You must witness the hubris of director Tom Hooper. You must witness the hubris of Hollywood. The hubris of these performers. You have to sit in that theater and view this fur-festooned thing so that years from now you might heroically say that you were there. You saw it in its infancy before it became a cult oddity like another bizarre and inept, but thoroughly watchable, feline-centric film: Nobuhiko Obayashi’s House.
Cats defies belief because it exists and yet at every turn, it is very obvious that Cats should not exist.
The plot of Cats isn’t necessarily important. When Andrew Lloyd Webber adapted T.S. Eliot’s book of poems in 1981 he wasn’t trying to create a narratively complex musical. He was just making an experience—all dance and Spandex and discordant crooning. Everything you need to know is in the opening number when the cats explain that there will be a Jellicle Ball and old Deuteronomy will choose one cat to ascend to a higher plane of existence. Cats the movie, penned by Lee Hall and Hooper, helpfully reiterates this in a new scene between two characters, just in case the digital fur and all the cavorting distracts you from the plot. The narrative crux of the story comes partly from the preconceived notions of the cats (there’s a whole lot of slut-shaming revolving around why the cats all hate Jennifer Hudson’s Grizabella), but mainly from the machinations of Idris Elba’s Macavity, who saunters in periodically to magically disappear competitors for his desired slot heavenside (another name for the Jellicle cats’ higher plane of existence).