Mere months after the release of Cats single-human-handedly made the case for why it’s still fun to go see a movie in a crowded theater, preventative measures against the spread of coronavirus made the mere thought of shouting-along to a film in the company of others a distant (forgive us) memory. But as if it had some sort of Jellicle sixth sense, Universal made Cats available for digital purchase on March 17, right as people around the world were settling into their new socially distanced routines, in serious need of something to stream. While some have been drawn to watching relevant pandemic films like Contagion, others simply want comfort shows. Cats is neither: too bizarre to have any tether to the real world, and too horrific to qualify as a comfort to anyone. Still, we rewatched Cats at home, alone, on a laptop, with no sing-alongs or hooting crowds. And we’ll say this: Cats hits different when you’ve been quarantined for a week. In isolation, you’ll catch more than a few disturbing moments that went unnoticed before. For example:
“Castle on a cloud?” Honey, there is a cat skull on a cloud.
Adding to our list of things these cats are smaller than, somehow: a fish.
When Nanny from Muppet Babies throws Baby Victoria onto the street, you can see a vaudeville sign in the background that says “Cheshire” (like a cat!) and another big neon sign that says “WAKE UP AND DREAM!” The two of which, combined, seem to suggest that Victoria is either our white rabbit ushering us into an Alice in Wonderland world of trippy confusion, or that Tom Hooper is aware that what he’s doing is akin to a night terror.
This is the loading wheel on the MacBook they give you in Hell.
In whatever year Cats was meant to take place, AF1s definitely didn’t exist yet. The line between which cats deserve shoes and which are saddled with homunculus feet only gets hairier as Cats goes on.
Us, inviting you over to eat out of the toilet. (That’s code for “watch Cats.”)
The spooky graveyard scene in Cats is just a made-up holiday by the Dutch-angles industry to sell more Dutch angles. This has big “Come play with us” twins vibes, only freakier, because they both look like Splice from Splice.
Blink and you’ll miss it: When Jennyanydots scratches her cat-taint (purrineum?) the camera has mercy and cuts to the back of her head, where for a brief millisecond, she looks like live-action Garfield from the Bill Murray Garfield. Which is also a terrible movie by any measure, but oh God, better than this.
Could the “Berlioz soap” tin be a reference to Cats’ feline musical predecessor, The Aristocats? The tom-kittens in that film wore little bows around their necks, just like the mice in this Cats scene, and were named Toulouse and Berlioz. I didn’t have to look that up. That is a fact that lives in my brain, where other things like “math” should be.
And this must be a reference to Fritz the Cat, right?
Imagine if Tom Hooper made Fantine yeet away on all fours after singing “I Dreamed a Dream.” We should be outraged for J.Hud. We should be taking to the streets.
Everyone freaks out about Judi Dench’s fourth-wall-penetrating address at the end of the movie, but no one seems to have noticed the moment when James Corden stares down the barrel of the lens and says the name of the movie. Powerful.
Skimbleshanks appears for the first time at the 40-minute, 30-second mark, in case you’re looking for him in the background, a game fittingly known as Trainspotting. We think he’s fondling a tap shoe?
Old Deuteronomy with the handwashing hygiene PSA. She definitely doesn’t take her ring off when she handwashes for 20 seconds; she doesn’t even take it off to film Cats.
mlam mlam mlam myam
Where were you when you realized Mr. Mistoffelees’s wand is a pencil?
Another small detail we missed in the theater because we couldn’t hear it over the constant, rapturous applause: When Skimble says you “won’t be bothered by mice,” a little white mouse-child runs away and squeaks “Skimble! No!”
Skimbleshanks did a tight pirouette into the sky and disappeared into a puff of smoke, and still people call this movie things other than “good.”
Put your coat back on, sir, you’re scaring the children.
The lyric “not long ago, this phenomenal cat produced seven kittens right out of a hat” imbued us with the awesome, terrible knowledge that Mr. Mistoffelees does indeed fuck. Also, this is the last we see of the mice children, because … they die?
Not sure if we fully processed the flying Fantasia instruments the first time around.
Bustopher Jones’s twinning boyfriend is known as simply the Maitre D’, according to the Cats Fandom Wiki. He is “a meek cat that follows Bustopher Jones around.” Here, they enjoy a celebratory shrimp because the wicked Macavity has been trapped on a roof or something.
Awful, just awful. She is singing about “potted grouse” and “salmon paste.” We don’t know if these are types of old-timey cat food or just standard English cuisine. The copious lip-smacking from Munkustrap and Mistoffelees is particularly repulsive.
Cats don’t belong in balloons.