Say what you want about its artistic merits, but you can’t say the movie Cats hasn’t elicited strong reactions.
The film, based on the hit Andrew Lloyd Weber Broadway musical, features a galaxy of celebrities prancing around in all their digitally enhanced glory. Luminaries like Sir Ian McKellan, Dame Judie Densch, Taylor Swift, Idris Elba, Rebel Wilson, and Jennifer Hudson, among many others, try to bring the stage show to life.
Do they succeed?
Well, the critics have spoken, and the reviews are…not awesome. The movie scores a rating of 20 percent fresh on the critical compilation website RottenTomatoes.com. Many critics can’t seem to believe what they’re seeing, and not in a good way.
Here are some of the most memorable, as compiled by Rotten Tomatoes:
“This all-star, all-awful screen take on the smash Broadway musical easily scores as the worst movie of the year and arguably the decade. Cats shouldn’t happen to a dog.” — Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
“Like the Ark of the Covenant, you won’t be able to look away as it melts your face off.” — Matt Rodriguez, Shakefire.com
“Yup, it’s a dog alright.” — Thom Ernst, Original Cin
“Cats is terrible, but it’s also kind of great.” — Stephanie Zacharek, Time Magazine
“It’s hard to know how to react to Cats, other than gape in slack-jawed amazement that the dare has continued for so long.” — Scott Tobias, NPR
“This ain’t no cat’s meow, my Jellicles.” — Beth Sullivan, Austin Chronicle
“It’s taken the musical Cats nearly 40 years to make its way from the stage to the big screen. Now we know why.” — Robert W. Butler, Butler’s Cinema Scene
“Are all the cast being held hostage?” — Jamie East, the Sun (UK)
“The look of the actors is so strange you can’t get over it: It’s the Uncanny Alley. The actors have tails and fur, but also hands. The lady cats have bosoms. Millions in digital effects have yielded the strangest species mashup since Manimal.” — Kyle Smith, National Review
“It is literally the stuff of nightmares.” — Larushka Ivan-Zadeh, the Metro (UK)
But, hey: Not all the reviews were scathing. Some critics kind of got what director Tom Holland and the rest of the cast were going for.
“I realize “It’s not that bad!” won’t be used in the Cats advertising campaign, but it is worth noting that the peculiar musical does indeed have merit.” — Mara Reinstein, Us Weekly
“I enjoyed the film for what it is. It’s London’s Got Talent for the feline set.” — Shelia O’Malley, RogerEbert.com
“Does all this work? Well, it depends on how you feel about … “Cats.” Did you love the show? You’ll find stuff to love here. Did you hate it? Ditto! Or maybe … you’ll have both reactions? That’s possible too.” — Jocelyn Novak, Associated Press
“The truth is, ‘Cats’ is destined for cult status, misunderstood by the uninitiated, unaccepted by the “it’s-cool-to-hate” crowd, and cherished by a special brand of audience who sees the value in art that dares to be different.” — Dustin Putman, thefilmfile.com
“Look, this is a pretty damn faithful rendition of a famously bonkers and unapologetically ridiculous stage show. It’s not quite “good,” but it’s certainly going for it.” — Scott Mendelson, Forbes