The unexpected virtue of bad movies

By Bradley Lane

Cats, directed by Academy Award-winning director Tom Hooper, is based on one of the longest-running Broadway musicals of all time and yet, it is a complete cinematic disaster. There are multiple visual effects glitches throughout the film, the story makes no sense, it is thematically bankrupt and on top of all that, the cat-human hybrid creatures that star in the film are uncanny, uncomfortable and creepy. While watching the film I couldn’t help but wonder; who approved all these wildly inappropriate creative decisions? Even so, I argue that these ridiculous creative decisions are exactly why Cats is a worthwhile film to experience.

Cats is light on plot, but the story mainly revolves around a newly abandoned cat being introduced to a stray cat society. She navigates this new setting as cats introduce themselves through song. Each cat has a name in addition to a specific trait or characteristic that inspires them to sing.

Trying to summarize the plot of Cats is a futile gesture, but that is all a part of the magic of Cats. Writer and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber’s source material is similarly incoherent, but it is important to recognize it was written for an entirely different medium. Stage performance assumes a level of suspension of disbelief from its audience from which film does not allow. When deciding how to interpret the stage show, it seems like every decision was one that just didn’t pan out.

However, Cats is a beautiful disaster. I laughed more at Cats than at any outright comedy I saw this year. The audience I was a part of was similarly engaged with the film. Audible groans, uproarious laughter and sarcastic clapping abounded in the theater. The audience had a great time, despite the objective lack of quality of the film.

It is in this collective experience that Cats deserves to be viewed. A packed theater or a couch full of friends is the best way to view Cats, specifically because it is through camaraderie that Cats is most enjoyable. What were once awkward and uncomfortable scenes become side splitting jokes when surrounded by similarly minded viewers.

More important than anything else though, Cats takes risks. It was a $95 million investment that funded sexually charged, hard to look at, human-cat creatures that sing and dance for two hours. It’s insane! I would watch Cats again and again, a movie that takes real risks, than another bland, focus grouped, safe Star Wars, Marvel, or Disney remake and I urge you to do the same. -1/5 stars