To the surprise of almost no one, “Cats,” the big-screen adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber mega-musical, is terrible.
For starters, it’s based on “Cats.”
But the movie, directed and co-written by Tom Hooper (“Les Miserables,” “The King’s Speech”), manages to unearth an extra layer of awfulness and heap it upon the source material for a nightmarish affair that could do for felines what “Jaws” did for sharks.
Virtually every decision in the filmmaking process was so headslappingly misguided, they can’t help but distract you from listening to the music. Then again, with the possible exception of the show’s signature “Memory,” that could be considered a blessing.
For the most part, this version of “Cats” succeeds only in raising an alarming number of questions, such as:
With all of its high-profile talent — including Ian McKellen, Judi Dench, Idris Elba, Taylor Swift, James Corden and Jennifer Hudson — the desire to give the cats recognizably human faces is understandable. But why do all the cats have human hands and feet?
And thumbs! Sufferin’ succotash, why do all these cats have thumbs?!?! How do you unsee such a thing?
Why, after the decision was made to give them human hands and feet, does the script still contain several references to their paws?
How is Dench’s Old Deuteronomy wearing a ring?
And why would she wear a fur coat that looks exactly like her natural fur?
Did she skin a relative for that coat?
Some of the cats wear hats and vests. Some only wear pants. One wears suspenders. Do unseen humans dress them this way?
Do the cats dress themselves?
If so, where do they get money?
Is there some sort of barter system?
Either way, does that mean there are little cat haberdashers and other businesses?
Where does it all end? Are there cat loan officers and cat building inspectors? Is there also a cat police force and a cat fire department to protect these cat communities?
Speaking of which, why do so few of the main cats have jobs? Sure, McKellen’s Gus The Theatre Cat used to be an actor, and Skimbleshanks The Railway Cat walks around on trains. But why are the rest of them just happily eating out of garbage cans and living off the government dole?
Is the reason the cats have thumbs so that Skimbleshanks can tie the laces on his tap shoes?
Why does a cat need tap shoes?
The only human in the movie turns up in the opening scene to toss a sack containing the cat Victoria (ballerina Franceseca Hayward) into an alley. In any other setting, that would be deplorable behavior. But if your cat sang, danced, walked upright and looked more human than all the people in “The Polar Express,” would that be considered mitigating circumstances?
Is she the only human period, a la Will Smith in “I Am Legend”?
Given that all the establishments in the movie cater to cats — there’s The Meow Club, a bar that serves only milk and a “catsino” — is this the aftermath of some sort of “Planet of the Apes”-style uprising?
With all the digital shenanigans on display, why does almost the entirety of “Cats” take place in the same London intersection?
Every time Victoria asks some variation of “who’s that?,” the cat in question bursts into a generally unpleasant song. Why won’t she just mind her own business?
If curiosity killed the cat, why won’t it take care of this one?
So the plot, such as it is, is basically a bunch of cats singing to impress another cat, who’ll decide which one of them will get to die and leave this hellscape?
Apparently, after this much-coveted death, the chosen one will be reborn as the cat he or she always wanted to be. Is a regular cat that doesn’t sing and dance an option?
Are cats naturally gifted dancers or do they take lessons?
Will there be a riot when Swift fans realize, after enduring about an hour of various singing cats, that she’s in the movie for only about five minutes?
With all the other cats resembling some awful “The Island of Doctor Moreau”-style experiments, why does Macavity just look like somebody stuffed Elba into an unattractive onesie?
Will this look retroactively cost Elba his 2018 Sexiest Man Alive title?
Macavity is positioned as the villain because he — checks notes — cheats to try to win the show’s deadly version of “The Voice.” Are we just supposed to ignore the fact that the real monster is Rebel Wilson’s Jennyanydots, who trains mice and cockroaches, all of which also have human faces, to sing and perform Busby Berkeley-style dance numbers for her amusement before she eats them?
How is Macavity able to dust his rivals, Thanos-style?
And why, oh why must he wait till after they’ve sung to do so?