Brian Formo’s review published on Letterboxd:
On the final season of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, I laughed when Titus joined Cats on Broadway simply by getting up and singing a song about the type of cat he is and thus learned the secret that that's how Cats has operated as a play for more than four decades because no one knows the actual play and all the songs are made up by aspiring actors who think they can bring something playful to the stage ... I did not understand that that wasn't a joke until I saw Tom Hooper's Cats.
Cats is literally a series of scenes of cats singing a song about the type of cat they are and what level of play or lack thereof that they engage. There is no story, just a series of scenes where cats announce their cat name and then sing a song, and the songs all lack pizazz whenever T-Swift isn’t leading them. To think that that approach should stick for a film without any extra exposition is truly mind boggling. What's even worse is there's a cockroach number where the roaches are the stand-ins for the 1930s kaleidoscopic legs numbers that Busby Berkley popularized. And the roaches look terrible because the animators were rightfully more concerned with how human cats would look to audiences.
While there's some fun to be had with an audience who think every pause by Judi Dench atop the lion statue is surely the end of the movie but it keeps going into a new song, Hooper has achieved the rare feat of embarrassing film actors who have this on their resume akin to the embarrassment of stage actors having it on theirs. The only person who acquits themselves nicely is Taylor Swift who not only has the best song performance in the film, full of all the sass and catnip that the movie itself lacks because it doesn't lean into camp, but she also wrote the best song in the film as an original and needed call of solidarity to the sad cat that will sing the most identifiable song from the musical. Swift acquits herself just fine, but the rest, oooh boy.
Everyone who greenlit this surely just looked at the wikipedia page and didn't attend the theatrical show in person, right? RIGHT?! Other questions: why human hands? What fur is Dench’s coat? Dogs and humans are heard but not seen... do they exist with bodies? A reward poster is up for Macavity, who do they turn him into and what do cats do with the money? (Despite what the song says, he’s right there!) Where does that balloon go? And did they ever consider actually including cat buttholes?
Shame on everyone who made 40 years of this possible by buying curiosity tickets. Let curiosity kill these Cats. (I love actual cats, fwiw)