Cats Parent Guide
The first half of the movie is so dull as to be almost unwatchable. Even a better second half can't save this warmed over Broadway classic.
Parent Movie Review
I won’t ever forget the sense of wonder I felt watching Cats on stage in Los Angeles in 1985. I was swept away by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical score and intrigued by the staging. It was a magical night.
Cats is back, adapted for the big screen. Although there’s lots of CGI wizardry here, the magic I felt all those years ago only flickers to life sporadically. As I sat through the movie, watching the colorful images splash across a massive screen and listening to the unforgettable music pour out of the surround sound speakers, I wondered why this production lacked the enchantment of the stage performance. After two hours musing in a dark theater, I came up with some answers.
This production’s most obvious problem is the appearance of the cats themselves. In the stage show, the cats are obviously humans dressed in costumes and the audience accepts them as such. But in this movie adaptation, the actors are covered in CGI fur making them look part human/part cat. Our brains register the ears, whiskers, fur, and tails which look cat-like, but we also see the human eyes, noses, hands and overall proportions. The female cats also have very obvious breasts, which is almost as disconcerting as their human faces. The shift between human and feline appearance happens so often it’s difficult to settle into one single perspective on the characters. It creates a feline version of the uncanny valley phenomenon that can be so disconcerting in computer generated human characters.
Cats also has massive problems with pacing; the entire first half of the movie is almost unwatchable. I spent the first 40 minutes or so squirming like I was attending a bad high school musical, checking my watch every ten minutes. The film only hits its stride when Judy Dench and Ian McKellan appear on screen at the halfway mark. Dench, who plays Old Deuteronomy, carries herself with the stateliness befitting the cat who will make the Jellicle choice and select the cat who gets to be reborn to a new life. And McKellan, as Gus the Theatre Cat, possesses a pathos and tattered dignity that is incredibly poignant. This duo, along with Jennifer Hudson, who plays the melancholy, despondent Grisabella, finally bring a solid emotional core to the film and give the audience something to care about. And when Hudson belts out a show-stopping, tear-infused version of “Memory”, the magic glimmers again.
Sadly, even the wonderful musical score doesn’t have enough charm to save the film. There’s not a lot of serious negative content, but if the number of bathroom breaks taken by the kids sitting in front of me is any indication, this isn’t a movie for young viewers. There’s no point spending good money for your kids to get bored - they can do that for free at home. We don’t have nine lives and don’t need to waste the one we get on a charmless film.Directed by Tom Hooper. Starring Idris Elba, Taylor Swift, and Ian McKellan. Theatrical release December 20, 2019. Updated April 7, 2020
Watch the trailer for Cats
Rating & Content Info
Why is Cats rated PG? Cats is rated PG by the MPAA for some rude and suggestive humor.
Violence: A woman throws a bag containing a cat into the trash. Cats hiss at each other on several occasions, sometimes they also scratch. Several cats disappear in a puff of dust: they rematerialize on a barge where they are held captive. A cat gets knocked off a chair and on to the floor. A cat’s paw is caught in a mousetrap. A cat accidentally hits herself in the head with the chain for a window blind. A cat eats some dancing cockroaches. A cat grabs food out of another cat’s hands. A cat falls and lands, legs apart on a trash can, hurting his groin. A cat is trapped when a necklace she is wearing gets hooked on to a bedpost; she is in danger because a dog is barking nearby. A cat scratches another cat’s head and causes pain. Cats throw things around a house, breaking fragile objects. A cat accidentally hits herself with a metal chain; she hits another cat in the groin with it. Cats fight; there is hissing, clawing, kicking, pushing. A cat makes a cat get on a plank over the river. Another cat falls into the river. A cat falls from a ribbon attached to a hot air balloon.
Sexual Content: A cat scratches/rubs her upper thigh and groin area. Cats often move in ways that could be seen as sensual; in one scene a cat is “twerking”. The cats have CGI costumes that emphasize their anatomy. On a few occasions, cats remove items of clothing they are wearing over their fur. There is mention of a cat being neutered. A cat jumps around with a human’s bra.
Profanity: None noted.
Alcohol / Drug Use: A cat sings about having some gin. A cat shakes gold “catnip” powder over a crowd and other cats spray it up close at individual characters. The catnip makes them twitch and shake; some fall over.
Page last updated April 7, 2020
Cats Parents' Guide
This film is based on Cats, the smash hit musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber. For more information about that production, check out the following link:
The New York Times: “Cats”: What to Know Before you See It
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Cats was inspired by T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. You can read it for free here: Project Gutenberg: Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats
Other books that have launched hit musicals include Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables inspired a musical by the same name. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum was the source for the classic film. Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist inspired the musical Oliver!. Lin Manuel Miranda was inspired by Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton in writing the blockbuster hit Hamilton.