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Cats Zooms Past So Bad it’s Good Territory

Cats

Look, Cats was always going to be a disaster. There’s simply no way you could take the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical and turn it into a coherent film because Cats is and always has been nonsensical garbage dolled up with amazing costumes, dancing, and setpieces. Notice I didn’t say music, because Cats has exactly one great song, “Memory,” and the rest is more ridiculous garbage.

Imagine the amount of cocaine that was ingested in the writing, conception, production design and staging of Cats beginning with TS Elliot’s poetry to the 1981 musical to every production of the musical since then to this film. Every bit of celluloid screams “WE ARE ON DRUGS” up to and including the way the cats’ CGI animated ears and tails WON’T STOP MOVING. Yes, cats can and do move like that, but apparently “Jellicle” cats can and do EVERY 2 SECONDS.

One way the film does improve on the play is its attempts to actually convey some sort of plot: every year on a special night, our band of jellicle cats meet and their matriarch (played by Maggie Smith) chooses one to go up to kitty cat heaven and be reborn. So the cats put on a series of elaborate song and dance numbers to compete for that honor, like you do. Except one of the bad cats (played by Idris Elba) is trying to rig the competition in his favor by kidnapping other top kitties. It is not a plot-forward movie.

Instead, you basically get a dozen little vignettes each devoted to introducing one cat or another and there’s singing and dancing. Ok, the dancing is pretty great. Francesca Hayward plays Victoria, our audience surrogate cat, who is new to the junkyard and this band of jellicles, so we learn through her eyes. She is an amazing dancer. There is no way to oversell how great she is. It’s just such a shame she isn’t in a better film, especially one that doesn’t weirdly sexualize her so much.

What do I mean by weirdly sexualize? Well, you come away from the film with a weird feeling like. . . maybe director Tom Hooper has a cat fetish? If you are a cat furry and love the Cats musical, then this movie is 100% for you. Everyone else? Ehhhhhh. . .

Is it so bad it’s good? Like a cult classic sort of way, like a sneak in some edibles and enjoy it way? No. It zooms past so bad it’s good territory that it’s so bad it’s bad again. I pity anyone who goes to this movie high on drugs. It’s going to be a bad trip.

Cat Meow GIF by Cats Movie - Find & Share on GIPHY

This film has such an amazing cast and they are all wasted here. I have no idea what Idris Elba is doing in this movie. I have no idea what Judi Dench is doing in this movie. I have no idea what Ian McKellan is doing in this movie. I have no idea what Jennifer Hudson is doing in this movie. Ok, I sort of know what James Corden, Jason Derullo, and Rebel Wilson are doing in this movie and that is hamming it up as much as possible. I have no idea what Taylor Swift is doing in this movie.

And speaking of Taylor, she has a new song she co-wrote with Andrew Lloyd Webber and it is exactly the unholy abomination a combination of those two would be. Meanwhile, Jennifer Hudson seems determined to make “Memory” hers as much as possible, full-on ugly-crying under the weight of all that makeup and CGI as if to say, “Remember when Anne Hathaway ugly-cried in Les Mes and you all ate it up? Well here’s THIS.” When she finally lets loose and belts as hard as she can, it’s actually pretty good for a few seconds. But it can in no way redeem the rest of this thoroughly inexplicable movie.

Cats will have a fanbase. There will be people who love this. I’m glad they’ll find what they like. And I will say this for it: between this and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, one of these two movies took a big audacious swing. And there’s something to be said for that. Yes, it’s still a giant festering garbage fire, but at least they were thinking big enough to ask, “What if Cats, but with CGI ear and tail twitching and more like humans and sexier?”

1 out of 5 stars

Movie Review: The Emoji Movie

emoji_movie_posterJust how bad is it? It’s really, really, really bad.

💩 💩 💩 💩 💩 out of 5 🌟

But were we really expecting anything less from this? The very idea of it sounded terrible from the outset. No one in 1975 decided to make a kids film about the pet rock. There’s no 90’s-tastic The Slap Bracelet Movie or Pogs! The Movie! (We do have Space Jam, but that’s not all that terrible.) The biggest problem is that huge amount of legitimate talent they must have had kompromat Russian dossiers on in order to blackmail them to make this.

TJ Miller is a “Meh” emoji 😒 living inside high school freshman Alex’s phone, where every app is its own city. And on his first day on the job he messes up the face he’s supposed to pull– and emoji aren’t supposed to be able to have more than one emotion. So he goes on a quest with Hi5 ✋ (James Corden) to find a hacker (Anna Faris) who can upload them onto the cloud where he can fix his code. Sound dumb? It is. And so much worse.

Literally the only moment of joy in this entire film is when they wander through YouTube and are momentarily mesmerized by a cat video.

There. You’ve now experienced 100% of what is good and entertaining in The Emoji Movie.

Mentioning YouTube, this film is chock-full of internet product placement. Twitter, Facebook, Dropbox, Crackle — they all make cameos. And the worst is a sequence in the Just Dance app introducing The Emoji Dance, which is one of the most cringeworthy moments in a movie chock full of them.

SmilerAnd then there’s the film’s purported antagonist– Maya Rudolph as a smiley emoji whose presence is nails on a chalkboard  in a movie that is a swimming pool full of glass shards, razorblades, and lemon juice.

When a movie like The Lego Movie works, it’s partially because its villain Lord Business delivers a greater meaning about the dangers of conformity. But Smiler is just an awful generic discount store brand version.  So while a positive message about being yourself and it being ok to have other emotions might have been intended, it’s so lost in an incredibly uninspired and dumb script.

It’s a shame because Rudolph is incredibly talented. So are Miller, Faris, Corden and the rest of the cast. To a person — up to and especially including Sir Patrick Stewart who has a brief cameo as the poo emoji — the entire cast are talented people who deserve better material. Indeed, the first trailer and the cast led me to believe this might not be awful. But it wastes their talents like gold-plating a toilet does. Just because it’s covered in gold doesn’t make what’s in the bowl stink any less. This movie is a gold-plated commode filled with a mountain of filth like you’d find on one of those episodes of Hoarders.

For another perspective, this is how my 11 year old daughter — the target demographic for this “film” — responded: halfway through, she got up to leave the theater to text her friends how bad it was:

texts emoji movie

1- Imminently proud that my daughter knows NOT to text in the theater.

2- Even more proud that she can recognize how terrible this abomination is.

It’s sometimes the case where a critic sees a movie and it doesn’t resonate, because, well, it just wasn’t made for them. I get that. This is not one of those cases. This is a case of where the movie doesn’t understand itself.

One needn’t be 13 to understand the appeal of emoji. But the people who made this movie obviously don’t. And they also don’t understand how smartphones and apps work, either.

giphy

It’s also not clear any of them know or regularly interact with any teen or tween of any sort. As much of a creative wasteland as Hollywood movie studios can be, this is the absolute most uninspired and creative nadir of not only the year, but perhaps the decade.

This was made by the same out of touch corporate groupthink that gave us Poochie, the Edsel, and New Coke.

So, yes. The Emoji Movie is truly that bad. And, unfortunately, according to box office figures and how it beat the vastly superior Atomic Blondethis is a sign of why in America we can’t have nice things.

ZERO stars out of 5