Ever since the first trailer dropped for director Tom Hooper's upcoming film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats, it seemed like moviegoers were in for a blockbuster trainwreck. The character designs were hideous and confusing, both James Corden and Taylor Swift starred as insufferable singing felines, and the whole thing just looked bleak. Now reviews have confirmed that it's absolutely dire. Not "dire" in the sense that it's just a bad movie, but according to some critics, the forthcoming feature is a "monstrosity" and a "Jellicle catastrophe." As SlashFilm's Hoai-Tran Bui puts it, "There is a thin line between idiocy and genius, and Cats pukes a hairball on it and rubs its ass all over it." What does that even mean? It sounds bad!
As of press time, Cats currently boasts a 17% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the same score that The Fanatic, Fred Durst's bonkers stalker movie starring John Travolta also received. It also seems like the film is so out there that it may have totally warped critics' sense of reality. Just take a look at some of the most defeated, hilarious, and scathing lines from the first Cats reviews. They're truly something to behold.
Alison Wilmore, Vulture
"To assess Cats as good or bad feels like the entirely wrong axis on which to see it. It is, with all affection, a monstrosity."
Peter Debruge, Variety
"Nine may not be enough lives for some of the stars to live down their involvement in this poorly conceived and executed adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit musical."
Hannah Woodhead, Little White Lies
"I felt the light inside me slowly fading."
Tyler 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."
David Sexton, London Evening Standard
"Nearly as obscene as The Human Centipede...It all just feels so wrong. Whether they are human or feline, what on earth has happened in those smoothed out groins, so much exposed by the leotards? And let’s not think about those tails that keep erecting for emphasis. All of the characters appear much more to advantage when dressed in clothes (whatever the logic of that)."
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
"The setting is London, it does look post-nuclear. There aren’t any people, so maybe there were Bomb blasts—or maybe a bio disaster, causing cat-human mutants with digital fur."
Eric Kohn, Indiewire
"Overall, however, it’s a spectacular paradox of a movie—at once too crazy for this world and not quite crazy enough"
Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times
"With its grotesque design choices and busy, metronomic editing, “Cats” is as uneasy on the eyes as a Hollywood spectacle can be, tumbling into an uncanny valley between mangy realism and dystopian artifice. But then again, maybe this look was the appropriate choice for a movie in which making sense was the very last priority. At some point during “Cats”—I think I was trying to distract myself from the richly metaphorical image of James Corden sifting through garbage—it occurred to me that only one letter separates its title from Pixar’s “Cars,” to name another hermetically sealed, digitally polished, heavily anthropomorphized family-friendly entertainment set in a world from which actual human beings are creepily, apocalyptically absent."
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter
"Derulo makes the most of his sexy, athletic appearance; Swift sparkles in her one-song role, descending from a smashed skylight on a theatrical crescent moon, sprinkling catnip; and Laurie Davidson as "The Magical Mr. Mistoffelees" gets the kind of bells-and-whistles showstopper that should make young kids perk up. I found it all exhausting."
Brian Lowry, CNN
"An eclectic roster of stars claw out a few meager moments, but as screen experiences go, this is a memory best forgotten. To be fair, the challenge facing director/co-writer Tom Hooper ("Les Miserables") was perhaps insurmountable, to the extent that Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical has always been more about spectacle and the theatrical experience than story. The near-absence of a plot might work well enough in a live context, but in a movie, it's an awfully tedious way to spend time for those with only one life."
Nate Adams, The Only Critic
"Congratulations to dogs."
To be fair, they’re not all brutal pans. Us Weekly’s Mara Reinstein said the film was “not as bad as expected,” while the Arizona Republic’s Kerry Lengel wrote, “I didn’t hate it.” While neither are exactly glowing reviews at this point Cats should take what it can get.