Since the internet first laid eyes on the "Cats" trailer over the summer, the live-action (esque) adaptation of the blockbuster musical has been the subject of both delighted mocking and frenzied bewilderment.
Why do the cats have human lips, noses, hands and breasts, confused viewers wondered. How come the Taylor Swift cat is dressed in a necklace, high heels and nothing else? What, exactly, is the scale here? What kind of fur coats are the ones worn by some of the cats? Are they... cat fur? How did so many big-name celebrities agree to be part of this? Did anyone ask for this movie to be made? No, really: who thought this $95-million spectacle was a good idea?
Five months after the two-minute preview exploded into public consciousness, the movie made its debut in theatres. Alas, it seems the finished product answered precious few of the questions the trailer raised. It did, however, inspire a wave of absolutely scathing, especially creative reviews from critics, who were apparently as perplexed by the film as everyone else was by the trailer. And had just as much of a field day with it.
"To call Cats a cinematic experience unlike any other does not do justice to precisely how mind-meltingly bizarre Cats is," wrote Mashable's Angie Han. "To say it must be seen to be believed is to undersell just how hard it is to believe it even once you've seen it. Cats is a movie to make you feel sky-high even when you're stone-cold sober, to push an otherwise even-keeled mind into Joker-like peals of hysterical random laughter."
As of Friday evening, "Cats" had achieved a score of 20 percent on the movie-review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, which offered this synposis: "Despite its fur-midable cast, this 'Cats' adaptation is a clawful mistake that will leave most viewers begging to be put out of their mew-sery." Over at Metacritic, the movie didn't fare much better, sitting at a 32 out of 100.
Reviewers had choice words for what they'd just experienced. It was a "half-digested hair of a movie," a "cinematic disaster of epic proportions," a "nightmarish anatomy lesson." One questioned whether director Tom Hooper had a "personal vendetta" against Andrew Lloyd Weber.
While there was scattered praise for the commitment of Hooper and cast to their vision, the reviews took issue with the CGI technology, the thin plot, the overuse of the unexplained word "jellicle," the cockroaches with children's faces imposed on them, the strangely sexual energy of the cat-humans and even the original Broadway show underlying the movie.
Some critics claimed they had to "resist the urge to remove a shoe to throw at the screen" or wanted to pray "for the sweet release of death" after tiring of "cats singing about what kind of cat they are."
Others wondered if it was so bad it was actually good.
"Cats is terrible, but it's also kind of great," wrote Time's Stephanie Zacharek.
Here are excerpts from some of the more memorable reviews.
'Oh God, my eyes': Ty Burr, Boston Globe
I truly believe our divided nation can be healed and brought together as one by "Cats" - the musical, the movie, the disaster. In other news, my eyes are burning. Oh God, my eyes.
In fact, there are moments in "Cats" I would gladly pay to unsee, including the baby mice with faces of young girls and the tiny chorus line of cockroach Rockettes - again, with human faces - that Jennyanydots gleefully swallows with a crunch. Anyone who takes small children to this movie is setting them up for winged-monkey levels of night terrors.
Cats Is Terrible, But It's Also Kind of Great: Stephanie Zacharek, Time
As people gazed at trailers for the film, straining to reckon with the vision of nude-looking cat people prancing around in fur that looked as if it had been airbrushed onto their skin, a collective wordless cry rang out through the Internet. It sounded like "Eww."
But once you're immersed in the full-strength version of Cats, you begin to view the fur-skin epidermal surface covering of its principals as normal, and this is when you know you've gone too far to be saved.
'Cats': A Broadway Musical Adaptation Straight Outta the Litter Box: Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
Let the sheer grinding monotony of Cats stand as a measuring stick for future cinematic takes on Broadway musicals that hope to match its unparalleled, bottom-feeding dreadfulness. In his prize-winning "Angels in America," playwright Tony Kushner wrote a scene in which the rat-bastard lawyer Roy Cohn is on the phone sucking up to a client who wants tickets to a Broadway smash. When the caller says, "Cats," Cohn sticks his fingers down his throat and mock vomits. Look for that gesture to be repeated by all who must endure this hellish fiasco of a film version. This disaster of a movie shouldn't happen to a dog.
'Cats' Is Impossible to Review: Adam Nayman, The Ringer
As I can think of no more culturally resonant image for the end of 2019 than James Corden diving face-first into a dumpster containing CGI garbage and rooting around for five agonizing minutes, I'm tempted to call Cats an accidental masterpiece: not the Christmas blockbuster we need, but the one that we deserve.