustic way - but in a genuine, awe-struck manner. This may be due to my weakness for musicals (drama school and that), or that I was just exhausted from being battered over the head with the film's frantic pace and constant musical numbers, but it won. What Tom Hooper and Lloyd Webber have dreamed up is sometimes dull, and always weird, but I have to admit that there are several moments and sequences wherein the fantastical imagination involved to make this come to life and the supremely talented cast finally feel like it's rising above the film's technical atrociousness to something that feels more like a missed opportunity with some flecks of potential, rather than an outright failure. Examples of this: the Jellicle Ball, fantastically choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler, Skimbleshanks' tap-dancing train-ride and anything involving the fabulous Jennifer Hudson, among others. The allure loses steam somewhat towards the end, but J-Hud's Memory is ridiculously moving.
This is an atonal, disorganised, fascinatingly aimless mess of a film that should have never been green-lit... but it's here. And I find myself oddly endeared to it. I admire the fearlessness required here to conjure up something this truly balls-to-the-wall. The cast give it their all and I think I shall give my all to protecting the film from its haters. Ignore them, I'm right here, babies! This is a misunderstood anomaly/masterpiece of fetishistic, Bidgoodian horror. No matter what you think of it, you won't be able to get it out of your head.