The feline fever dream that is the Cats trailer hit the internet yesterday, exploding tufts of CGI fur over everyone's feeds. After assuring each other that yes, this was real—Hollywood had indeed created a movie about a herd of cats caught in the Uncanny Valley—the overwhelming reaction was one of horrified revulsion.
It is hard to blame anyone for feeling repulsed. When James Corden said, "These are people but they're cats and it's kind of blowing my mind" in the behind-the-scenes featurette, many thought the comedian was just making another joke. But no. These are people, but they're cats.
Even if the viewers could get over the characters, prehensile tails and all, they'd have to reckon with the sets. The cats in Cats are meant to be the size of cats, so everything is oversized—but the scale doesn't seem consistent. Sometimes James Corden-cat takes up a solid chunk of a trash can; other times, Francesca Hayward-cat is doll-sized, drowning in feathers.
Yes, it is weird. The visual approach entirely eschews logic, and despite the star-stacked cast and prestige director Tom Hooper, it seems like there was no adult supervision at any point during production. But that is also why it is great.
Cats does not make any kind of sense. It is based on a bunch of poems by T.S. Eliot, and its only discernible plot is about cats making the "Jellicle choice," which means choosing one of their peers to ascend to the Heavenside Layer and get reincarnated. (Yes, I'll wait while you go back and read that sentence three more times.)
Mostly it's just a bunch of songs and cat characters with odd names.
If there ever was source material that needed this bizarre treatment, it is Cats. The musical is so, so strange; you could be forgiven for wondering how it was even made at all. But it happened, and it was weird and great, and this movie will be too. In a theatrical release schedule ridden with superheroes and other overgrown franchises, Cats will be our escape into absurdity.
Decades from now, we will remind each other that Taylor Swift and Idris Elba were once CGI cats, and we will wonder how any self-respecting Hollywood executive let any of this happen.
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