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16 delightfully mean lines from the ‘Cats’ reviews

Taylor Swift as Bombalurina in “Cats.”
Taylor Swift as Bombalurina in “Cats.”
(Universal Pictures/Universal Pictures)

Jellicle cats unite! The long-awaited, and much maligned, feature film adaptation of the blockbuster musical “Cats” finally arrives in theaters beginning Thursday night. And despite Universal’s attempt to keep the project as under wraps as it could, the studio had to screen it for critics at some point.

Following a world premiere in New York on Monday evening and multiple Tuesday press screenings, the reviews are now out. And they’re ... not good.

Despite an all-star cast led by Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Jennifer Hudson, Idris Elba, James Corden, Rebel Wilson, Taylor Swift and celebrated dancer Francesca Hayward, the movie — directed by “The King’s Speech” Oscar winner Tom Hooper — is living down to the low expectations set by its disastrous trailer.

Times critic Justin Chang says: “Given how often the movies tend to stereotype felines as smug, pampered homebodies, there are certainly worse characters one could spend time with, though I am hard-pressed at the moment to think of many worse movies. I say this with zero hyperbole and the smallest kernel of admiration. For the most part, ‘Cats’ is both a horror and an endurance test, a dispatch from some neon-drenched netherworld where the ghastly is inextricable from the tedious. Every so often it does paws — ahem, pause — to rise to the level of a self-aware hoot.”

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Here are 16 more of the cattiest critical reactions from across the internet:

Brian Truitt, USA TODAY:
“Actors dressing up in cat costumes has been fine for a musical-theater phenomenon going on nearly 40 years, which honestly would have been fine for the big-screen version, too... But the wider shots where the kitties move in quick, random action are often distracting, and certain cat personas just never look quite right. Elba’s Macavity is fine with clothes on yet eerily bizarre as a naked cat, though the actual nightmare fuel occurs when human faces are put on tiny mice and Rockette-esque cockroaches.”

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter:
“Jennifer Hudson tirelessly over-emotes in the role; she limps around hemorrhaging snot and looking either miserable or terrified, like she’s been watching the dailies.”

Manohla Dargis, New York Times:
“It is tough to pinpoint when the kitschapalooza called ‘Cats’ reaches its zenith or its nadir, which are one and the same. The choices are legion: Judi Dench gliding in as Old Deuteronomy, a Yoda-esque fluff ball with a huge ruff who brings to mind the Cowardly Lion en route to a drag ball as Queen Elizabeth I; the tap dancing Skimbleshanks (Steven McRae), dressed, unlike most of the furries — in red pants and suspenders, no less — leading a Pied Piper parade; or Taylor Swift, as Bombalurina, executing a joyless burlesque shimmy after descending on the scene astride a crescent moon that ejaculates iridescent catnip.”

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Robert Abele, The Wrap:
“Tom Hooper’s jarring fever dream of a spectacle is like something that escaped from Dr. Moreau’s creature laboratory instead of a poet’s and a composer’s feline (uni)verse, an un-catty valley hybrid of physical and digital that unsettles and crashes way more often than it enchants.”

Jennifer Hudson as Grizabella in “Cats.”
Jennifer Hudson as Grizabella in “Cats.”
(Universal Pictures/v)

Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly:
“What is ‘Cats’? Music, madness, a hairball in the cosmos ... Even after 110 tumbling, tail-swishing, deeply psychedelic minutes, it’s hard to know if you ever really knew anything — except that C is for ‘Cats,’ C is for Crazy, and C is probably the grade this cinematic lunacy deserves, in the sense of making any sense at all.”

Ty Burr, Boston Globe
“In fact, there are moments in ‘Cats’ I would gladly pay to unsee, including the baby mice with faces of young girls and the tiny chorus line of cockroach Rockettes — again, with human faces — that Jennyanydots gleefully swallows with a crunch. Anyone who takes small children to this movie is setting them up for winged-monkey levels of night terrors.”

John Nugent, Empire:
“Neither human nor cat, they all look like laboratory mutants put through a Snapchat filter. Your brain will never comprehend it. It’s jarring from the first minute and remains jarring until the last.”

Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press:
“There’s apparently enough groundbreaking technology used in ‘Cats’ for NASA to send a rocket to unexplored parts of the universe — perhaps to a far-off planet where cats sing, dance on two legs, and recite T.S. Eliot poetry in half-Cockney accents.”

Jason Derulo as Rum Tum Tugger in “Cats.”
Jason Derulo as Rum Tum Tugger in “Cats.”
(Universal Pictures)

Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair:
“The real villain here is Hooper, who has conceptualized a movie that claims to honor its performers while smothering them in digital makeup. Why even bother hiring the elastic, fluid dancers if their bodies were going to be rendered so inhuman? Or, rather, so unnatural—they’re not supposed to be humans, after all. In doing so much to make the world of ‘Cats’ something approaching credible, Hooper completely fails imagination, ignoring the disbelief happily suspended for decades by the millions of fans of the stage musical. Nothing is accomplished by turning ‘Cats’ into a garish CGI experiment, and just about everything is lost.”

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Michael O’Sullivan, Washington Post:
“Having just watched ‘Cats,’ the movie version of the hit musical about something called ‘Jellicle cats,’ it is clear that ‘Jellicle’ must be cat-speak for ‘wackadoodle.’”

Peter Debruge, Variety:
“From the first shot — of just such a blue moon, distressingly fake, flanked by poufy cat-shaped clouds — to the last, ‘Cats’ hurts the eyes and, yes, the ears, as nearly all the musical numbers, including ‘Memory,’ have been twisted into campy, awards-grubbing cameos for big-name stars in bad-CG cat drag.”

Alison Willmore, Vulture:
“To assess ‘Cats’ as good or bad feels like the entirely wrong axis on which to see it ... Mostly, though, it’s like an acting exercise allowed to grow to an incomprehensible scale, and then given lyrics drawn from a selection of light poems by T.S. Eliot.”

Ian McKellen as Gus the Theatre Cat in “Cats.”
Ian McKellen as Gus the Theatre Cat in “Cats.”
(Universal Pictures/Universal Pictures)

Will Gompertz, BBC:
“The harsh truth is the film feels plastic, it has no heart or soul. That might well be a problem with the source material and its suitability for a transfer from stage to screen. Notwithstanding notable successes, the fact is not everything that is a hit in one medium works in another.”

Eric Kohn, Indiewire:
“But there’s the rub: The argument against ‘Cats’ also makes the case for its existence, because everything ludicrous about the show has been cranked up to 11, with a restless artificial camera and actors so keen on upstaging one another with excessive song-and-dance numbers they may as well be competing for a Heaviside Layer of their own.”

Brian Lowry, CNN:
“Ultimately, ‘Cats’ feels like a conspicuous waste, in what the studio is describing as an ‘epic musical.’ If the goal was to provide a holiday musical event that’s fun for the whole family, it’s a good idea in theory, packaged in the wrong litter box.”

Alissa Wilkinson, Vox:
“It’s literally incredible. I hope I never see it again.”


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