'Half-digested hairball of a movie': The reviews for Cats are in, and they're not good

When the first trailer for the cinematic adaption of Cats the musical hit the internet, large swathes of Twitter users reacted with shock, horror, and of course, memes. 

It's not entirely surprising then that the reviews for the Tom Hooper film aren't exactly filled with praise. However, with a star-studded cast featuring Idris Elba, Judi Dench, Rebel Wilson and Ian McKellen, it is a little shocking just how terrible the feedback is. 

The overwhelming response to Cats from the international media has seen it earn a score of 31 on Metacritic and just 18 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. 

Here are some of the good - there aren't many - the bad, and the downright horrified responses: 

"Both a horror and an endurance test" -  Los Angeles Times

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.

With its grotesque design choices and busy, metronomic editing, Cats is as uneasy on the eyes as a Hollywood spectacle can be, tumbling into an uncanny valley between mangy realism and dystopian artifice. 

 "A half-digested hairball of a movie" - Variety 

Sadly, this uneven eyesore turns out to be every bit the Jellicle catastrophe the haters anticipated, a half-digested hairball of a movie in which Hooper spends too much energy worrying about whether the technology is ready to accommodate his vision and not enough focusing on what millions love about the musical in the first place.

"I didn't hate it" - Arizona Republic 

I didn't hate it. I mean, I expected to. I tried to... What I didn't expect, though, was just how weird Cats is. It’s surreal, hallucinatory, and mostly in a good way, I finally decided. Despite the backlash over director Tom Hooper’s use of "digital fur" when the trailer came out, the CGI-enhanced costumes work pretty well, and there’s a real Alice in Wonderland feel to the oversize sets (from fancy Victorian sitting rooms to the trash-filled alley).

"A huge failure" - New York Post

Director Tom Hooper's movie is a huge failure because he’s completely abandoned the fundamentals of what made Cats a terrific show: sublime music, captivating dance and an intoxicating atmosphere. Instead, the director chooses to shake the camera around as though he can’t find his footing, uses dreadful CGI-human hybrids that look worse than makeup and needlessly buttresses the plot with exposition.

"There is one moment that works beautifully" - Time Out 

There is one moment in Cats that works beautifully, always has, and that's 'Memory', still an elemental piece of theatre. Jennifer Hudson, a classy presence in the context of this ensemble, sings it on the verge of tears, infusing the midsection with a scary sense of rage and wasted years. Hooper comes in tight and the spell is cast; even haters will be transported. Suddenly, you’re not thinking about "digital fur technology" or TS Eliot's dopey lyrics or even cats at all. There's just an outpouring of need, supported by a massive orchestra. That has to count for something. Cats may flop but it will be found by a likeminded audience, maybe the same one that rescued The Greatest Showman. Don't be the sourpuss to tell these people they're wrong.

"Almost unfathomable" - The Hollywood Reporter

Once the idea of making Cats as an animated feature was rejected, there presumably were multiple tests to figure out a digital approach to rendering the pusses onscreen. It's almost unfathomable that this one made it through all the preliminary production meetings without someone sensibly calling a halt to the process by saying, "Wait a minute, those kitties are damn creepy!"

"Oddly charming" - USA Today 

A bunch of well-known celebrities get turned into singing, scenery-chewing digital kitties in the utterly absurd yet oddly charming movie musical version of the Broadway hit. 

Cats isn't for everyone – much of it is a cheesy, B-grade affair seemingly crafted solely to take over midnight-movie slots from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Those with an open mind, though, as well as little kids and the T-Swift posse, might find it somewhat pawesome.

And a special mention must go to New Zealand's own David Farrier. He's not strictly a movie critic, but he is a bona fide film and documentary maker, and someone who's having quite a lot of trouble processing what he's just seen. 

"This is what death feels like" - David Farrier

"This is the worst thing I've ever seen"  This is what death feels like This is awful. This is not a film, this is chaos. I don't know if I'm five minutes in or five hours. Nothing matters any more. This is the death of all things. F**k it."