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Cats Is Bad. Like Really, Really Bad, But What’s It Like When You’re Drunk?

Cats Is Bad. Like Really, Really Bad, But What’s It Like When You’re Drunk?
One of Danny's Friends/Background by StockUnlimited
Writing another review of how bad the Cats movie is at this point would be a waste of time. Everyone should see it to make up their own mind, but adding another review of it to Rotten Tomatoes would be like throwing a gasoline truck on a wildfire.

If you're one of the few people left in the world who hasn't seen it or heard someone describe its awfulness with a quivering lower lip — in the same way they'd deliver a testimony in a manslaughter deposition — here's what you need to know: It's not as bad as you think. It's worse. MUCH worse.

It's like watching a dumpster fire that was started by scorpions who are somehow under control by the remaining Koch brother.

It's like watching your family's Christmas tree blow up on Christmas morning and realizing that every surviving present was a Dollar Tree reject.

It's the Hindenburg of movies if the zeppelin were filled with helium instead of hydrogen and it caused the "Oh, the humanity!" guy to sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks.

I'm sure there are people who watched and enjoyed Cats for one reason or another, but the consensus of its badness is so overwhelming that Universal is doing everything it can to erase it from our collective consciousness — like trying to make last-minute changes to its horrifying effects and canceling its Oscar nod campaign, according to Variety.

There had to be a way to watch this thing that could enhance the experience. The very thought of having to see it made me want a strong drink, and then it hit me: There are only two things that could alter this movie-going experience for better or worse, and I don't know any drug dealers.

I could watch Cats drunk.

Alcohol is a liquid editor for some movies. Bad jokes can get funnier, scares can be bigger and somber endings can turn into funereal levels of crying.

So instead of watching the new Star Wars on opening weekend (because I either really love my job or really hate myself), I watched one screening of Cats completely sober and then I watched it again  ON THE SAME DAY as drunk as I could get without losing coherence.

Now, before I continue with the details of my adventure through alcoholic, cinematic hell, I want to make one thing very clear. I am in no way condoning this kind of behavior. It's purely for science and I went with friends who not only helped me stay and get home safe but could also slap me on the head if I got too obnoxious. DO NOT get drunk and go to a public movie theater where other people are trying to watch a movie, no matter how bad the movie may be. I only did this because I'm a reckless moron and get paid to be one.

The Sober Screening

Cats opens with a soundtrack that sounds straight out of the score for A Clockwork Orange, as if the movie has become sentient and is trying to warn you not to watch it. It actually drew an honest-to-God laugh out of me and I hadn't had a drop of anything stronger than Diet Coke.

The computer effects are lacking to say the least. The dancers don't look like cats. They look like someone Photoshopped their heads on top of dancers in computer-enhanced cat suits. These human faces just float along with their dancing bodies as if their faces are attached to their skulls by warped bed springs. Cats found a way to make human feline hybrids more disturbing.

Normally I'd put a spoiler warning so I won't ruin the movie with a description of the plot, but I couldn't come up with one if I tried; the story is barely visible, something the filmmakers or maybe even Cats creator Andrew Lloyd Webber only included because they finished everything else before they realized it needed one.

A band of homeless cats comes together to put on a talent competition, and the lucky chosen one gets to move on to the next life on an epic balloon ride that causes them to burn up in the earth's atmosphere — or something. The plot points are put there with the assumption that you already follow the logic of this strange universe. Half the people don't know why they are in the theater in the first place, so the battle is lost before it's begun.

Each cat has unique personality traits that they can only describe in verse or song because cats are nature's drag queens, so the whole thing turns into a long series of cats singing about themselves and only showing up when the movie needs to feed its weak plot. It's like someone set a cat dating service video to music and, thanks to Cats, there probably is a service like that out there somewhere. The only emotional moment in the whole affair (if you don't count regret and angst) is Jennifer Hudson's moving solo of "Memory," the Broadway song that launched a thousand tourist T-shirt shops.

I bought all the tickets because what I witnessed with my unpickled eyes is not to be shared with friends, but rather inflicted upon them. It's the syphilis of cinema.

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Every musical scene has at least one horrifying moment like cockroaches with human faces dancing on a dining room table as the human cats eat them, cats with human faces eating seafood straight from the garbage and singing mice with human children's faces. It's like the creative team started with dancing cockroaches and asked, "How can we make it more nightmare-fueled?"

Then as the movie crawls to a close the way someone with food poisoning crawls to a toilet, Judi Dench spends 10 minutes sing-speaking to the audience about cats with lines like, "How would you address a cat? So first, your memory I'll jog, And say a cat is not a dog." This is a line straight from a T.S. Eliot poem upon which this entire affair is based. It's clever as a literary line for a whimsical poem but at the end of a movie about cats that's called Cats featuring humans playing cats, it feels like the movie is talking down to the audience.

I'm so annoyed that all I can think is, "Dear sweet Christ, I need a drink."

The Drunk Screening

I drive home anticipating the many drinks I'm about to down. I grab a half-empty bottle of 16-year-old Glenlivet scotch whiskey, a shot glass and begin my task. I drink as many small sips as quickly as I can without getting myself sick or downing the entire bottle. I only did this because it's one of my favorites and I didn't have the ingredients to make Irish Car Bombs.

I made arrangements for some friends to join me as witnesses to this testament of failure, and I bought all the tickets because what I witnessed with my unpickled eyes is not to be shared with friends, but rather inflicted upon them. It's the syphilis of cinema.

One of my closest friends drives me to the theater at peak drunk. I compose myself, meet the rest of my crew and we take our seats. The film hasn't started but since I know what's coming and my parking brake is off, I'm already flipping off and cursing the screen for the horrific images that are about to appear on them.

Another friend reminds me that children are present, and I start to feel bad. I could make a joke about how the parents of children who take them to see Cats should be reported to Child Protective Services, but there are worse things that children could ask to see in a movie theater. Maybe I could discover the same sense of wonderment and whimsy that even I once felt before the ravages of aging drove it out of my psyche. The lights dim and the movie starts with the jarring A Clockwork Orange theme and I almost spit out whatever I'm drinking. I bite down hard on one of the knuckles from my right hand. Only physical pain can keep my drunk, laughing maw shut.

I want to fling lines at the scene like a drunken Tom Servo but I know I'm in a public theater with other people who are watching the movie, possibly at gunpoint. Cats becomes funnier under the veneer of hard drink because you know you can't laugh at it. It's like a 2½-hour eulogy for a dead circus clown named Professor Dicklesack; you know you can't laugh, but dear Christ, every fiber of your being just wants to open your mouth and guffaw.

The screening continues between bouts of heavy, suppressed laughter, zoned-out stretches and bathroom breaks, which present another surprising benefit of seeing it drunk; if you have to constantly get up to empty your swollen bladder, you don't have to watch Cats.

Idris Elba shows up as the shifty villain Macavity, whose magic cat talents include making people disappear and transubstantiate over large swaths of land with him while dressed as a pirate that makes him look like a waiter who's trying way too hard to impress his bosses at Magic Time Machine. I whisper to one of my friends, "I'm so sorry."

He whispers back, "No you're not." I'm too smashed to know if he's right.

Eventually, I can't hold my tongue when James Corden makes his appearance as the literal fat cat Bustopher Jones, whose cat power is being a gluttonous feline. That's it. I should know. If eating more than a sensible share of food was a talent, I'd be Gregory Goddamn Peck.

"Ha, I get it, because he's fat," I accidentally remark out loud instead of thinking. I clasp my hands to my face but it gets a laugh from my friends and even a few people in the very scant audience.

Every new cat who appears on screen to sing its résumé is just another reason to laugh except for the outcast Grizabella, played by Hudson, who I could make a genuine connection to as someone who's struggled with the idea of being a freak to the normal world. I could feel some tears welling up as she sang her guts out to Deuteronomy, played by Dench in a costume that looked like a wad of walking cotton balls with a human face growing out of it. The only thing holding the water works from opening was constantly asking myself if the people who did the CGI added that wad of snot under Hudson's nose. I say "constantly" because the snow was there in every closeup on her face.

Then Taylor Swift shows up in cat form and the movie opens a whole new level of hilarious terror. The image of Tay-Tay in a form-fitting, head to toe calico fur coat would be confusing enough, but her character Knocklebox or Nocturegarble or Haggarslacks or whatever the fuck she's called (I neglected to write it down and I'd rather leave it that way) sprinkles catnip over a crowd of stray human cats and they go crazy for it, as if it's an addictive aphrodisiac. It produces a confusing melange of mixed emotions. My face felt like it was trying to make a face, one that it could only make if it wasn't surrounded by this pesky skull.

It's starting to get just as tiresome as the sober screening, except the numbing effects of the alcohol help me fall in and out of sleep. I wake up just in time to hear Dench utter those condescending tones of "A cat is not a dog." I lose all control of my senses.

"No shit, Judi Dench!" I hear myself say out loud.

click to enlarge Danny goes into hysterics and hits the floor when he learns from a friend that the original Broadway version of Cats has dogs in it. - ONE OF DANNY'S VERY PATIENT FRIENDS/BACKGROUND BY STOCKUNLIMITED
Danny goes into hysterics and hits the floor when he learns from a friend that the original Broadway version of Cats has dogs in it.
One of Danny's Very Patient Friends/Background by StockUnlimited

No one in the theater complains. My friends and even some of the strangers in the audience actually laugh. No ushers or staff ask me to keep my voice down even though they should have except that, well, it's Cats. The manager probably asks people to yell and curse at the screen if the theater gets too quiet.

The laughs don't end with the final credits. If you have a sober friend who's knows the musical, they can provide more entertainment that doesn't involve watching grown humans dressed as cats air-humping over CGI cat Viagra. Another friend who's a Broadway musical expert tells me that the stage version of Cats includes dogs. The studio had the forethought to take the DOOOOOOOOGS out of a movie called CAAAAAAAAATS but leave everything else in the final cut! I'm laughing so hard that I can't keep my balance and fall to the floor cackling like a ticklish infant.

"There's dogs in Cats!" I utter in a high-pitched register in between laughs and coughing fits.

Watching Cats inebriated doesn't improve its quality. It just makes it more of a tolerable experience. It allows you to see it without the usual human restraint that's required when you're watching a movie. That's why you shouldn't attempt to watch it in a public movie theater. Wait until it reaches your home when it's released on Blu-ray or digital streaming platforms so you can yell and laugh at it as loud as you want as you finish a tapped keg just to get through it.

The only solid link between viewing it drunk and sober is that you have to come to grips with the fact that you've seen Cats, and one of the experiences involves a massive hangover. Either way, you wake up in pain, so you might as well get drunk and inflict it on yourself. 
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Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune, Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.