2019 was a weird year for Iowa. By the end of January, nine people announced that they were running for president in the Democratic primary, and dozens followed in the months after. Every week, our state is introduced to a whole new cast of candidates as they parade through our state, spending millions of dollars and making it impossible to just get a side of ranch without bumping into one of them.
No movie describes this experience better than “Cats” (2019).
My friend, Ben, and I went to see “Cats” on a Friday evening. After weeks of sharing every bad review to be found with each other, we went in expecting the worst.
We were not disappointed.
For the uninitiated, “Cats” is a movie based off of a 1980s Andrew Lloyd Weber musical based off of a 1930s collection of poems by T. S. Elliot. In the musical and movie, a gang of cats called the Jellicles prepare for the Jellicle Ball, their annual gathering where they compete to be the Jellicle Choice and be deemed worthy of reincarnation.
Much like the Democratic primary, most of “Cats” is spent on introducing new characters. Every five minutes, a new celebrity shows up singing and dancing about why they should be the Jellicle Choice. The exact same thing happens in Iowa. Even though the caucuses are just over a month away, there are still new candidates announcing their runs every couple of weeks. Many of these candidates seem out of place in the race. They’re independently wealthy celebrities who could be doing absolutely anything else with their time. “Cats” runs into a similar problem. The movie was stacked with big names, including acclaimed actors Sir Ian McKellan and Dame Judi Dench and pop stars Jason Derulo and Taylor Swift, but watching them on screen was more confusing than enjoyable. How on earth did Idris Elba go from saying that Marvel movies were beneath his dignity to meowing in a catsuit while Taylor Swift sings about him being a big ol’ bad guy?
Both the primary and the film are ungodly costly affairs. Director Tom Hooper spent over $100 million to bring “Cats” into theaters and our nightmares. The Democratic presidential candidates almost raised double this in the third quarter alone. Ultimately, like “Cats”, most of this money will go to waste. “Cats” lost $90 million on its opening weekend, and just like there can be only one Jellicle Choice, only one candidate will win the Democratic nomination.
Most of the characters in “Cats” and the primary do nothing but inspire horror and derision, but at least the “Cats” aren’t asking me for money. I’d rather see Rebel Wilson’s CGI cat face eat another humanoid cockroach than watch another billionaire ask me for $2 for their campaign.
• Molly Monk of Cedar Rapids is assistant director of development at the New Bohemian Innovation Collaborative (NewBoCo).