Cats Movie Review…the long review.

You can read my short review here.

This is the long rant that I managed to hold in over night.

Last night, I finally decided to go watch Cats in the cinema. After reading through dozens of nasty reviews, I realized all of the critics,

  1. had not seen Cats before,
  2. hated or did not attend the ballet regularly,
  3. had never read TS Elliott’s Book of Practical Cats.

I have seen Cats before. I do attend the ballet regularly, and I own and have memorized TS Elliott’s Book of Practical Cats. As far as poetry goes, it’s weird, and I love it. Because it has cats!

I realized, to know what was going on with this movie, I had to just watch it and decide for myself. Fortunately, for me, I managed to catch one of the last showings of Cats in my local theater before Regal pulled it after only a week.

I decided to wait until the morning to leave the review because I was so angry. Not at the movie, but at the critics.

Since Christmas, I had read every scathing thing about Cats from “Rebel Wilson bites the heads off of cockroaches with human faces,” to “the cats were disproportionate,” to “The cats don’t look like cats,” to “they didn’t CGI fur on the hands of Judi Dench,” oh, and “the cats moaned sexually while they lapped milk,” and, the old original critic I’ve been listening to for 30 years, “I didn’t understand the plot.”

I was near tears with disappointment on 2 January 2020 when I finally said, “I just have to go see it for myself.”

Hold up. Before I launched into this, it might help to know that the only reason I knew there was going to be a new movie edition of Cats in 2019 was because, three months ago, I was on YouTube showing Cats the 1998 film edition to my 12-year-old. There I was, three months ago showing her this weird ass musical when a recommended video popped up. My jaw hit the floor and I went, “whaaaat!?” I saw Judi Dench hold out her hand to Victoria. “Would you come with me?”

“THEY FIXED IT!” I screamed and, with trembling hands, I reached for the Cats 1998 movie off the shelf and put it into the BluRay player. Did you catch that? I grabbed the movie off the shelf. SURPRISE! Cats (2019) is a remake!

“Just watch!” I said to my daughter.  

Ten minutes later my daughter said, “This is the book I have upstairs!” and she ran upstairs and brought down an old paperback book spattered with faded colored pencils.

I smiled. Yes, it is.

In 1993, I stumbled upon a little song called Mr. Mistoffelees, and I fell hard in love with the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber. Shortly thereafter, I bought a little paperback book by TS Elliot called “The Book of Practical Cats.” I love cats. I love poetry. I love classic literature. How could I NOT love The Book of Practical Cats? After reading and committing the entire book of cat poetry to memory, I grabbed my colored pencils and promptly colored Bustopher Jones and his little white spats green.

In three years, I would have owned and memorized all of Lloyd Webber’s music. The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Sunset Boulevard, Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat…How about Jeeves, Aspects of Love, Song and Dance, and *gulp* I am embarrassed to say, Starlight Express. Now that was garbage theater. I had it ALL. And so, at age 12, I grand jete’d into the world of musical theater, ballet, and opera. I am now 40 and, if I had to choose what to do in New York City, I would say the ballet first, the opera second, and a Broadway musical or a play third.  

When my BFF came back from a local performance of Cats in 1995, I made her re-enact the opera in detail. Did you catch that? Cats is an opera. Did you know?

I still remember listening to music at age 15 while trying to fall asleep and, one night, I decided to put in Cats. Within 10 seconds, I was up and dancing around my bedroom at ten o’clock at night and NOT sleeping. I got to Rum Tum Tugger before shutting the music off and saying, “soooo…I can’t fall asleep while listening to Cats.”

I was 22 when I found that Webber had recorded the Broadway show live, and released it on DVD in 1998. I bought that movie so fast and finally sat down to watch the beautiful insanity of TS Elliot’s Jellicle Ball enfold before me. Mind you, I had been listening to this music for ten years prior. To finally see it…It was weird. And then…I saw it. The ballet. And it all made sense. This…is a ballet. And we watch for the ballet.

Needless to say, I KNOW what Cats is about, what it is, and am a hardcore FAN walking into this review with HIGH expectations going in.

Perhaps you saw Cats or you just weren’t interested and didn’t. There are things you must know going in to this.

First and foremost, Cats is a ballet and one giant dance number. It is a ballet, people. As much a ballet as Swan Lake is. Without the dignity! There is no dignity in Cats. There isn’t supposed to be. For those of us who dance, it’s just fun! Cats is a musical opera second, and has a far more engaging plot than Nutcracker, and Nutcracker’s plot sucks! But no one complains about that!

If you know anything about ballet, you know that most plots do suck, costumes are abstract, and none of that matters because we’re here for the dancing. So…let’s do this, shall we?

Everything I hated about the live staged show

Why? Because to know where the 2019 film went right and why, you have to know where the 1998 film version (and all other staged versions) went wrong…hmmm…or were limited.

1 – When I sat down to watch the 1998 film version, there was one thing that bugged me right off. The whole show takes place in a garbage dump. I loved that we are in cat perspective, so everything was always so big. But between the dark theater lighting, the dark ratty costumes, and the props, the whole stage always looked like a literal garbage dump to me. I hated that about the live theater version.

2 – We got no close ups. It was infuriating. One day, I will own a pair of opera glasses.

3 – Their tails were always like limp little ropes tied around their waists. Oh wait…their tails ARE limp little ropes tied around their waists.

4 – The Peeks and the Pollicles instead of Growltiger’s Last Stand. *sigh* I’ll talk about this later.

5 – Remember. Cats is a beauty pageant set to song and dance as an excuse to sing and dance. It is meant to be fun for people who love singing and dancing. When the winner of this pageant is chosen, we see WHO is chosen. We see the cat GO to the heavy side layer, but we never get to see them return as the new cat. It bugs me.

That’s it! Five things.

I always wanted more of Macavity.

I wish they would clarify the plot more so audience members would shut the hell up about the lack of plot. Oh wait. It IS explained. Here. Read this.

The Invitation to the Jellical Ball.

Jellicle Cats meet once a year
At the Jellicle Ball where we all rejoice
And the Jellicle leader will soon appear
And make what is known as the Jellicle Choice
When Old Deuteronomy just before dawn
Through a silence you feel could cut with a knife
Announces the Cat who can now be reborn
And come back to a different Jellicle life
For waiting up there is the Heaviside Layer
With wonders one Jellicle only will see
And Jellicles ask because Jellicles dare
Who will it be? Who will it be?

Did we all get that? Here it is again in case you missed it:

Jellicle Cats meet once a year
At the Jellicle Ball where we all rejoice
And the Jellicle leader will soon appear
And make what is known as the Jellicle Choice
When Old Deuteronomy just before dawn
Through a silence you feel could cut with a knife
Announces the Cat who can now be reborn
And come back to a different Jellicle life
For waiting up there is the Heaviside Layer
With wonders one Jellicle only will see
And Jellicles ask because Jellicles dare
Who will it be? Who will it be?

THAT is the plot. It’s right there in the third song of the musical. Invitation to the Jellicle Ball.

I am always dumbfounded whenever anyone tells me they don’t know the plot. You don’t? Did you not hear the third song in the musical? It’s always been there. Right there. RIGHT. THERE. IN BLACK AND WHITE. I don’t know how anyone could miss it.

Ever since Cats was birthed in 1982, audiences have been complaining that they didn’t “get” the plot. This one complaint is not new. For me, it’s very clear. Maybe it’s because I hail from the land of ballet theater and opera. It’s spelled out very clearly third song in. There is an annual ball. The leader (Old Deuteronomy) arrives as the acting judge and decides, at dawn, which cat can be reborn. Again, Cats is a beauty pageant—a pageant that judges the inside beauty—set to song and dance as an excuse to sing and dance.

You know how cats have nine lives? This is all about them coming back in one of their nine lives. That’s it.

Now, there are two characters who have a lot of unexplained story behind them. Munkustrap and Victoria.


There is one cat who is never mentioned. We see him, but are never given his name. We know his name because when you buy a musical opera (or any opera) the opera comes with a little book called a libretto. My favorite thing to do is get a new opera on disc and crack open the libretto! Oh! You know you have quality when you get the libretto! And when reading the Cats libretto you see that “Munkustrap” narrates almost all the songs. Munkustrap is the cat who first invites Victoria into the ball. He’s kind of the beauty pageant manager.


Victoria has her own little back story. In 1983, this little white cat…let’s drop this act. In 1983, one dancer was always chosen as the prima donna. Every ballet required a head dancer. Ballet needs every number to revolve around one character. And, in Cats, that thing was Victoria. While everyone else is wearing tabby and Torty cat colors on a dark stage littered with garbage, Victoria is pure white. Why? Because our eyes must be on her and because the dancers must be able to easily spot her in the dark through the garbage. She is to the cast what a musical conductor is to an orchestra. After five years, audience members started asking, “Who is she?” They went back to the original creators and demanded, “Who is she?”

“She?  Oh…she’s….Victoria! Yeah, that’s it.” They gave this nameless character a name only after the audience demanded one for her. As the musical enfolds, we watch Victoria. Over ten years of Broadway production, Victoria was developed before our eyes because we loved her.

I will never forget her dance numbers. DAMN. In ballet terms, let me sum this up for you. No role is more grueling, more demanding in all of Broadway than Victoria’s. And THAT is why we watch Cats. If you want something harder? Turn your eyes to Lincoln Center’s American Ballet Theater or the New York City Ballet. They don’t cast actors for Victoria’s role, they cast ballet dancers. The dancing in Cats is grueling. I meant it when I said Cats is a ballet, and Victoria is their prima donna. In truth, Victoria is the outsider looking in. This is a coming of age story and she is the star. It’s why she doesn’t sing—Her solo in the movie, Beautiful Ghosts, is new and was added just for the 2019 movie—because she dances. If you know anything about ballet, when you go to see Cats, you’ll recognize all of this right away. In the PlayBill you’ll see Victoria as the first cat listed. And when you read the dancer’s credentials, you’ll see they pulled her from the American Ballet Theater or something like that. While everyone else is reflecting their work on Broadway, she’ll have an extensive background for ballet.

You know the plot. You know Munkustrap. You know Victoria. You know the crappy 1998 film edition I have spent twenty years watching. Now…The review…

The Review

It. Was. Perfect. PERFECT. The costumes were stunning. Did they look like cats? Yes! They did! As much as swans looked like swans in Swan Lake. In fact, they looked more like cats than any swan in Swan Lake! It was gorgeous! Remember! This is about the ballet. You can not cover up a dancer’s body. In fact, true to the original Broadway show, the only ones who were covered up were the cats who only sang and did not dance. Old Deuteronomy and Grizabella.

The Sets!

No more garbage dump! There was light! And rain! And streets! And houses! No more garbage dump! Everything was bright and beautiful! I wish you could see the Peeks and the Pollicles to get my meaning (Later on this…not yet)! Throughout the musical, the cats accumulate garbage and manufacture sets out of garbage. I ALWAYS hated it. This is one huge wonderful change the movie made! The set was beautiful! So the one critic who complained about perspective?

Let me explain.

I love Sims. I was playing Sims4 one day with my cats and dogs packet when I bought and downloaded the seasons pack. In short, the seasons pack is not compatible with the cat and dog pack. I was happily playing with my kitties when BAM! My cat suddenly morphs into this freaky disproportionate Tim Burton cat. I cried. It gave me nightmares. I called EA and they uninstalled the seasons pack and refunded my money. So when I heard that the perspective was off in the movie, I freaked out and thought, “I can’t see this movie! If they screwed up the CGI that badly…” No! The perspective that the critic complained about was that he/she didn’t understand that the sets were scaled to cat size, Dumb F**k! Seriously! Of all the critics, this one pissed me off the most.

“Jellicle cats, as we said, are small.”

I know you said it, Munkustrap! Thank you!


I loved that the CGI added so much to the tails! No more limp little ropes tied around their waists! They were real tails! There is no fur CGI’d to ANY hands. That one critic who bitched about Judi Dench’s furless hand was an unobservant idiot. No cats had any fur CGI’d to their hands or to their bare feet.

Why the coats? That was part of the costumes from the staged edition that they carried over. And besides, these are Jellicle Cats. They are not your usual house cats. I felt it was in ode to the staged edition. Old Deuteronomy wears a coat. So does Grizabella. Always have. Always will. Honestly, I always thought the ones wearing coats were just long haired cats. Hence the long coats. When you look at the history of costume design in 1980’s it makes perfect sense.  

The Dancing

I was terrified the dancing would be removed to accommodate modern viewers. That being said, with the exception of the usual Growltiger vs. Pollicle song (more on that later), every song was exactly as is on stage. Nothing was cut! One song was added! We’ll talk about Beautiful Ghosts later. If anything, they kept all the dancing, but added tap shoes! OH MY GOD! SKIMBLESHANKS TAP DANCES! I haven’t seen tap dancing since the musicals from 1950’s! I lost my shit when I saw tap shoes!

Two cats wore sneakers. That is a common costume style in dance when you want to communicate to the audience, “They are not ballet dancers.” And it was quite clear that they would not be doing any ballet. And they didn’t. I loved it. I did notice that the cats were all barefoot. Ballet dancing barefoot is…No words can explain the rapture of feeling the stage beneath your bare feet.

My one complaint was that the camera moved a lot to capture close ups. In ballet, you watch everything, but the faces. But I can understand why they did that. So here I am complaining about the close ups in the 2019 film and the lack of close ups in the 1998 film. Hm. I just need to see this live again.

The Plot

The plot. OH MY GOD THEY FIXED IT! Before the movie, the plot was only mentioned in “The Invitation to the Jellical Ball.” Again, I never had an issue listening to the lyrics of songs. Here, is where I was just so happy! In the staged version there is 100% singing and no talking. It’s a musical opera. I love musical operas! What’s a musical opera?

Well…Opera means all sung. The word musical means all spoken with a spattering of singing to aid the emoting. Musical Opera means 100% sung but don’t expect the operatic style. That is it. There will be singing, people. And I mean, nothing but.

However, recognizing the old plot problem, someone said, “Let’s add dialogue because, for whatever reason, people have a problem listening to song lyrics and they keep missing the plot explained in The Invitation to the Jellical Ball, third song in. And they did! And it was perfect! AND YET…PEOPLE ARE STILL MISSING IT!

Rebel Wilson as the Cockroach Eating Cat who unzips her skin

I hate JennyAnyDots. The role here was performed by Rebel Wilson. I must clarify…I loved Rebel Wilson as JennyAnyDots. She made this song bearable. I HATE THIS SONG. I have always hated this song. The 2019 movie made it bearable. The Gumbie Cat song is one that has always pissed me off. I just hate the style of music. I was REALLY hoping they would just cut this musical number. This poem by Elliot is about a cat who nurtures mice and beetles. It is the first song of the inside-beauty pageant, and I’ve always hated it mainly because it was a song Lloyd Webber recycled from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in the song, “Joseph’s Dreams.” I hated the song then too! It’s the same song. It’s in the style of 1920’s flapper music and, on stage, JennyAnyDots removes her giant overcoat to reveal a flapper dress before launching into full flapper style dance…or is it the Jitterbug? God, I just hate it! Rebel Wilson does unzip her outer coat to reveal a more Radio City Music Hall styled costume underneath. This is common in ballet when one dancer needs more freedom of movement. To be honest, if a dancer doesn’t change her costume at least once on stage, it’s actually bizarre, so this didn’t cause me to blink an eye. I’ve seen them strip hoop dresses, full tutu’s…it’s a ballet thing. But again, I regularly watch ballet!

Now, I have spent 20 years watching the 1998 film adaptation as adult-sized dancers in cat costumes instruct adult-sized dancers in mice costumes who pirouette with adult-sized dancers in beetle costumes all dancing on Broadway. This was a WONDERFUL change. The CGI made the cats cat-sized, the mice, mouse-sized, and the beetles all beetle-sized. THANK YOU! Seriously!

Now, I’m sorry, but CATS EAT BEETLES! They do! So when the cat ate the beetles…it was very cat-like. To be honest, I was expecting the entire musical to suddenly stop mid-song to accommodate a random cat bathing mid musical number BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT CATS DO! This was one critic who blew this scene WAY out of proportion. The song, in general, sucks, no matter where you go see this. I hate the Gumbie Cat song. I think the 2019 movie made it bearable. 

Sexual Cats?

The cats moaning sexually while they lapped milk? No, they didn’t. Which brings me to Rum Tum Tugger.

People. In case you missed it, these are not cats. They are human dancers in costume. That being said, the character is flirty and very sexual. When my BFF when to see Cats on stage, Tugger grabbed her from the audience and danced with her on stage. His character is sexual. He is fun and a pure delight. If you haven’t, YouTube Rum Tum Tugger 1998 film song right now. I can wait. Here! Just watch!

(God, I forgot about the leg warmers)

See! The 2019 movie is better! Simply put, the song is as sexual as Big Spender from Sweet Charity. That’s Broadway. When I saw the cats and the milk in the 2019 edition, I nearly screamed with delight, “Of course it’s sexual! It’s Rum Tum Tugger!” I didn’t scream. I just waited for the milk lapping and the moaning, but it didn’t come. No pun intended.

By this point, I had stopped gripping my chair and relaxed. I was smiling and enjoying this thing enfolding before me. It was everything I had hoped for, and it delivered.  

Ian McKellen and Gus the Theater Cat.

I can not see or hear Gus the Theater cat without crying my eyes out. His story breaks my heart and Ian McKellen delivered. Of course he did. It’s Ian McKellen. And now…this brings me to Growltiger’s Last Stand vs. The Peeks and the Pollicles.

Back to TS Elliott. Remember, this is all a book of poetry about cats. Elliott was British. Llloyd Webber is British. Cats is set in London. Half the cast is British. This was done on purpose. Once upon a time, Lloyd Webber read Elliott’s book of poetry and said, “Hey! I want to set this to music,” and he did. He composed music for ALL the poems. When he was done, the musical was pushing three 1/2 hours long. You read that right. Three 1/2 hours. This explanation is about three very particular poems.

  • Gus the Theater Cat,
  • Growltiger’s Last Stand,
  • The Peeks and the Pollicles

In 1982, when the musical hit London stage, the director accommodated that 3 1/2 hour running time. Around 1985, when it came to Broadway, the directors cut one song because it was too long. Which song? The Peeks and the Pollicles. When the 1998 movie came out, they had to choose which song to cut. Which song? Growltiger’s Last Stand. When they made this 2019 movie? Guess which was up to cut? The Peeks and the Pollicles, thank the gods!

In the original production, Gus explains how “I once played Growltiger, huh uh! Could do it again…” The stage fades to a MUCH younger Gus who then reprises his role as Growltiger. This song is, in my opinion, almost as beautiful as Memory.

“Growltiger was a bravo cat who travelled on a barge
  In fact he was the roughest cat that ever roamed at large.
  From Gravesend up to Oxford he pursued his evil aims
  Rejoicing in his title of the “Terror of the Thames”

Growltiger explains how he made his way to Siam where he fell in love with the rapturous Griddlebone, a gorgeous white longhaired cat. A Persian? The lovers sing a duet in the true operatic style. Very Puccini, and I live for Puccini. If my soul had sound it would be Puccini. So naturally, I love this song. It is one of my most loved compositions by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Growltigger saves Griddlebone from the Siamese cats. The stage fades back to black, and we see old Gus again fighting back tears as he recalls the good old days. It brings me to tears every time. Even now. I’m crying as I recall this broken down fallen theater star pining for the days while keeping his composure. I love Gus so much.

The Peeks and the Pollicles…*groooooan* In short, the cats use garbage to dress up like dogs. I hate dogs. Especially when I’m watching Cats. Munkustrap tells the story about how dogs would come out and bark all over the park. The cats collect garbage to dress themselves up like dogs as they play out the story. I hate it. So when this 2019 movie came out, I immediately checked and saw that Growltiger’s turn was up.

I hate what they did to the song, but I don’t see modern audiences sitting through traditional operatic singing.


Growltiger worked for Macavity and they removed the relationship to Gus…*whining* but Growltiger adds so much to Gus. It just breaks my heart. At the same time, I was thrilled to see they included it and the barge on the Thames. So, in that, they redeemed themselves.

To be honest…I think the producer’s cut the full song to make time in the cinema. I’m hoping there will be a special edition director’s cut with the full composition…but I doubt it. For opera lovers, it’s a gorgeous composition.

James Corden as Bustopher Jones

I loved James Corden. He took an already loveable character and just OWNED him! I love Bustopher Jones so much! Seriously, I just lost it over his performance. In my opinion, Corden stole the show! “Puss in spats.” I giggled about that all night.

“Puss in spats? Does [MacCavity] mean that to be an insult? Well, jokes on him. I love it.” *Pauses to giggle uncontrollably*


Macavity was gorgeous! I had always wanted more of him and they delivered! Macavity always seemed to be a mischievous cat who just caused trouble because…well…he’s a cat. In the 2019 movie, they expanded on this and turned him into a cheater who kidnapped all the competitors. Beautiful! And his costume was gorgeous!  

Jason Derulo

I was disappointed in the performance of Rum Tum Tugger performed by Jason Derulo. He did not have the same flirty fun from the 1998 film performance.

And now…

Jennifer Hudson

Two weeks prior, I had just heard Hudson singing How Great Thou Art on my Christmas album…and she RUINED How Great Thou Art. One of my favorite hymns…she butchered it. I hate Jennifer Hudson. I don’t know why anyone likes her. She isn’t original. To me, she is a copycat pop singer. Listening to Hudson is like listening to a talentless Whitney Houston impersonator who lacks Houston’s originality. *ouch* So with Whitney Houston as the original, why do we need Hudson? Oh, right. Someone has to butcher Memory.

Now, I’ll be fair. Hudson was taking on Elaine Paige…and she fell way too short. Truly, Hudson is the only thing about this movie that sucked. Her rendition of Memory was terrible, but again, she’s going up against Elaine Paige. In hindsight, why not cast Kristen Chenoweth or Idina Menzel for the role? Either one of those Broadway giants are originals and both have the voices to match Elaine Paige. Why Hudson? Ugh!

Now…this leads me to…Beautiful Ghosts.

Victoria and Beautiful Ghosts

I had heard the song just an hour before I went to see the movie. Without context I heard it, nodded, and said, “Yep. That is an Andrew Lloyd Webber song from 2019.” It sounded like Love Never Dies, which is the sequel to The Phantom of the Opera written by Andrew Lloyd Webber…I told you. I have ALL the music.

In context…the song had me in tears. I always understood the plot of Cats. It was Grizabella’s back story that always felt lacking to me. The movie cleared this up beautifully, and the song, Beautiful Ghosts, added such a depth to Grizabella and Victoria’s characters. It was just…stunning.

In conclusion…

You know why people hated Cats? It’s because they walked into it expecting a modern, live-action movie with real cats about cats. They didn’t know it’s a musical opera about dancing. They didn’t know it’s a dance! They didn’t know it’s a ballet. I read one reviewer who was in the cinema when someone’s twelve-year-old son jumped up out his seat and screamed, “I HATE THIS!”

Wait…12-year-old boy? You took your video-gaming tween to the ballet and musical opera? I took my theater/ballet loving 12-year-old daughter and left my 15 and 17-year-old gaming nerd children home KNOWING THEY WOULD HATE IT.


“Rebel Wilson bites the heads off of cockroaches with human faces,”

Yes, she does, but this is REALLY not as big a deal as the critic made it. Cats eat beetles. Didn’t you know?

“The cats were disproportionate,”

No, they weren’t. “Jellicle Cats, as we said, are small.” And this movie is filmed in cat perspective.

“The cats don’t look like cats.”

And the swans in Swan Lake don’t look like Swans. This is a dance after all.

“They didn’t CGI fur on the hands of Judi Dench.”

No. They didn’t. In fact, for consistency, they didn’t CGI fur on anyone’s hands.

“The cats moaned sexually while they lapped milk.”

No, they didn’t.

And, the old original critic that I’ve been listening to for 30 years…“I didn’t understand the plot.”

Then you weren’t listening as the plot is clearly explained by Munkustrap in the third song and additional explanations were peppered throughout the entire movie.

And no. It isn’t about cats dying. It’s about how cats move from one of their nine lives to the next. It is about being beautiful on the inside. THAT is what Cats is about. How bullies target what they don’t understand and how those of us who are most beautiful on the inside are usually the first to be beaten down and thrown away.

Maybe you should watch it again.

About the Author: Anna Imagination

Biographical Info... What you seek is my Story. Every Soul is a "Blurb" as one would read on the back of the book. But can people be "unwrapped" so easily? Most importantly, why try? I have long since learned to preserve the Savory that comes with Discovery. Learning of another Soul is a Journey. It is an Exploration. And it does not do the Soul Justice to try and condense a Soul Journey into a Bio.