Cats (2019) is perhaps the most unhinged film to hit screens this year. It sparked a cultural moment that has essentially spanned half of 2019, galvanizing audiences with a horrifically enrapturing trailer and keeping them engaged via a maniacally active social media presence. In the midst of everyone clamoring to know what the "plot" of this movie is or why the hell everyone Looks Like That, it's important to remember just exactly what's at the heart of Cats: the cats.
Brought to the screen from the stage with resounding success on maybe one or two counts, and middling to "yikes" success on the rest, Cats brings classic characters, like the Rum Tum Tugger and, uh, Jennyanydots' roaches, to new life. Because we, like Cats itself, love provocation, we've ranked all of the cats (and then some) by the simple criteria of how well they come across on the screen, whether they turned out meek, or tragic, or just super horny. Also like Cats, our logic is deranged. Enjoy this ode to Tom Hooper's reimagining of this classical musical that will haunt our memories, now and forever.
While we don't feel like we can properly rank the assortment of ensemble cats who feature less prominently throughout the film, we want to give them all a shoutout. Played by Jaih Betote, Jonadette Carpio, Melissa Madden Gray, Daniela Norman, Bluey Robinson, Freya Rowley, Ida Saki, Zizi Strallen, Eric Underwood, Cory English, and Po-Lin Tung, respectively, they fully deliver on the film's uncanny cat action. We can't quite lump them all together into one ranking, but we'd also be remiss not to note them.
17. Bustopher Jones
In the movie even more than on the stage, Bustopher Jones basically exists for the express purpose of making one fat joke for an entire song. That's compounded by the fact that he's played by James Corden, who people feel "ehhhhhhhhhh" about at best and genuinely despised at worst for a myriad of reasons ranging from "he is annoying" to "he made some very inappropriate Harvey Weinstein jokes." In the end, even the character's inherent stately charm can't save the movie's Bustopher Jones.
16. Jennyanydots' Rats and Roaches
Okay, yes, they're not cats -- however, they employ the same kind of uncanny "human faces superimposed on inhuman but also kind of human bodies" trend from the rest of the movie, and they also get their own moment in the spotlight during "The Old Gumbie Cat." That being said, they're disturbing and their bizarre size proportional to the cat-sized human cats is somewhat mind-boggling.
15. Plato and Socrates
Played by French dancing duo Les Twins, Plato and Socrates add some hip-hop flavor to a dancing ensemble filled with a bunch of trained ballet dancers. They don't get a lot of attention in the movie, and I truly don't really remember where they most prominently feature, but hey, Les Twins are pretty cool.
Oh, Taylor. Casting Taylor Swift, public lover of cats, in Cats was inspired. Taylor Swift in Cats however is just, well, fine. She vamps her way through "Macavity: The Mystery Cat" with a hint of a British accent. Bombalurina is one of the most inexplicable kitties on screen. She wears heels, for one, which defies any logic. (At least Skimblesanks wears boots because he has to tap.) Her personality seems to be entirely defined by her obsession with Macavity. And then she just vanishes. Bombalurina, be free.
13. The Rum Tum Tugger
Look -- Jason Derulo is hot, and the Rum Tum Tugger is hot on principle, so of course Jason Derulo's Rum Tum Tugger is hot (sorry, I do not make the rules). However, he's not too much more than that throughout, spending the movie flitting between the female cats, kicking off the dance at the Jellicle Ball, and generally just being beautiful and exuding horny energy. That's great, but regrettably the character doesn't feel nearly as iconic as he does on stage. That "MIIIIIIIILK!" line will go down in history, though.
12. Old Deuteronomy
While there's little to fault with Dame Judi Dench's performance, the most salient memories I have of Old Deuteronomy in this movie are the part where she does the "sticks m'legy out really far" meme and the entire ending sequence where she looks you dead in the eye and tells you that cats are not dogs. I mean, look -- Old Deut is great and honorable and I definitely want to pet her coat. But ultimately, she's still kind of just there to look stately and choose who gets to die and also get kidnapped by Macavity, I guess.
There's just… so much going on with Macavity in this movie. For one, he's played by Idris Elba, which means that okay, yeah, Macavity is pretty attractive. But there's also the fact that he sometimes screams "MEOW!" when he teleports people away and also eventually takes off his cool-ass coat, leaving us with a weirdly bare man-cat screaming about how "it's my turn to go to the Heaviside layer!"
Played by Royal Ballet ballerina Francesca Hayward in her acting debut, Victoria is very middle-of-the-road nice. Hayward's ballet acumen is, of course, impeccable, but Victoria on principle is mostly just… there. Cats attempts to tug her away from mere audience proxy with the new song "Beautiful Ghosts," which despite being penned by Taylor Swift and Andrew Lloyd Webber himself, is also just very nice and not much more. Still, Victoria is sweet and impressionable and I'm glad that she found both a family and also whatever that weird romantic energy between her and Mr. Mistoffelees was.
9. Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer
Played by Danny Collins and Naoimh Morgan, respectively, Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer deliver one of the most genuinely fun musical numbers in the entire movie. Given that their entire schtick is "cats that fuck shit up," it's a pretty good time watching them wreak havoc in a rich family's home alongside the naive and malleable Victoria. Their appearance during "Mavacity" is a nice treat as well, as they continue to fuck shit up alongside Bombalurina.
Rebel Wilson is -- dare I say it! -- actually pretty endearing as Jennyanydots despite the fact that our first introduction to the character involves her full-on spreading her legs into a V and scratching the hell out of her inner thighs. While it feels like she gets kept around in the film just to deliver a bunch of borderline cringe cat puns, Jennyanydots does turn out to be one of the funnier parts of the movie. Also, there's that whole bit where she (twice!) unzips her fur coat to reveal… more fur, but also a cute little dance getup.
Mette Towley's Cassandra is a stone cold bitch of a cat, and we admire her commitment to this trait. No, we don't condone her slut-shaming of Grizabella, but her attitude is legendary. While most of the secondary cats blend into the background, Cassandra makes a bigger impression than some of the celebs in the cast by being so salty all the time. Cassandra, get over it! But, Cassandra, we love you! (Fun fact: Towley was also in Hustlers this year! We stan!)
Cats, as we've mentioned, is horny as hell, and Munkustrap (played by former New York City Ballet principal dancer Robert Fairchild) has perhaps the horniest energy of them all (sorry, Rum Tum Tugger). While he's basically "Munkustrap, the explainer cat," Fairchild plays him with a kind of masculine sensuality that sees him making bedroom eyes at every damn cat in the movie. However, between Fairchild's physical performance and Munkustrap's weird hot dad energy, he's a winner.
Does Grizabella rank so high on this list because of Jennifer Hudson's performance in the film or because she's fucking Grizabella? Grizabella holds a special place in Cats lore. She's the Glamour Cat. Here, J-Hud's belt is indisputable, and you are obligated to get chills when she hits the key change when she sings "Memory." Hudson gives the song her all, down to the thin line of snot dripping from her nose. Gross, yet elegant!
Flat out, Growltiger growling his own name is one of the best parts of the movie. He has a barge that's just chilling in the middle of the Thames, he's working with Macavity, and he's played by Ray Winstone, who knocks it out of the park despite only being there for, like, five minutes. Despite all of this, Growltiger captured our hearts with his grouchy tough-guy routine, even if he was basically meant to just be Macavity's minion in the end.
3. Mr. Mistoffelees
Laurie Davidson's Mr. Mistoffelees is so damn cute, and the only cat out of this entire mess that genuinely makes me want to melt. His film characterization is a pretty significant departure from the stage: Now, he has this whole "meek but capable" thing going for him as opposed to gaudy confidence in the musical. And -- sue me -- it actually works. Weird romantic subplot with Victoria aside, Mistoffelees does end up having a small degree of character development, which is more than basically any other cat in the movie. Mr. Mistoffelees, believe in the me that believes in you.
2. Gus the Theatre Cat
Here's a bold assertion: Ian McKellen is the only actor in this damn thing who is actually trying to play a cat, with cat-like mannerisms. He laps (water? milk?) out of a bowl! He even meows! Everyone else is doing the whole cat-thing half-heartedly. McKellen is a true thespian. Sure, there's no dancing required of him, but when he stands on stage and sings his dirge about his long-gone theater career you feel it, man. He might as well be doing Shakespeare. This is a cat that's been places and seen things.
Skimbleshanks is a wonderful, functional cat who knows exactly what he's about. Perhaps he isn't quite as cat-like in the movie as some of the other cats, but if I had to trust a single cat in this movie with my life, it would without a doubt be Skimbleshanks. Clothes-wise, he's got the best, most consistent outfit out of anyone given that it's abundantly clear that he's wearing pants and shoes and a hat rather than some bizarre fur coat. Overall, Skimble's song is an absolute bop, giving Royal Ballet principal dancer Steven McRae the chance to show off his tap dancing chops. It all ends with Skimble pirouetting into the heavens, presumably to carry the weight of all of our hopes and dreams on his shoulders.
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