Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Froemming picked “Cats.”
The Movie: “Cats”
Starring: James Corden, Judi Dench, Jason Derulo
Director: Tom Hooper
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A tribe of cats called the Jellicles must decide yearly which one will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new Jellicle life.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 20 percent
Froemming: In December, Brown and I left the rotten year 2020 in a blaze of guns, glory and Chuck E. Cheese tokens with John Wick Month. It felt good. It felt needed. It felt right.
And, to ring in a fresh start with 2021, I decided to go back to my old bullshit. It feels good. It feels needed. It feels right.
And what better way to go back to my old ways than pick one of the lousiest movies in recent years? Brown knows damn well I am saving our last trip to Forks, Wash. for a rainy day, so I decided to pick “Cats,” a movie adaptation of a nearly four-decade-running, award-winning, wildly popular stage musical from Andrew Lloyd Webber based off a poem by T.S. Eliot.
What could go wrong?
Well, it appears, a lot.
This movie is what I imagine Hunter S. Thompson really saw in his LSD-fused hallucinations in the hotel bar lizard orgy chapter in “Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.” Only with toe-tapping song and dance numbers.
Brown, as I wrap my head around Taylor Swift as a CGI cat showering cocaine/catnip/?? on other CGI cats, why don’t you give us your first thoughts?
Brown: My first thought is you’re a real asshole for picking this movie.
In all honesty, “Cats” was a Chekov’s Gun pick for us. Privately, Froemming and I mentioned doing this for a review. We always joked that we wanted to review the butthole cut. It was all talk from us.
Brown: Then Froemming actually picked this nightmare. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that monsters aren’t real, people!
I have SO many thoughts on this movie so I’ll just let Froemming kick us off with a movie that begins with LITERAL ANIMAL ABUSE.
Froemming: Yeah, this begins in what I assume is Cat Alley or something, as all the businesses have cat puns in the title. And honestly, as a cat man myself, I would visit this place in a heartbeat.
Brown: For the record, I’m a dog person but I don’t necessarily mind cats. However, I am allergic to cats.
Froemming: But we see some scumbag drive through and dump a sack off. This is what assholes do, throw cats away in sacks.
In this sack is Victoria, a white cat whose CGI will haunt my dreams forever.
Brown: I love that in this movie’s Wikipedia page it says that Victoria was dropped in the streets. She was tossed down a (REDACTED) flight of stairs!
Also, this is supposed to be London, but it was so empty and vacant that I thought it was either a post-apocalyptic movie or current-day Phoenix.
Froemming, was it just me or did this city give off Gotham vibes?
Froemming: Yeah. If this was in America, we would have had the fun banter of The Catillac Cats to deal with.
But this is London, and The Clash told us all about this world:
Anyway, a bunch of horrifying Cat-Humans see this unfold and we are introduced to this lost chapter of “Naked Lunch” through song introductions of the characters!
Brown: Here’s the opening number of the movie.
And this springs the most important question of the entire movie: What the (REDACTED) is a jellicle?
Froemming: It is a (REDACTED) magical cat. How many times do I have to tell you this?
Brown: You can stop telling me this when the movie actually shows this. There are only two cats who ever show magical power and I don’t even want to give credit to the lame-ass magician cat.
Froemming: Now how many non-magical cats do you know of that speak and sing in the human tongue?
Brown: There’s no humans in this world that show that cats communicate with humans. They may as well be meowing to each other here.
Froemming: I am hearing all this in English.
Brown: I commend your childhood-like wonderment about magical cats. I’m, however, calling bullshit.
The only thing I’ve come up is that these English cats use jellicle the same way Smurfs use their namesake as verbs. Entire wings of college dorms would be killed if you tried making a drinking game for how many times the word jellicle is said in this movie.
In my horror, I did think of something that made perfect sense: I absolutely think these singing cats are why Charlie Kelly eats cat food, drinks beer and huffs glue before he goes to bed every night.
Froemming: Now, these cats take Victoria under their wing, where they hype up something called the Jellicle Ball, which I imagine is a lot like this song:
Brown: It’s really off-putting to see cats with calf muscles.
Also, the second song in this movie has the cats singing and dancing in a graveyard. Yes, this beloved stage musical adaptation has cats literally dancing on graves. All for a song about a (REDACTED) magician named Mr. Mistoffelees. Why not have a cat that’s a poet, a physician, a farmer, a scientist or any of the other so-called gods of our legends?
After that song/graveyard desecration, we get Rebel Wilson scratching her inner thighs while the camera takes a tight frame of that…
Froemming: We get singing mice, Wilson singing to mice on a cake, we meet Bustopher Jones, who with that name is basically this movie’s Porkins from “A New Hope.” And all this stimuli overload had me like Dean Pelton:
Brown: I’m intrigued and concerned about how many fetishes were awakened with this movie. Although, Froemming, I thought all this stimuli overload would make you more like Dewey Cox here:
I will also say that the CGI people mice and beetles were somehow more disturbing than the cats to me.
So, reader, have you noticed that all the songs we’ve mentioned have all been about introducing characters instead of advancing plot? That’s because the first 50 MINUTES of this movie has nothing but songs introducing characters. This was frustrating to the point that, every 20 minutes or so, I stopped the movie to digest what I was experiencing. And you know what’s a bad idea? Finding a way to make “Cats” a longer experience.
Froemming: This is a movie that, really, should have been an hour long Disney cartoon or something. The big thing of the stage musical was all the wild dancing and whatnot, and trying to cram that into an almost 2-hour surreal film was, in hindsight, a terrible idea.
Brown: I will give “Cats” this: It’s ambitious to a fault. It’s a spectacle and, as the Cinema Snob said in his review, probably the closest thing we’re getting to a full-length production of “Satan’s Alley” from “Staying Alive.” It just… doesn’t work for me.
By the way, the next song is about a cat named Rum Tum Tugger, which sounds like what you’d call it when you get a handjob from someone with chapped hands. Or maybe with long, sharp nails to go with the cat theme.
… I don’t know if there’s a price high enough for these actors/actresses to pay in order to have this movie expunged from their IMDB pages.
Froemming: The movie also introduces us to Grizabella, which feels like a tragic character from a Charles Bukowski short story, minus the alcoholism. She has fallen on hard times and is shunned by the cat community, for reasons? This movie is very confusing, but I needed to mention her here because she becomes a larger character at the end of the movie. Like when “Star Wars” introduced us to Luke Skywalker in the last 10-minutes of “A New Hope.”
Then we get Victoria hooking up with some asshole cats who ruin their owners’ homes. Here it is obnoxious. When real cats do it, it is adorable. That is something to think about, movie.
Victoria is ditched when a dog starts barking and is saved by Mr. Mistoffelees, which would be an adorable name for a cat, but here it is horrifying. That is something to think about, movie.
Brown: Also, when lines aren’t being sung, we get cat puns!
While nothing but songs about characters goes on, Macavity is (checks notes) abducting other cats and (checks notes) putting them on a boat on the River Thames?
First, I’m real bummed out that the bad guy happens to be a black cat.
Second, what the actual (REDACTED) is going on in this film?
Froemming: This movie shamed me into knowing I have been mispronouncing “Thames” my whole life.
So, what is going on is Macavity wants to be the one chosen for Heaviside Layer at the ball. This symbolizes a second chance, a new start, ect. Or this is purgatory like in “Lost” and everyone has to wait until it is their time to ascend. I have no idea what the (REDACTED) I am talking about.
Brown: As I put it to you on Messenger, I think the prize for the jellicle ball was to die in a hot air balloon, fly up into “Grease” heaven and become reincarnated?
Makes as much sense as anything else in this movie.
Froemming: Anyway, Macavity has hatched a scheme to be the one chosen, by default, which we all know are….
Brown: Quick aside, how off-putting was it to see various cats wearing human clothes? There were two cats who looked like they were wearing Nikes while breakdancing. There was one in red overalls that looked like Mario took the acid power-up. Also, cat in tap shoes because this world is a nightmare.
Froemming: Why does Mickey Mouse wear pants, but Donald Duck doesn’t? There are some things I’d rather just not know in this world.
Froemming: Anyway, Victoria rejoins the gang and they head to the ball, where we see Judi Dench and Ian McKellen as horrific CGI cat people that will also forever haunt my dreams.
Brown: When we got to the ballroom when the jellicle ball is set to take place, I was laughing kind of hard when the opening notes of the music sounded like the mansion basement music from the director’s cut of “Resident Evil” that was written by a composer who allegedly was deaf.
As for Dame Judi Dench and Sir Ian McKellen, I think they did this movie for the same reason Michael Caine did “Jaws 4”: “I have never seen the film, but by all accounts it was terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.”
Froemming: I am going off Wikipedia now, because I was lost here. So, Victoria does some dance and whatnot, and is distracted because some cat is bullying Grizabella, who was ostracized because she ran with Macavity or something. Had no idea about any of this, so thanks Wikipedia!
Brown: That’s because the movie doesn’t have any plot until the last 20-30 minutes.
I will say I enjoyed the dancing bits at the jellicle ball since it meant everyone stopped singing nonsensical songs. It helped me get over how much the CGI made Judi Dench look like the Cowardly Lion from “The Wizard of Oz.”
I will say that I related hard to Victoria when, as everyone’s dancing, she bolts outside to get away from it. That’s how I am at bars: I can only deal so much before I need to get outside to get away from everything.
Froemming: Or you go outside to strut like Ric Flair.
Brown: That’s only after several gins and Sprite in beer steins.
Froemming: Well, now we come to the part of the movie where Taylor Swift, as Bombalurina, is lowered from the ceiling on a moon and throws cocaine/catnip/?? on the crowd like she is Steve Rubell from Studio-54. The cats are high, she is singing her song and gyrating and…
She gets everyone stoned out of their mind.
Brown: It would be a room of cats just goin’ to town on each other if this wasn’t a PG movie. With how drugged up all these cats were getting on “catnip,” I’m shocked this scene wasn’t scored by Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” or Animotion’s “Obsession.”
And yeah, T-Swift is singing about Macavity, whom I assume used to attack Toothopolis as a member of the Cavity Creeps, and explaining his motives (I think). You know what would have been a good idea? Putting that song earlier in the (REDACTED) movie so we could understand Macavity’s motives while he’s abducting cats.
Froemming: Well, here we are. And Macavity wants to be the chosen one, and is shot down by Old Deuteronomy, what with all the kidnapping and cocaine-T-Swift shenanigans going on and all. So, he decides to kidnap her too.
Brown: Before we forget, Froemming, what the (REDACTED) was up with Nashville’s own Taylor Swift singing with an English accent?
Froemming: She went full-Madonna there.
Macavity, not every answer in life is to kidnap those who disagree with you.
Well, now the pressure is on Mr. Mistoffelees, because he claims to be a magician and magic can bring people back. The problem is Mr. Mistoffelees is just a slight-of-hand illusionist. I wished he had a theme song like this other famous illusionist:
The other cats put their faith in him, and he somehow brings Old Deuteronomy back from wherever the hell Macavity sneaks these cats away.
Brown: Why are we trying to assume Mr. Mistoffelees saved Old Deuteronomy from the River Thames? Cats can swim, people. It’s not hard to imagine she and the rest of the kidnapped (catnapped?) cats swam to shore. If Nic Cage could do it from an oil rig jail in “Face/Off,” these cats can do it, too.
All I’m saying is that Mr. Mistoffelees couldn’t bring Old Deuteronomy back to the ball room. Dude couldn’t even do Chris Angel’s lame-ass Grand Canyon death jump.
Seriously, watch this clip. This is so (REDACTED) dumb.
Froemming: Well, he brings her back with MAGIC!
Anyway, Macavity is thwarted on the barge, never to be seen again and Grizabella returns to the ball, were she is embraced because Victoria says “she’s cool.” I guess? I dunno, this movie was baffling.
Then Grizabella sings this song and is chosen to go to Heaviside Layer, which is attainable via chandelier-turned-hot-air-balloon, because the two writers on this movie were LSD and Cocaine.
Brown: I guess the Hot Air Balloon Patrol was off duty this night?
Also, Victoria and Mr. Mistoffelees are getting romantic because they keep rubbing their heads against each other. It was more disturbing than watching John Travolta face-wipe people in “Face/Off.”
With all these stray cats dancing their way through the London streets, we at the JOE-DOWN would like to remind you to spay and neuter your pets.
And with that, let’s take our hot air balloon over to recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: Yes. This is something people need to experience.
Brown: No. This is the worst movie we’ve watched since “Jack and Jill.”
Here is what’s coming up for the next Joe-Down: