“I Walked Out After Fifteen Minutes”: The Junkee Staff Review ‘Cats’

Our staff breaks down the biggest and weirdest film event of 2019.

Cats review

There has been no film more anticipated than Cats in the Junkee office.

Since the day the trailer landed, we’ve been obsessed. We’ve been bamboozled, baffled, led astray. We’ve ranked the cursedness of the various cats, we’ve watched Taylor Swift talk about going to “cat school” and we even interviewed Jason Derulo and tried to get him to EXPLAIN what the hell this film is.

And now, finally, blessedly, bizarrely, we’ve seen it.

And if there’s one thing we can all agree on: we’ve all changed as people. It was an experience. Here are the reviews from Junkee staff.

Rob Stott, Managing Editor

Cats (2019) is truly one of the most bonkers experiences I’ve ever had in a cinema, and I loved every second of it.

I love trash cinema, and Cats is the Citizen Kane of trash. If you’re going to see Cats — and you absolutely should — you shouldn’t expect it to be good, but you should expect to be shocked, horrified and entertained from start to finish.

I saw it in a cinema full of cynical journalists and film critics who were always going to be hard to impress. But there was this lovely middle-aged lady in front of me who appeared to be genuinely open to the idea that the film might be good. She laughed along with the jokes and clapped after the songs. But by the end of the film, she was right there with the rest of us, laughing at, not with, the film. But I can say for certain that she had a great time.

And that, to me, is the wonderful journey of Cats.

I will say this: Jason Derulo is genuinely quite good as Rum Tum Tugger, Jennifer Hudson really does nail ‘Memory’, and some of the lesser cats are actually quite hot in their digitally altered fur suits. Am I a furry now?

On the other hand, this film really made some capital-C Choices. Why does Rebel Wilson unzip her own fur to reveal a bedazzled hot pink bodysuit underneath? Why do some of the Cats wear human shoes? Why does Judi Dench spend literally five minutes staring straight down the barrel of the camera telling us that cats are not dogs? Who can say.

Will I ever feel the need to watch Cats (2019) again? No. I don’t need to, because I’ll never forget the pure joy of watching it for the first and only time.

Tahlia Pritchard, Editor of Punkee

I went in blindly to Cats having never seen nor bothered reading about the musical itself which feels like the only way to be able to survive this viewing.

Yes, I don’t say it lightly, but we’re all survivors. This is the only way I can think of describing what it’s like to see Cats on the big screen: one time I took an edible and freaked out so much I was convinced I had been watching a weird, short film about a spider for seven hours and it had only been TWO minutes and 30 seconds.

This is what watching Cats was like. I was stuck in a world I couldn’t get out of for just under two hours, praying Jennifer Hudson would sing ‘Memory’ soon to release me from this prison. And she did! Thankfully.

But then I had to sit through another 10 minutes of watching Judi Dench peer into the depths of my soul and tell me cats aren’t dogs. “Cats…. aren’t dogs,” I repeated dutifully to myself, as though my captor wouldn’t physically release me until I uttered those final words.

I’ve been through a trauma and I don’t think I’m a stronger person for it this time around.

Patrick Lenton, Editor

Cats was always going to be weird — it’s about a bunch of weird human/cat mutants trying to sing their way into heaven. What surprised me was how boring and weirdly sexy those cats would be while doing that. If you’ve ever wanted to annoyed and horny for two hours while waiting for the song ‘Memory’ to play, then I guess this film is for you?

Any film that tries to harness the cursed energy of Rebel Wilson and James Corden has my respect, but not my sympathy. They shot so high, and fell so far.

They tried to make CGI cats do slapstick, and it meant nothing. They tried to get them to dance, and it looked so fake. They made these weird horny cats do a freaky moon dance, and I wanted to vomit!!!!

After a while, I truly wanted to sing a song to Judi Dench to convince her to kill me.

Hannah Story

If the purpose of ‘cinema’ is to make you think about the world and your place in it, live action Cats is a masterpiece.

I came away from Cats thinking that the world is meaningless, existence is futile, and yearning for death — just like the cats of the title. We’re pagan now: all singing, all dancing, all crying out for help. Time passes. People, and also cats, live and die, and there are no consequences.

At least that is so in the filmic universe of Cats, where things happen, one after another, for reasons that are unclear. Conflict is created and resolved with magic/goths. Judi Dench and Ian McKellen are there and almost try to sing. One guy’s job is to animate many cats’ tails. Jason Derulo is a cat who fucks (and it’s hot???).

Cats left me with a feeling of existential dread so consuming I’ve been unable to think of anything else. People ask me how my day was and I reply, ‘But what was the plot of Cats?’ ‘What does Cats say about who we are as a society?’ ‘Do I dare to eat a peach?’ I need to go to therapy.

Elfy Scott, The Takeaway

The human brain is a wondrously adaptable object. It can observe and accept the most fantastical universes in film — including the ones that throw an insouciant middle finger to the laws of physics or social reason.

More than just simple tolerance, we can bring to bear the full spectrum of human emotions within those fictional frameworks.

We felt the exhaustion and relief of Frodo throwing The One Ring into the fires of Mount Doom. We wept with unabated horror as talking toys grasped for one another in the furnace of Toy Story 3. We joyfully willed Dorothy to skip down the Yellow Brick Road with those weird virgins to find her way home from Oz.

The capacity for our imaginative adaptation is near limitless.

With Cats, I found the line. My brain simply could not conceive of the logic of whatever was happening on screen. Gravity did not exist in the way it needs to, inter-species amalgams existed in a way they really didn’t need to.

The whimsy of T.S. Eliot’s words as lyrics suddenly occurred to me as a malicious jumble that sounded like the hot-breathed ravings of a lunatic.

It was like staring at an open wound — I walked out after fifteen minutes.

Cats is in cinemas on boxing day. It is horny. You must see it.