(Photo by © Universal Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection)
With In the Heights dancing into theaters this week on a wave of incredible reviews – it’s currently Certified Fresh at 97% – we thought we’d cast our minds back to the last big movie musical to hit theaters… one that arrived on a wave of, shall we say, less positive press.
It was late 2019, a lifetime ago it seems, when Universal offered us the Christmas gift of their adaptation of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, his own adaptation of poems from T.S. Eliot. And for most critics, what lie beneath the heavily-CGI wrapping was a big old lump of coal. Folks who guffawed at the shiver-inducing trailer, with its small and bizarre humanoid cast of famous-faced felines, had their worst fears (or hopes in some cases) confirmed: Cats, the movie, was a disaster.
Scathing reviews drove its Tomatometer score down to a Rotten 19%; the movie would go on to dominate that year’s Razzies.
But lo, in the wake of its release, something “jellicle” started to develop around the movie. (No, we do not know if we are using that term correctly, as we still have no idea what it means let alone if it’s a verb, noun, or otherwise.) The star-studded laughing-stock began to develop a reputation – surprisingly quickly – as something weird, yes, but also wonderful, a film that could become a cult favorite. Midnight screenings started to pop up, the atmosphere akin to late nights with The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Room; when the pandemic hit, fans turned to online viewing parties at which, powered on by libations and edible treats, they were able to fully make peace and become one with the sights and sounds of a furry Rebel Wilson chomping on dancing cockroaches.
A gloriously messy fever dream? A cult classic in the making? Or just really, really bad? That’s what we’re asking in the latest episode of our podcast, Rotten Tomatoes Is Wrong, and to help our hosts Mark Ellis and Jacqueline Coley paw through it all, we enlisted the big guns: Angie Han, Deputy Entertainment Editor at Mashable, film critic extraordinaire, and yes, one of the 19% of Tomatometer-approved critics who filed a positive review for Cats, a little red tomato she will defend to this day. But can she convince Mark and Jacqueline to love the film that, as she wrote in her review, “had broken me, and I’d never felt happier”?
Check in every Thursday for a new episode of Rotten Tomatoes Is Wrong (A Podcast From Rotten Tomatoes). Each week, hosts Jacqueline and Mark and guests go deep and settle the score on some of the most beloved – and despised – movies and TV shows ever made, directly taking on the statement we hear from so many fans: “Rotten Tomatoes is wrong.”
Check out some more episodes of Rotten Tomatoes Is Wrong:
If you have a suggestion for a movie or show you think we should do an episode on, let us know in the comments, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet the hosts
Jacqueline Coley is an editor at Rotten Tomatoes, with a focus on awards and indie coverage but with a passion for everything, from the MCU to musicals and period pieces. Coley is a regular moderator at conventions and other events, can be seen on Access Hollywood and other shows, and will not stand Constantine slander of any kind. Follow Jacqueline on Twitter: @THATjacqueline.
Mark Ellis is a comedian and contributing editor for Rotten Tomatoes. He currently hosts the Rotten Tomatoes series Versus, among others, and can be seen co-hosting the sports entertainment phenomenon Movie Trivia Schmoedown. His favorite Star Wars movie is Jedi (guess which one!), his favorite person is actually a dog (his beloved stepdaughter Mollie), and – thanks to this podcast – he’s about to watch Burlesque for the first time in his life. Follow Mark on Twitter: @markellislive.