Why ‘Cats’ Deserves to Be Recognized as 2019’s Worst Film

Each year, movie fans wait to see what films will be honored at the Academy Awards. Just as the Oscars recognize the very best Hollywood has to offer in a given year, another awards show commits to the exact opposite.

For the past 40 years, the Golden Raspberry Awards — better known as the Razzies — have acknowledged the worst achievements in movies. Presented by the Golden Raspberry Award Foundation, the Razzies are essentially a satirical take on prestigious Hollywood awards.

Some Razzie winners — such as Tom Green, Halle Berry, Dwayne Johnson, and Sandra Bullock — have gotten in on the fun. Berry even brought her Oscar with her to accept her Razzie for Catwoman. Appropriately enough, the movie which deserves to win big this year also revolves around felines.

Idris Elba at the world premiere of 'Cats'
Idris Elba at the world premiere of ‘Cats’ | Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

‘Cats’ is destined to be a so-bad-it’s-good cult classic

That’s right. We’re talking about director Tom Hooper’s Cats. It’s hard to believe this ill-conceived adaptation of the hit stage musical was once considered a potential Oscar player. Instead, the film is a smorgasbord of oddity all but certain to become a notorious Hollywood cautionary tale.

Yet, in addition to possibly ruining a few careers, Cats is likely to become appreciated as both a guilty pleasure — especially among theater aficionados — and an ironic cult classic. Much like The Room, Cats makes so many baffling left turns. The “digital fur technology” is just the start of it.

From a nonsensical story to way-too-suggestive dance choreography, Cats is a train wreck of epic proportions. But the very same elements which have turned off moviegoers lend the film an undeniable magnetism. Like a fiery wreck, some disbelieving viewers might not be able to look away.

A star-studded cast in an incredibly weird, awesomely bad film

It’s not as if Cats doesn’t have heaps of talent involved. Hooper is an Oscar-winning filmmaker for The King’s Speech, after all. Plus, he assembles a cast here that would normally all but guarantee the awards buzz Universal thought it had with Cats. Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber even co-wrote a new song for the film with none other than Taylor Swift.

Oscar winners Jennifer Hudson and Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Jason Derulo, James Corden, Rebel Wilson, and Idris Elba star in the film. And while the big names deliver mostly embarrassing turns, a few emerge unscathed. Elba, for instance, is having a blast as the villainous Macavity and even gets to duet with Swift’s Bombalurina.

Sure, we see McKellen lap up a bowl of milk and Corden hawk up a hairball. But much of the remaining Cats cast is comprised of stage performers, who do an admirable job dancing to and singing Webber’s music. Francesca Hayward particularly stands out in her film debut, as does Robbie Fairchild. So even amidst the insanity that is Cats, a bit of their talent shines through.

The biggest gambles should be acknowledged

But none of the above touches on perhaps the biggest reason why Cats should be named the Worst Picture of 2019 at the next Razzies. Hooper’s film makes just about every wrong decision along the way or at least feels that way. Very little of the production works, and yet, it is also the product of deliberate choices by Hooper and his team.

Rather than calling out movies that fell flat or disappointed, the Razzies should be celebrating those that spectacularly failed. Cats might seem like a catnip-fueled acid trip. But the film also doesn’t look, sound, or feel like anything else out there. That kind of vision — misguided as it might be — remains more notable now than ever.

Sure, the Razzies could choose to turn the spotlight on another poor Hollywood sequel, remake, or retread. Still, such an approach would feel like such a missed opportunity in a year that gave us a film as delightfully baffling as Cats. Most of those “jellicle” cats will never make their way to the Heaviside Layer. But the Razzie stage? That is very doable.

The 40th Razzie nominations are announced on Feb. 8, 2020.