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10 Tips Just in Case You Want to See CATS on Acid

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by Hannah Harkness

I will start by saying that this is not a review of CATS (2019). If you want a review of CATS, use your old pal Google to find the flock of culture vultures currently circling this CGI nightmare.

I do not presume to have any new analysis this late in the game, and I absolutely don’t have any new cat-pun based roast jokes. This is a custom work commissioned by a friend roughly three minutes after I posted this tweet:

I’m not even remotely close to famous, but I am officially at the point where I can no longer idly tweet statements like this without Cash App lighting up on my phone (and hey, I’m pretty broke-if you like this article, that’s still my handle, friends! Rent’s due)!

Another reason I’m not writing a straight review of this movie, apart from having been on hallucinogens when I saw it, is that I watched CATS into the ground as a child.

I saw it at the Winter Garden theater on Broadway somewhere around 1996. I watched the VHS tape of the stage production enough that at one point as a child I could tell you what time stamps you had to fast forward to in order to get to certain songs. I sang Memory dressed as a Grizabella in the 5th grade talent show in a costume my mom made me.

So when I eventually grew up and came to realize that this musical is a meandering, weirdly sexual, saccharine fever dream with paper thin plot/character development, it was already too late and the nostalgia was locked in. Basically if you put me on hallucinogens in the vicinity of the CATS soundtrack presented in any medium, I am going to automatically be propelled back to a simpler time before I experienced ten memoirs worth of traumatic events and had to pay bills.

It is impossible for me to truly grasp how objectively bad this musical is because of all the positive childhood memory associations. All I will do is hyper-focus on colorful objects and sing along to Skimbleshanks, remembering what my life was like when I could fully experience whimsy sober and without irony.

And I’m not alone- a lot of my friends who loved CATS as children are also aware that this movie is garbage and this musical is garbage, but we are dutifully buying tickets. If for no other reason, we need to serve penance to our poor parents who had to deal with us putting the VHS on the communal TV over and over again and listen to a bunch of ten year old girls argue about who got to play which cat when we clumsily re-enacted it in front of the TV in a series of carpeted suburban basements.

Honestly I think my friend Andrew hit the nail on the head:

So this is not a review, but a field guide for anyone attempting to see this movie on a hallucinogen funded by a generous Twitter follower who will remain anonymous because they are working on a government defense contract.

Next I’m asking them for one of these!

This article contains spoilers because I’m not going to put the effort in to remove spoilers when really you shouldn’t even be doing this in the first place.I would never have paid for this myself. Also, no matter how much I spoil this, I can’t possibly ruin the experience for you any more than the movie will ruin the experience by itself. If anything, I’m doing you a favor warning you about the hazards. Think of me as the GPS giving you a heads up on speed traps.

Pick a good theater

If you are already rolling the dice with your psyche by watching a computerized Judi Dench play an old feral cat, you want to try to control the rest of your environment as much as possible. The ideal theater for something like this is smaller (less likelihood you’ll get lost finding your way out, less frequently attended by children, does not have security/bag check (more about paranoia and interacting with people than sneaking things in), and accepts mobile tickets so you have to speak to as few humans as possible/do not have to figure out any kind of computer touch screen.

Location wise, try not to pick a theater that dumps you into a crowded area that is difficult to navigate out of. Very few theaters check all these boxes, but in NYC, I favor Regal Battery Park – not because the area isn’t crowded (obviously tourist riddled), but because it is on the waterfront instead of smack in the middle of the city, giving you a built-in setting to detox.

It’s not a huge theater, you can buy/have your ticket on your phone, most of the subways stop somewhere near there, making it fairly easy to get out as long as you go during a slightly less touristy time of day. You can even leave by boat from one of the many ferries that pull up in the piers around lower Manhattan if you don’t want to go near a subway tunnel yet.

WARNING: They Also Put Faces on Smaller Animals

Now we’re into CATS specific warnings. I was prepared to go into CATS with human faces on cats. I was not prepared for human faces on roaches and mice. In the stage musical roaches, mice, and dogs all were portrayed by actors with masks… and they were the same size as the cats.

The brain walks into this movie already prepared by the trailer for anthropomorphic cat humans, but nothing will prepare you for small roaches that look capable of emotion getting eaten by cat Rebel Wilson. Bugs in general are not friends of acid. Be warned – this is disturbing sober, but this is also early in the movie and they do not come back.

WARNING: If you Watched the Stage Musical a Lot, the Inconsistencies are Going to Be Distracting

Non-CATS fans, take a knee.

Everyone experiences acid differently. I personally tend to hyper focus on details. Also, I’m a nerd and tend to hone in on details. Just know at the outset that a bunch of songs are sung by a completely different cat than the one that sings it in the musical and there is at least one song missing (the one with the dogs).

They also attempt to add plot points and dialogue due to the stage musical not really having any of either of those. Keep this in your head so you don’t get distracted wondering if you are remembering your childhood wrong going “But I thought Rum Tum Tugger was the one that sang Mister Mistoffelees” while staring at the warping movie theater carpet.

The CGI Actually Makes it Better if You’re on Acid

Just like an ugly carpet can go from completely boring to an hour of entertainment on acid, the CGI in CATS makes it so you don’t really have to listen to anything or truly pay attention to have a good time! You can catch some decent visuals off computer-generated cat fur that you can’t necessarily get from actual fur. The movement of everything on screen is really fluid and crisp and the colors are GREAT.

The Real Fun Part is the Crowd Reactions

Unless no one else shows up to your screening, the funniest part of CATS is watching people who paid an exorbitant movie ticket price realize they made a huge mistake and are now in a position where they have to try to comprehend a plotless CGI film based on a book of British poems for two hours. When the credits were rolling my seat neighbor that had been huffing disapprovingly the entire time said “I think I might have enjoyed it more as a play.” I didn’t have the heart to tell her.

Note: never assume anyone in a movie theater is looking at you if you are on acid. They aren’t, ever. Nobody cares about you in a movie theater unless you are making noise. If you are making noise during a movie then you deserve to be paranoid. They are ONLY looking at you.

Periodically Remind Yourself that Surround Sound is a Thing

 If you’re on a drug that occasionally has auditory hallucination components, it’s important to remember that the explosion noise behind you is not a real explosion but the movie explosion coming out of the speakers behind you. Do not leave the theater because you thought you heard something unless you are just leaving because you listened to CATS too long and it sucks too much to be fun for you.

WARNING: Judi Dench is Talking Directly to Camera at the End – It’s Not Just You

Self explanatory-the end of the movie Judi Dench breaks the fourth wall. Don’t worry, this is another poor choice on the director’s part, not a cruel trick being conjured up from the annals of your mind by drugs.

WARNING: Macavity Does Some Jump Scares

The criminal cat Macavity spends the movie running around making cats disappear and chaining them to a trash barge. Lot of sudden movements. Not as creepy as the roaches, but worth knowing if you’re trying to make a decision of whether or not to go see this movie under the influence that Idris Elba is randomly going to pop up like a haunted house actor and yell things.

WARNING ONLY FOR ME: The Rum Tum Tugger is Less Hot than Taylor Swift in This

Sorry sane people, this is just a personal grievance. The Rum Tum Tugger is supposed to be the one with the sex appeal in the stage production. They messed this up by taking away his skin tight vinyl jump suit thing and just had him running around in fur not singing as well, and gave one of his main songs to a different cat that didn’t do as good a job.

Conspiracy time, I think that this was a move like dressing a bridesmaid up uglier than the bride so Taylor Swift would be the hot one. She is actually the only person who managed to translate seamlessly to CGI Cat, and appears to have resting cat face. I’m excited to listen to her CATS revenge album

Top 3 Scenes for Trippy Colors:

-Macavity (the song sequence), lot of sparkle effects, again Taylor the least disturbing of the CGI cats

-Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat, most upbeat, largely takes place in a whimsical British train car instead of an alley

-Rum Tum Tugger, lot of neon lights and razzle dazzle energy on this

Honorable Mention:

-R square of red light on the wall during Gus the Theater Cat. Unsettling slow scene, great patch of red light on the wall behind Ian Mckellen.


A friend of mine Steve Miller-Miller was inspired by my success crowdfunding this on Twitter, and also went to see this on acid. After he left the theater, this was his review he immediately texted me:

“Positives: Lots of colors, songs done pretty well, would consider fucking a couple of these cats

Negatives: Wanted to leave to jerk off, I got action on Monday night football and kept wondering if the Vikings were going to cover that 4 point spread”

Let the memory live again.  

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