Why are the 'Cats' so sexual?! Everything you're puzzling over after seeing the movie
But how did we get here? While watching "Cats," we came up with a list of burning questions that might plague you, too, if you bravely bypass the 19% rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes and buy tickets to the Jellicle Ball at a theater near you.
From explaining the undeniably sexual cats to figuring out why the heck Judi Dench would agree to appear in the movie musical (along with demystifying the frightening digital fur and diving into the very backstory of "Cats" itself), here are our burning questions about the new movie.
1. How did we get here?
"Cats" is based on T.S. Eliot's 1939 book "Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats," a childhood favorite of Andrew Lloyd Webber, who set the poems to music for his now famous score. And so launched an almost plotless extravaganza of Jellicle cats attending a ball in hopes of getting to the Heaviside Layer. In 1983, the Broadway production won seven Tony Awards, including best musical, despite much critical disdain. When director Tom Hooper was finishing his other movie musical, 2012's "Les Misérables," he was approached to do "Cats." And why not, he might have thought? The songs are total earworms, there's glory in a big swing and even though the story feels like an acid trip ... People. Love. "Cats."
Idris Elba struggles to explain 'Cats':'I guess it's about a, uh, a cat'
2. What's up with the digital fur that's creeping everyone out?
The much-hyped "digital fur technology" came to life after the actors were put into bodysuits with strategically placed dots on their faces, which later became fur patterns and feline features. After the effects were roundly mocked when the first "Cats" trailer arrived, Hooper tweaked his computer-generated cat hair. "My great dream with the visual effects was to ... make the actors feline while preserving their faces and their real performances, and the integrity of what they did," Hooper told the Observer. But, alas, the pelts adorning Taylor Swift, Idris Elba and Ian McKellan are still oh-so-creepy.
3. Why are the cats so sexual?
To be fair to Hooper, the "Cats" have always been sexual. According to Vulture, Eliot's widow Valerie was adamant in giving the rights to Webber that the cats not be turned into cuddly kittens. We just weren't quite ready for the big screen version of these ... sexy cats.
4. Why on earth is Judi Dench (a dame!) in this?
Dench has long been a "Cats" stan – she was even supposed to be in the original run of "Cats" in London in 1981. Dench was preparing to play two parts – the Old Gumbie cat Jennyanydots and the decrepit Grizabella – when she snapped her Achilles tendon during rehearsals and had to drop out of the show. So returning to "Cats" 38 years later, this time as the wise Old Deuteronomy, has been a joy for Dench. "What’s lovely for me is that it has come full circle doing it again," she told USA TODAY.
5. Will Tom Hooper have a career after this?
Yes. He's an Oscar winner who won best director in 2011 for "The King's Speech." He survived a mixed critical response to "Les Mis," which nabbed eight Oscar nominations anyway. He's also not a woman or a minority (who are no stranger to landing in "movie jail" after a bomb – just ask Catherine Hardwicke or Karyn Kusama). He'll be fine.
6. The cats, cockroaches and mice all have humanlike qualities. What about dogs?
One of the most delightfully deranged discoveries of "Cats" is learning that felines aren't the only animals with human characteristics. Oh, no, no, no: Midway through "The Old Gumbie Cat," we are treated to a performance by a group of smiling, suited mice, who are apparently kept in a cupboard by Jennyanydots (Rebel Wilson). Moments later, a chorus line of cockroach Rockettes with human faces dance on top of a cake.
This mortifying revelation opens the door for so many other logistical questions about the "Cats" universe: Is this musical set in the aftermath of some sick nuclear holocaust that mutated animals, cursing them with a slapdash assortment of human body parts? Did the woman who abandoned Victoria (Francesca Hayward) at the start of the film discard her because she was (rightfully) terrified of having a talking kitten? And is the unseen dog who chases Victoria also a dog human?
7. Why is Rebel the only cat who can unzip her fur?
On two occasions, Jennyanydots literally unzips her digital fur, revealing a shiny pink minidress covering what appears to be skin. (Or maybe it was more fur? We were too busy screaming internally to grasp what was happening.) We love a dramatic costume change as much as any other theater nerd, but why doesn't she simply wear her costume on top of her fur? Does she take her fur off every night before she goes to sleep? And does she have any changes of fur or just the one?
8. Is Macavity the most incompetent villain ever?
Macavity magics his Jellicle competition to the "Cats" equivalent of Alcatraz. But if he's so crafty that he can literally transport tabbies through time and space, then why is he also so incredibly dumb? His idea of prison is loosely wrapping a chain around Bustopher Jones and Jennyanydots, which she easily slips out of by – you guessed it – unzipping her fur. And when he attempts to fly off with Grizabella in her giant death balloon at the end, he lets go after a few seconds, landing on top of a building. Taylor Swift just sang a whole song about him breaking laws of gravity ("Macavity: The Mystery Cat") – why didn't he break out some of his "powers of levitation" here? It's his own dang fault he's not the Jellicle choice.
9. Is "Cats" our "Citizen Kane?"
In that we say we watched it, even though we never actually have? Then no, because we fully intend to watch "Cats" in all its demented, delirious glory a thousand more times. In the immortal words of Jason Derulo, "MIIIIILK!"