Movies

The Entire Plot Of ‘Cats’ Recreated With Quotes From Baffled Reviews

Years ago, I created the feature Plot Recreated With Reviews based on the premise that there are some movies that you’d rather hear described than actually see. Never has that been more true of a movie than of Cats, from director Tom Hooper (Les Miserables, The King’s Speech) a movie in which a cast of actors seemingly sorted by a random name generator are digitally shrunk down to the size of cats and turned into genital-free anthropomorphic theater kids who can’t help but sing sexy songs about… well, about being cats, I guess. When the first Cats trailer dropped the internet became fun again for almost an entire day.

So here it is, all the exposition fit to (re)print, arranged into chronological order so that we might experience the film right along with those brave hacks who subjected themselves to it and lived to tell the… tail. I’m very sorry for this, but you try reading hundreds of Cats reviews and see if you don’t get irreversible brain damage from all the puns.


THE SETUP

Cats features grown humans crawling around in furry suits pretending to be cats. (Roger Ebert.com)

Based on T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” a 1939 collection of poetry for children, (SF Chronicle)

Cats tosses its audience into an unrecognizable world where cats communicate with one another by constantly singing songs about themselves in the third person. (Detroit News)

Here, as opposed to the stage show, the action is set in 1930s London, where Eliot would have lived. (AP)

Cats proceeds thusly: a white cat named Victoria (Francesca Hayward) is abandoned in a junkyard and promptly falls in with a gang of London street felines who call themselves the Jellicle cats. (ThePlaylist)

They sing a song “Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats,” but since the lyrics are almost totally incomprehensible during all the group numbers, it’s hard to get a line on what is going on. (Roger Ebert.com)

Over a single night in London, (Rolling Stone) the Jellicle Cats make their way to the Jellicle Ball. (ThePlaylist)

The ball marks the night when, in a curious spin on the concept of cats having nine lives (ScreenCrush), one lucky cat is chosen to rise skyward to the “Heaviside Layer.” (AP)

The Jellicle cats introduce themselves through song and dance, and Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench) decides which of them to kill (ThePlaylist), a literal catfight for the right of reincarnation. (ScreenCrush)

Each song merely introduces a new cat, and each cat has one personality trait: this one is magic! This one likes trains! This one’s fat! (Empire)

The “winner” is then sent aloft on a flaming chandelier stolen from the set of “The Phantom of the Opera,” (Toronto Star)

This after hearing these portentously “climactic” words: “You. Are. The Jellicle Choice!” (National Review)


IDRIS ELBA’S ABS, IAN MCKITTEN, AND CATNIP

If Dench embodies good, Idris Elba’s character, the green-eyed Macavity, embodies evil. He’s desperate to win the ball’s prize, even if he has to abduct every other cat he’s competing with, (AP) dumping them on a barge in the Thames. (Daily Mirror)

Oh and also he can teleport. Literally, Idris Elba, as a talking, dancing cat with washboard abs, will screech “Meow!” and Macavity and his captives will vanish in a puff of smoke (ScreenCrush), shouting things like “Ineffable!” every time he goes. (Boston Globe)

(a lot of the cats are nude, but Elba looks really nude) (Indiewire)

Jennyanydots (Rebel Wilson) lives in her owner’s kitchen and sleeps by day, but dances with cockroaches by night. (AP)

“Bustopher Jones” (James Corden) is a street cat decked out in tail-coat and spats (Rolling Stone) eating a lot of realistic-looking garbage in close-up. (Chicago Tribune)

“Mr. Mephistopheles” (Laurie Davidson) does magic tricks. “Skimbleshanks” (Steven McRae) commandeers railway cars with the power of his tap-dancing. (Chicago Tribune)

There’s Sir Ian McKellan as Gus the Theater Cat, singing of his lost youth. (Rolling Stone)

McKellen, in particular, really gets into character, licking dishes of cream and meowing. (Crooked Marquee)

McKellen, who also pauses in the middle of a sentence to casually butt his head against a pillar in a truly tabbyish fashion, wins the Oscars of Cats. (Vulture)

Noted cat fanatic Taylor Swift shows up late in the movie (Detroit News) executing a joyless burlesque shimmy after descending on the scene astride a crescent moon that ejaculates iridescent catnip. (New York Times)

She sprinkles catnip over her fellow kitties and wears high heels on her cat feet, for some reason. (Detroit News)

Over all of this jazz-hands talent-show activity looms the there-and-not-there Macavity, the monster of depravity (Rolling Stone) perched on the tops of buildings like an ominous bat-signal. Macavity shows up to wreck everybody else’s “act,” for no discernible reason. (RogerEbert.com)

I had to resist the urge to remove a shoe to throw at the screen, although it was amusing to hear Ray Winstone’s Captain Growltiger and Ian McKellen’s Gus the Theatre Cat attempt to hit a note, any note. (Toronto Star)

Hate-watchers may be relieved to see James Corden end up in a bin. (Irish Times)


ARE WE STILL WATCHING THIS?

It starts to dawn about 45 minutes in that we’ve been watching singing, dancing cats for quite a while. (Crooked Marquee)

Many of the cats do their number and are never seen again. (RogerEbert.com)

The actors have tails and fur, but also hands. The lady cats have bosoms. (National Review)

Sometimes they walk and talk like humans, and other times they crawl around and nuzzle each other like felines. I know what you’re thinking — is this a sex thing? (Vulture)

All of these cats seem horny as hell. (Mashable)


THE BIG NUMBER

The central figure, besides Victoria, is Grizabella (Jennifer Hudson), a bedraggled cat who’s the “Delta Dawn” of the cat world, shunned by the rest of the cats for her disreputable past. (RogerEbert.com)

Is the implication that Grizabella became an outcast because she did sex work, and if so, what does sex work for cats entail and why are the other cats so goddamn judgmental about it? (Vulture)

Hudson nearly busts a lung over-emoting on the show’s only memorable song, “Memory” (Rolling Stone), cowering and belting with rivers of tears and snot. (New York Times)

It’s a song about memory and moonlight and… honestly, I get a little lost, trying to follow what she’s so upset about. (RogerEbert.com)

Hudson sobs so violently throughout her performance it’s as though director Tom Hooper was just out of shot holding a gun to an actual kitten. (Little White Lies)

Hudson sings this song twice, so don’t worry if you don’t hear the full belt the first time. (AP)


TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES

Cats suffers from a problem common in contemporary filmed musicals. The musical doesn’t trust the audience, doesn’t trust that the dancing in and of itself is exciting enough to hold our interest. (RogerEbert.com)

Hooper keeps cutting from long shots to medium shots to closeups so that the eye can never appreciate the simple beauty of a full body in graceful motion. (Rolling Stone)

Twice during Steven McRae’s tap number for “Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat,” the camera pulls back for an extra-wide shot that turns the performers into dots on the horizon, as though taunting the audience for wanting to actually see what’s going on. (Vulture)

Those odd, humanoid features are so off-putting and inconsistently designed that the characters actually become very interesting to watch. Trying to solve the puzzle of why each of these creatures looks so unpleasant, and what could be done to make it less so, is perhaps Cats’ most attractive quality. (Crooked Marquee)


CURIOUS ANATOMY

Cats sing, dance on two legs, and recite T.S. Eliot poetry in half-Cockney accents. (AP)

In one particularly wacky moment, a hairball is used as a projectile weapon. (ScreenCrush)

They have uncanny cat ears sticking out of their human skulls and long tails trailing from their human butts. The women sport furry breasts. (ThePlaylist)

The cats have human feet, which are fur-covered, and human hands, which are not. (Crooked Marquee)

Why are some cats wearing hats? Is that a cat-sized fork it’s holding with its human hand? (The Sun)

Why do they have breasts but no nipples? (Irish Times)

Why do the breakdancing cats — yes, there are breakdancing cats — wear trainers? Why is there a tail dance that looks unfailingly like synchronized erections? (Empire)

Why is the scale of things so weirdly inconsistent — in the same scene, one cat successfully wears human shoes while another wears a human ring as a bracelet? (Seattle Times)

…baby mice with faces of young girls and the tiny chorus line of cockroach Rockettes with human faces — that Jennyanydots gleefully swallows with a crunch… (Boston Globe)

Some cats are furry, some are unnervingly shiny and smooth. Some cats wear actual fur coats on top of their own literal fur coats, others do not. There are no rules. Nothing about the design of these demonic CGI creations make sense. (Little White Lies)

The effect is truly horrifying, like a Snapchat filter created by David Cronenberg. (Little White Lies)

Rebel Wilson’s moggy actually unzips her fur to reveal a full dress underneath. (The Sun)

Does this mean that Jennyanydots is a kind of Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs type? (Vulture)


THE EXCITING CONCLUSION

Reader, none of those questions get answered, including the most pressing — where are their bumholes? Why? Well, because absolutely jack all happens in this film. (The Sun)

My take on it was this: “The creator of the Annoying Orange videos on YouTube won the lottery and hired a cast of people he’d like to see falter.” (The Sun)

The movie teeters by the end, ambling through a fourth-wall-breaking finale that somehow injects a listless quality into the captivating tableaux. (Indiewire)

Looking straight into the camera at the end, Dench delivers a strange homily that looks like a P.S.A. “A cat is not a dog,” Dench lectures us. (National Review)

Once Hooper’s 110 minutes of Cats are over, theater is dead. One lucky Jellicle cat is dead. And we unchosen ones are left, tragically, to continue living. (ThePlaylist)

Phew. Well, that sounded… interesting. I feel like I’ve been through an ordeal and I haven’t even seen it myself. Until next time, Jellicles.

Vince Mancini is on Twitter. You can access his archive of reviews here.

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