I like musicals. I like movies and stories where characters express themselves through well produced, lyrically interesting, well choreographed songs. Cats the movie has none of that.
The plot, what little there is, consists of a stray, Victoria, getting introduced to a group of cats called the Jellicals (we’ll just ignore the fact we get almost nothing about them) participate in a singing competition in order to go to the Heaviside Layer (rebirth or go to heaven. It’s not clear and doesn’t matter) to get a new life.
As a singular premise is not bad. Everything else does not work at all. I mean of course the CGI is atrocious. The worst part is that they have human hands. Even as the fact Judi Dench and Ian McKellan are just cats, but their hands are just hands is truly haunting. All of the non-cat creatures were way worse however. Mice, rats, and bugs were also human people and looked unfinished, out of place, and dare-say pre-Pixar levels of bad CGI.
The music and choreography is bad. Not just the songs, but the production, mixing, and lyrics are weak. There are a few okay songs, but the fact the music itself is so quiet that you can hear the creepy, scratching, sliding, and tapping of feet on the floor is about as bad as watching a sitcom with the laugh track removed. The choreography is dreadful. It devolves into tediously long ballet that, because they look like half human/half cat hybrids, is more traumatizing than elegant. The voices themselves are also bad. So many of the vocals are mumbling, off key, misdirected, or some combination of the three; and when you’re movie is 95% singing that is a deathnail.
The worst thing however is that the movie is not worse. The beginning is quite bad. Victoria is introduced to a number of cats. All of that was near unwatchable. Rebel Wilson (of course), Jason Derulo, and James Corden’s songs were all the worst. BUT, once Judi Dench shows up it just gets boring. They stay in one location, the songs get less bad, and the little actual story that is there comes into play. Not all of the songs are good, but they are not James Corden stopping a musical number to get see-sawed up to a barrel to land on his non-existent balls and get hurt.
The most distracting is that if all of this were traditional animation it would be better. Good might be pushing it. Too many of the songs are bad, and the characters have no personality outside of their song, but it would be less horrifying (the furries would still win, but it wouldn’t be people trying to move like cats and totally failing), and it would be more creative (could do more with sets, camera work, cinematography, and scale to make shots that are impossible in live action) to get the story across.
What best illustrates my point is that after the James Corden song Victoria runs into two burglar cats who destroy houses and steal stuff. They take Victoria in and show her their ways. The song itself is bad, but the constant jump cuts to get cool shots regardless of the previous (like it’s a music video) is what kills it. A scene like this would be neat. Take a nice, methodic tour of destruction through the house until they end by tearing up the bed. It would show creativity, choreography, and care that this movie does not have. Also Rebel Wilson and James Corden making cat puns are pure torture (“don’t mess with the crazy cat lady” – actual line said before she hits herself with a chain in the face).
See it. Don’t see it. If you have the right people with you it will be enjoyable. If you see it in a crowded theater (with actual fans and kids) you will have to late till you leave and laugh at it all to have a good times, but sit in terror the physical representation of heart burn until then.