Released: 24th October
Seen: 28th October
Later on this year, we’re all going to get to experience the wonder and majesty that is Cats. Cats, the Andrew Lloyd Weber monstrosity, is turning into a live-action film where everyone looks like they were born directly in the centre of the uncanny valley and everything about it both horrifies and delights me. Like, we’re all aware that Cats is basically a suicide musical right? It’s literally a musical about which cat gets to kill themselves in order to come back as another cat and someone gave Tom Hooper millions of dollars and several major celebrities in order to make the film version of the suicidal cat musical. It’s going to be nuts, I can’t wait… I apparently couldn’t wait so much that the second my local cinema said it was showing a movie called Cats I had to see it, I need to be the person who saw two different Cats movies in cinemas… because I’m a sad person, please give me pity.
Cats, or as it was originally known Cats and Peachtopia, follows a cat named Blanket who is immensely agoraphobic after the death of his… I want to say wife but it’s unclear how cat relationships work in this universe. Anyway, the death of the cat that he was in a relationship with leaves him alone to raise his son, Cape who is clearly of an entirely different cat species but let’s not argue about genetics because the tiny kitty is cute. Blanket has been lying to Cape that Cape’s mother (THE DEAD CAT) is in a place called Peachtopia that’s at the top of the mountain. Because Cape is extremely stupid in ways that medical science can’t properly explain, he makes a rocket out of soda bottles (just go with it) and flies out into the city to head to the mountain and find Peachtopia no matter what it takes. Along the way, our two “favourite” kitties will have to tangle with a rogue glassblower who is down on his luck and desperate to get back the tiny glass bead that Cape has around his neck… also, there’s ninja raccoons and a bar called “The Fat Jazz” because this film is all over the place and I don’t know if it’s brilliant or awful. Leaning towards awful.
Visually, the film is a mix of choices and all of them are bad. The two leads don’t look like they’re related in any way, at no point do I believe that one of these cats was in any way responsible for the creation of the other one. I may not be an expert on cat biology, but I’m pretty confident that a large blue monochrome tabby with brown eyes isn’t going to be the father of a blue-eyed ginger-haired two-toned cat unless the mother cat was sleeping around like a cat whore. Maybe that’s why the mother died; it was an elaborate ruse by the father to murder his cheating “wife” when he realized his son looked like that bastard cat Tony from flat 2B. I realize I’ve gone off on a stupid tangent, in my defence it’s because the film is bad and I need to amuse myself by imagining cat adultery. Anyway, the point is that every character looks like they’re in a very different film and it’s insanely jarring.
Do you know what else is jarring? The antagonist… because he is an evil glassblower. Therefore, I assume he makes jars (THIS MOVIE IS BAD! LET ME HAVE MY BAD JOKES!). For some reason this film’s main villain is an evil glassblower who is desperate to get his hands on the tiny glass bead that’s on a chain around Cape’s neck, except he doesn’t even think about the bead until he literally sees it on camera and has a flashback to it being the first thing he ever made. It’s not magical, it will serve no purpose, it’s just the first thing he ever made with glass and he thinks having it will inspire him to make better glass artworks. This naturally means he has to send an army of what can only be described as Ninja raccoons out to capture Cape and put him in a cage, along with a bunch of other animals who are never properly introduced to us. No, the evil glass blower does not use his powers of ‘making things out of glass’ in any interesting way throughout the film. In fact, he’s barely in the film, he maybe has three scenes and he’s very clearly meant to be the main antagonist by how he is presented in the film, but I will be damned if he does anything interesting. Ok, there is one scene where he insists that Cape should be thrown in a kiln and turned into a mould for his artwork but… well, pretty confident that’s not how you make moulds. Someone who professionally makes moulds for glass artwork, do you just throw live cats into furnaces and use that to make glass art? Because that would be very weird if you did that.
Oh, right, the cat death. So this film has a lot of cat death or at least allusions to it. There’s the mother who dies because she is a mother in an animated film, that’s basically a capital punishment crime right there. Then Cape gets thrown into a kiln with a plastic bag around him (again, not sure that’s how you make a mould) and has repeated moments of almost being burned to death. Oh, then there’s this hilarious scene where, get this, two bad guys throw plastic bags in the cages of all the animals and tell them to play with it in a clear allusion to the fact that they want the animals to suffocate and die. This film is for kids, by the way. This film is intentionally aimed at small children… possibly children who are so small and stupid that the constant death references won’t freak them out. Hell, the Peachtopia from the title? Yeah, that’s a death metaphor. It’s a place that Blanket makes up to explain to Cape where his mother went… you know, the dead mother who is dead. The entire movie is about Cape trying to find the mythical land that is literally representing death. He finds it by the way, not because he dies but because someone forgot that it was a lie that the dad came up with.
Maybe the issue around Peachtopia is a problem with the dub. This was originally a Chinese film so naturally, I saw the dubbed version, because that’s what was made available to me and because I am horribly uncultured. Anyway, the dub is one of the worst dubs I’ve heard in my life. It’s so bad that the film doesn’t even credit the dubbed actors, which is why you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t named any of the cast. I don’t know who they are, I can only assume they’re random guys pulled in off the street that have never acted or used a microphone before because every line is delivered in ways I didn’t know possible. No one recorded their lines while interacting with the other cast members, I’m convinced of it. I’m not even sure if a tech person was in the room to give them feedback because no one sounds like they’re reacting to anything. And don’t even get me started on the musical numbers… seriously, don’t, there were maybe three of them and I’ve forgotten them all because they were all dumb and awful and badly performed by bad singers who sang bad songs written by bad writers… unlike me, a good writer who writes words good. I’m aware that I’m a hypocrite, but at least I didn’t try to force my badness onto children!
If I’m going to give this film the tiniest little bit of a compliment and believe me I don’t want to do that, it’s that it doesn’t look awful. Sure, every character looks like they belong in a different movie and there seems to be no actual visual cohesion stylistically… but everything’s competent. Characters moved in a manner that one might expect in an animated film that gives a shit, the cats were cute enough that I don’t think I’ll have nightmares because of it and the proportions seemed consistent. Sure, there were no moments when anything looked particularly nice and stand out, but I could tell the animators knew what they were doing and considering that I saw Flying the Nest earlier in the year (a film that asks the question “Do I even need to know how to animate in order to get an animated film into a cinema?”), I consider basic competence an absolute win.
Cats is everything you thought it was going to be when you looked at the cover art. It’s a basic, borderline competent, animated film that’s meant for kids but doesn’t understand that you can’t show small children images of cats being murdered over and over again. In any other time, this film would only be found in a two-dollar bin at a discount shop that also had DVD copies of flash animated retellings of Grimm’s Fairy Tales that were all made by the same guy with a demo version of After Effects, but for some reason this film was on a cinema screen this year. Not even one of those weird cinemas that are run and staffed by one guy that shows whatever they were able to get on a discount from the supplier; I saw this thing at a national chain that’s probably going to be showing Terminator on the same screen that I watched this on. I’m baffled that this thing was made, stunned that it got to be shown in a cinema and upset that I spent my morning actually sitting down and watching it. The best thing I can say about it is that it still has a shot at not being the worst film of the year that has the name Cats.