Dec 27, 2019

The Three Unwatchable Scenes of "Cats"

On Christmas Day I went to see Cats, the 2019 movie based on stage musical based on some poems by T.S. Eliot.  We were the only ones in the theater.

The previous movie version was awful.  No plot.  Some cats introduce themselves, and one is chosen to ascend to the Heaviside Layer and be reborn.

The new version is awful, too, but not nearly as bad. 

Granted, the cat costumes are grotesque; it takes awhile before you can look at them without shuddering. But what do you expect from human-cat hybrids?

There are only three scenes tthat are actually unwatchable; the others mostly suffer from poor direction that is always focusing on something other than what we want to be looking at.

 And the plot plods along. But at least there’s a plot.

In 1920s London, the Jellicles are a religious cult of housecats and strays who say "Jellicle" about as often as Grindr conversations say "cock."    They meet once a year, when the Jellicle Moon is full, for a Jellicle Ball, where the head Jellicle, Old Deuteronomy, will choose one to ascend to the Heaviside Layer and be reborn.  Cue Logan’s Run: “Renew!  Renew!  Renew!”

Victoria {Francesca Hayward] happens to be abandoned by her humans on the Jellicle Night of the Jellicle Moon of the Jellicle Ball, so she becomes the focus character,invited to wander around and watch the Jellicle Rehearsals: cats  singing and dancing about why they should be chosen:

Unwatchable Scene #1: Jennyanydots (Rebel Wilson) does a horrible risque dance and then displays her trained mice and cockroaches.

Bustopher Jones (James Corden) is fat and elitist.

Mungojerrie (Danny Collins) and his female partner Rumpleteaser are  petty thieves.

Rum Tum Tugger (Jason Derulo,left) is a "curious cat", curious meaning "strange.": he always wants the opposite of what you offer him.

I forget the others; there are a lot.  Victoria views all this under the watchful eye of Munkustrap (Robbie Fairchild, left), who seems to be the cult leader, and Mr. Mistofelees (Laurie Davidson, second photo), a "magical cat" who has a crush on her.

Problem: Macavity (Idris Elba, top photo), the master-criminal, who runs the prostitution and illegal drug trade in the city, and dresses like a stereotypical pimp, wants to be chosen (why?  he's already got a lot of power).  But he loses every year.  So this year he's using his dark magic to kidnap the contestants and tie them up on a barge in the middle of the Thames.  If he's the only contestant, he has to win, right?

They know that the chosen one is going to die, right?

Old Deutoronomy (Judi Dench) rejects him anyway, so he kidnaps her and threatens her. The Jellicles have to discover their inner strength and work together to save her.  They all happily sing and dance and nuzzle.  The end.

Nope.  Out in the shadows stands Grizabella (Jennifer Hudson), a former singing star who became one of Macavity’s prostitutes, ostracized by the Jellicles (rather a judgmental lot).  But Victoria takes pity on her, and invites her to meet Old Deutoronomy.

Unwatchable scene #2: She sings “Memory,” formerly my favorite song from the musical, as a screeching, agonizing bad complaint about how bad her life is.  The “new day” that has begun is not a ray of hope, it is a nightmare.

Surprise, Old Deutoronomy chooses Grizabella to be reborn.  Wait – this “fallen woman” who mopes about, complaining about how awful her life is now, best embodies the Jellicle spirit?

Ok, so she flies up in a chandelier-balloon (to her death!).  The end now?

Nope.  Unwatchable Scene #3: Old Deutoronmy breaks the  fourth wall and instructs us on how to address a cat (“O Cat!”).  We walked out of the theater.

Heterosexism:  None.  Old Deutoromy and Gus the Theater Cat gaze lustfully at each other, and Victoria has a subdued flirtation with Mr. Mefistoffiles – but no fade out kiss.  Cats don’t kiss, they nuzzle.

Gay Characters: Bustopher Jones gets a boyfriend, shown feeding each other in a brief scene.

Beefcake:  Sometimes the physique is visible under the cat costumes.

I  give it a C- C if you keep your eyes closed during the scene with the dancing cockroaches.  All in all, not a bad way to spend Christmas afternoon.  And there were a lot of cute guys at the theate (waiting to see something else).


  1. I thought it was more ridiculous than terrible and some of the male dancers were sexy.

  2. You're braver than me to see this mess! Thanks for the warning.

    1. It was mostly just curiosity -- how bad could it be compared to the 1998 movie Turns out that you can't have a plot and a bunch of songs that don't advance the plot in any way. Just make it a musical revue, like the Broadway show, and be done with it.

    2. Boomer I agree with you- the "plot" makes no sense- and the various mostly forgettable songs don't tell a story- this will become a cult classic of bad cinema

  3. The weirdest thing was the ending when the chose cat flies away in a balloon? Seriously on stage she seems to enter some sort of space ship - and I can see the sequel that will never be "Cats in Space"

    1. The Heaviside Layer, named after Oliver Heaviside, is a region of ionized gas about 90 km up. You'd need a spaceship to get up that high.


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