Cats: the fur, the tails, Judi Dench's cannibal coat – discuss the film with spoilers

Are all the humans dead? Why do some of the cats wear clothes? Even if it completely lacks a plot, there’s plenty to pick apart here

Usually with an article like this, I’d begin by warning you that the following contains plot spoilers. But I’m not sure whether this does or not, because this is an article about Cats. Cats does not have a plot.

It has plenty of other things – it has singing, and dancing, and a bunch of cats who all uniformly look like discarded test subjects from a harrowing genetic splicing accident – but not really a plot. Unless you count “Some cats repeatedly introduce themselves at great length because their greatest wish is to be murdered in a Wicker Man-style death ritual”. Which you absolutely should not.

But still, it is perfectly evident that Cats needs to be discussed. It needs to be discussed at length, because the only way to lessen the burden of our collective trauma is by sharing it. So with that in mind, here are the Cats moments that most sorely need to be dissected.

Where are all the humans?
Cats is set in London. It’s an easily identifiable London, full of buildings and statues and lights and advertisements. However, apart from the cats, it is entirely deserted. The streets are empty, the theatre abandoned. It’s eerie. Where did everybody go? My guess – and I’ll assume that I’m correct – is that in their pursuit of ritual murder, the cats turned against their owners and savaged them to death.

Why was Rebel Wilson masturbating?
Rebel Wilson is the comic relief in Cats, in that she falls over a lot, but her showcase number is honestly one of the most traumatic things I have ever witnessed in my entire life. For starters, when we first meet her, she is splayed out on her back with her hands between her legs, rubbing herself frantically. The sexuality of the cats in Cats is generally quite explicit – they’re all constantly about a microsecond away from humping each other – but Wilson’s self-pleasure is quite graphic for a U-rated film.

Rebel Wilson in Cats.
Honestly one of the most traumatic things I have ever witnessed … Rebel Wilson in Cats. Photograph: Universal Pictures/Allstar/Working Title Entertainment

Why did Rebel Wilson rip off all her clothes?
Luckily, Wilson understands that we’d find the masturbation unsettling, which is presumably why she immediately does something far more terrifying. Halfway through her song, she stops and unzips herself, ultimately revealing that she was wearing a horrifying Ed Gein-style skin suit all along; something that apparently provoked enough arousal for her to start masturbating. Chilling.

Why do none of the cats have any sort of consistency when it comes to clothes?
The attitude to clothing in Cats is baffling from start to finish. Rebel Wilson can unzip her own skin. Dame Judi Dench can wear a fur coat on top of her own fur. Mr Mistoffelees appears to be wearing a hat made of another cat’s skin, but also a regular blazer made of traditional cloth that he must have had tailored by another cat. Towards the end of the film, we meet a cat who for some reason gets to wear trousers and shoes. The sartorial feline world is the wild west, and every possible option is just as unpleasant as the last.

Why did James Corden wince when he hit himself in the crotch?
None of the cats in Cats have genitals. Which is weird, since some of them have breasts and/or six-packs. So, when James Corden smacks himself in the crotch halfway through his song about how fat he is, why does it cause him so much intense pain?

What the hell is going on with the other animals?
I have to admit, this is my biggest issue with Cats. In the Rebel Wilson song, we meet other types of animals, and they’re also nightmarish part-human CGI hybrids. The cockroaches – again, complete with human faces and fingers – are one thing. But the mice in Cats will stop me from sleeping properly until the end of time. Because the mice are played by children. The cats are adults and the mice are children, and whenever one of the cats picks up a mouse to eat it, the mouse screams “NO! NO!” in genuine fear for its life. With a child’s voice. In the future, I guarantee that a serial killer will watch a supercut of the screaming Cats mice before going on a rampage. There is also a dog in Cats. It remains unseen. I will forever be grateful for this.

Why does the film end with an etiquette lesson?
Cats is essentially The X Factor for suicidal cats, which makes Judi Dench a version of Simon Cowell who is marginally less distressing to look at. Once the winning cat has been murdered, she breaks the fourth wall and sings us a song about the proper way for humans to look after cats. Why? Is she threatening us? We saw what she did to the cat who won the murder contest. We saw the lack of other humans in London. Was she warning us that we’d be next? Because, honestly, if the choice is being murdered by cats or remaining alive and having to thing about Cats any more, I’d take the former every time.


Stuart Heritage

The GuardianTramp

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