“Cats,” from the bowels of uncanny valley


Bianca McCarty, Co-editor

Ever since the trailer for the movie adaptation of the legendary Broadway musical, Cats, was released, the Internet has been in uproar, for good reason. With the combination of a celebrity cast and unsettling CGI, Cats is just the kind of thing that the Internet enjoys joking about. The “cats movie” hashtag on Twitter is filled with meme after meme expressing confusion over the strangeness of the movie.

Of course, being the Internet savvy teenager I am, I couldn’t pass up a chance to see the monstrosity myself.

For some unknown and confusing reason, my mother legitmately wanted to see Cats. As did my younger brother, mostly due to his current Taylor Swift obsession. So my younger sister and I tagged along, curious to see what all the talk was about.

As soon as the movie began, I regretted my decision immediately. There is no way to put it lightly. Cats came from the bowels of uncanny valley.

The movie was truly mesmerizing in a horrible way, but at the same time, insanely painful to watch. If it had not been for my responsibility  to this paper, I would have closed my eyes through the rest of the movie and tried to forget what I’d seen so far. But I had an entertainment column to write, so I kept my eyes open and absorbed every moment of horror.

First of all, poor character design mixed with awful CGI created the strangest viewing experience ever. It was unclear whether the characters were meant to be humans dressed up as cats or actual cats. They hovered between cat and human. Their faces looked like a bad Snapchat filter, human faces and heads with cat ears tacked on. They just looked like humans with fur, ears, and a tail, they even had human hands and feet. Some cats wore clothes and others didn’t. The CGI also failed to make the cats seem like part of their environment. The cats seemed to just be gliding ontop of a flat background, which added to the sense of strangeness.

None of the characters were likable. I understand that it is the nature of Cats, the stage musical, for characters to be introduced in a song and never show up again, but these songs did not show enough personality for the audience to get a sense that they knew this character. Whether it was failure of the actors or the song, or something else entirely, every musical scene felt like the same odd scene over and over again. The main character especially annoyed me. She had no personality other than being confused. I understand that she is meant to be a representative of the audience as we are led through this same world, but could we get a less annoying representative?

Certain moments in the movie were so disturbing to the soul that it is neccesary that I include them in this article to paint a full picture of what I experienced.

First and foremost, when Rebel Wilson as a poorly animated cat unzipped her skin to reveal a sparkly romper and another skin. I have many questions, but too many to list here.

Secondly, Rebel Wilson’s musical number featured cockroaches and mice that were also tiny humans dressed up as their respective creatures. It just didn’t feel right to watch Rebel Wilson eat very small humans, for obvious reasons.

Thirdly, Ian McCellan (well known for playing Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings) as a cat just made me feel discomfort like never before.

And lastly, at the very end of the movie, the old cat named Duetornomy stared into the camera and spoke to the audience directly. After sitting through the entire movie, the last thing I needed was a direct address from the cats of uncanny valley. They broke the fourth wall, but personally I liked that wall between me and the unsettling world of Cats. Whatever this was, I certainly didn’t need to be a part of it.

It’s truly a shame that this movie failed so miserably, especially with such great source material to draw from. In part, I believe this has to do simply with the fact that it is a movie. Elements that made the stage musical great don’t translate well onto the screen. Interesting costuming and whimsy are far more endearing on the stage than the screen. For example, in the musical, it’s okay that the magic system is never explained, but in the movie explaination is expected to make the world feel real. The movie failed to expand on the already established world and bring anything new to the table, and just sullied the legacy of Cats, the musical.

After leaving the theatre, my family expressed their opinions on the movie. My mother somehow enjoyed it, my sister hated it, and my brother “thought Taylor Swift was pretty even as a cat.” Personally, I have never felt more unsettled by a movie in my entire sixteen years of life.