In my early twenties, I had a recurring nightmare.  It took place in an abandoned three story house, with a long hall on each floor, with bedrooms off each side of it.  The floor was partially torn up, the drywall was falling apart, and dust layered on every surface. The last room on the right on the third floor was where the nightmare really hit.  The house itself was creepy and haunting, but it was in that one particular room where I found the horror.  If I entered it, the door would close behind me.  The closet would slowly open, and I would then die.  I would wake up terrified, and I always hated those dreams.

Those nightmares felt like they lasted maybe three to five minutes.  Cats, it turns out, lasts an hour and fifty minutes, taking the word nightmare to a whole other level for myself.  I would easily rather sit through a handful of those recurring terror dreams than endure Cats ever again.

Released in December 2019, Cats quickly became both a critical and commercial failure.  I had only seen the trailers before, and know nothing of the stage play it is based off of.  My knowledge of it is still able to be summed up in a few words.  It's a cat talent show.  There.  Now you know the entirety of the plot.  Yes, that's right.  Talent show, the event that is entrusted with grade five students because everyone knows that the older you get, the more bored you will be by talent shows.

There seems to be a main character, Victoria, played by ballerina Francesca Hayward.  Victoria stumbles across a very jellickle (Gallicle? Jellucull? Jellikel?) bunch of cats that do jellickle as jellickle can.  Confused?  Don't worry, by the end of the movie you'll still have no idea what they're talking about.  The yearly jallacle talent show is about to happen, where the winner seems to be sacrificed to the jellockal moon goddess, or something like that.  Don't worry, by the end of the movie you'll still have no idea what they're talking about.  So, yeah... that's kind of it.  Oh, two cats have magic.  Don't worry, by the end of the movie you'll still not know why.

The reason this film is a nightmare, outside of it having almost no plot or characters, is the CGI.  I'm pretty sure a cinematic crime has taken place here.  Director Tom Hooper (who won Best Director for The King's Speech) decided against using prosthetics and practical effects to turn actors into cats, because it just didn't look real enough.  Instead, everyone would perform in motion capture suits, and the fur would be added digitally.  

The failure of the effects brings us into the uncanny valley, which is when a human like object (such as avatars, androids, or geallunkle cats peoples) isn't quite perfect.  This leads to a negative emotional response, where 'people feel a sense of unease or even revulsion.'  Basically, if something is supposed to look human and it doesn't do it perfectly. the viewer finds it creepy or repulsive.  As jeollickle as these cats may be, creepy and repulsive is exactly how they come across.

The process in creating the visuals sounds as though it was a very unpleasant experience.  Workers complained about how Hooper treated them, and being very rude in his criticisms.  Before the film launched, some crew members were apparently working for a few days at a time and having to sleep under their desks.  As well, a second version of the film had to be distributed to theatres just days after the movie launched in an attempt to take care of some visual errors.

Cats is full of song and dance, and the insane reliance on everything being CGIed means that their movements don't come across as natural.  This choice to go digital does far more that just make the cats look bad, but it also affects every movement they make.  At some points, the dancing looks fine, but there are other points where it just looks bad.  These gyllenkaal cats should be sprayed in the face with water for most of what they do.

There are a few positive moments in this film.  Both Jennifer Hudson and Taylor Swift have great singing performances.  A lot of the other singing is fine, but the songs are mostly unmemorable, with no good hooks, and failing to drive the 'story' forward.  As for the acting, Hayward has a singular expression for over half of the film, and Hudson as well seems directed to have only one look.

I feel like there is a reason why Cats is a successful stage musical.  While there is no story, it is a spectacle, which would have interesting production design.  It isn't the kind of musical I would pay money to see, but I get that others may find the experience intriguing.  Brought from stage to the big screen, it loses the only real appeal it would have, especially when so much of production (from sets to gjellakle cats) is digitally created.  I'm not being hyperbolic, this film was a creepy nightmare of an experience, one that I hope other's are able to steer clear of.

Rating - 0.5 out of 4 stars

P.S. - Cats wearing fur coats is an extra level of creepy.