Monday, December 30, 2019

Logan’s Cat Run

A figure writhes in a burlap sack, abandoned by a giant in the middle of an empty alleyway.

This is not Audition. It is something much, much more disturbing.

By this point in time, you’ve probably already read an awful lot about the bizarre realm of hell that is the Cats movie. No, not Cats: The Movie!

Though seriously: if you’re part of the 99.8% of humankind that has not witnessed the 69 minute near-home movie featuring the voices of Michelle Rodriguez and Jeremy Piven, are you really living?

Anyhoo, the opening shot of Cats did indeed make me think of Audition.

And I looked up to the gods and I sang, give me more.

I knew what I was getting into. You don’t look at the internet the week of Christmas 2019 without seeing the headlines. “A Cat-Astrophe!” “Empty the Litterbox!” “Cats Is a Dog” “JUDI DENCH HAS HUMAN HANDS!”

Sure, by the time you’re reading this, your cinema might have the “improved” print, wherein some visual effects were updated a full 10 days after the film’s initial release. Yes, the ever-so-human fingertips were certainly problematic in Cats, but the real, deeper issue came down to the very design. Why even HAVE human hand shapes when fingers are one of the key elements that separates us FROM cats?

Two minutes into Cats, it becomes very, very clear that nobody on the design team of Cats ever actually looked at a real cat. 

You know how Barbie dolls don’t in any way work as examples of human anatomy? Their heads are too large, their legs too long, their pointed feet too tiny to support such long legs and large heads?

Invert all of that and you essentially have the cats of Cats. What they still have in common with Barbie and Ken? Nipple-less breasts and no genitalia.

And yet, AND YET I SAY, will it shock you to hear just how many times Tom Hooper makes a point of having a crotch shot or groin injury?

In fairness, the one set of children in the otherwise drunken adult crowd I saw the film with on a Saturday afternoon seemed to REALLY like it anytime a cat received a groin injury, so there’s that. 

For the rest of the heavily intoxicated audience, Cats packed plenty of alternative entertainment value. The collective gasping at the mustached Shimbleshanks’s wardrobe reveal, a Village People-esque trouser set with sexy suspenders and no shirt! 

The group’s caterwauls when Mr. Mistoffolees’s catchy tune was interrupted by lingering shots on his extremely human fingers! 

The sudden shouts of horror because just when we had finally let our guards down to enjoy some simple tap dancing, the film reminded us that it had found a way to summon H.P. Lovecraft with its human-faced miniature CGI dancing rats.

There is something truly grand about the ambitions of Cats. Long in development hell and expected to be an animated film, this version GOES for it in a way few movies these days do. 

Did it tell its actors?

Watching Cats, I was reminded of the tragedy of Rent: (Not) Live!, wherein a dress rehearsal was used for the final product due to a cast member’s last minute injury. It felt incredibly unfair to its actors, who performed a rehearsal to check their marks, saving their voices with no clue that their practice would air in front of millions.

My point is, did Idris Elba KNOW this is what his Macavity would look like?

Was Taylor Swift shown any kind of rendering of her distractingly large, presumably useless yet very prominent feline breasts?

Did Rebel Wilson see even an early drawing of the CGI kicklining cockroaches she would have to eat on camera? 

Fresh off his public speaking up for the overweight community after Bill Maher’s pointed insults, was James Corden informed that his song—which boils down to four minutes of fat jokes—would play right after Rebel Wilson’s number…which is also visually reduced to four minutes of fat jokes?

And, for some reason, Rebel Wilson stripping off her cat suit to reveal an Esther Williams style…cat suit, a visual gag that gets reused identically an hour later.

By the time Taylor Swift showed up as a naked cat in high heels, sprinkling magical catnip on the quivering feline horde, I was two bourbons deep and could no longer deny the oddest cinematic connection I didn’t see coming this year.

The fine folks at the Alamo Drafthouse already did a great job of showing the parallels between Cats and Logan’s Run, but seriously: substitute LSD-spiked sangria for Swiftian glitter, and Gaspar Noe’s Climax is pretty much Cats in French. The body count is a little higher, but considering the crux of Cats’ plot is Judi Dench choosing one cat to die and fly to heaven on a chandelier hot air ballon, are they so different?

One could make a dozen drinking games out of Cats, all of which would leave its participants, well, ascending to cat heaven on a chandelier hot air balloon. Drink every time you think the cats are going to kiss, but instead stop to perform more snake-like nuzzling movements. Drink when you finally believe you understand the scaling of cats to their surroundings, only to immediately have that undone when a fork that was once the size OF a cat is now dainty enough to fit in her paw hand. 

Drink whenever the human actors are finally in a human acting zone that lets you suspend your constant confusion at what you’re watching, only for said human actor to suddenly perform a cat action so first-day-of-acting-class-exercise that you spit out your popcorn (the otherwise quite good Ian McKellen and his random lick-water-from-bowl motions is especially guilty here). When your eyes just can’t move away from the horrors of human feet with mild CGI cat fur, when they dart away and land on Jennifer Hudson’s Halloween manicure, when a line of spoken dialog hits and it, without fail, includes the tritest cat pun your kindergarten teacher once made…

Accept it. You are drunk. You are dead. Judi Dench is INDEED speaking directly to you, her eyes aimed right at the camera for her final monologue summarizing everything and nothing, “a cat…is not a dog,” she declares, and you’re tempted to ding your empty glass with a knife or shimmy your cat shoulders in agreement. 

It is the only thing that makes any sense in this cruel, genital-less world. 

Cats. Now...and forever


  1. I've yet to read any commentary about this movie that has lessened my desire to see it.
    I need to locate my flask.