Dr. Seuss's The Cat in the Hat

The best way to describe this travesty is The Cat in the Hat goes splat. The Cat in the Hat is the beloved book by the late author Dr. Seuss, aka Theodor Geisel. As children's books go, it is near perfection. Seuss wrote the book using less than three-hundred words as a challenge to get children to love reading. There are two ways to look at The Cat in the Hat movie. The first is by itself, and on these terms it is not a good children's film. The second is in relation to the book, and in this case it is horrible. Granted, the hardest part in adapting the book is putting in enough material to stretch it to film length, and here is where the largest problems come into play.

And, most of these problems are also connected with the casting of Mike Myers (View from the Top, Austin Powers in Goldmember). Myers is a gifted comedian, but his humor does have a rique edge to it. It can be side-splittingly funny, but is very inappropriate in a movie for young children. Jokes about erections, euphemisms for excrement, and many double-entendres have no place in a film like this. Myers does bring his manic energy (and a Bert Lahr-like voice) to the role as the Cat, but listening to what comes out of his mouth is just too much. It wouldn't be so bad if the film got the proper rating, which would be PG-13. In recent memory, the MPAA has been getting extremely lenient with what is allowed in a PG-13 film, and it looks like this leniency is beginning to creep into the PG rating.

The classic story has the Cat teaching the kids a sense of balance in their life. The film, written by Alec Berg, David Mandel, and Jeff Schaffer has Conrad (Spencer Breslin, Santa Clause 2, Return to Neverland) and Sally (Dakota Fanning, Uptown Girls, Hansel & Gretel) home alone while their overworked mother (Kelly Preston, View from the Top, What a Girl Wants), keeps the house immaculate for a work-related meeting later. Their neighbor, Quinn (Alec Baldwin, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, The Royal Tenenbaums) schemes to marry their mother and throw Conrad into military school. Conrad is a rule breaker and Sally is a control freak. As soon as their mother leaves, the Cat shows up to try to bring some fun into their lives but makes a mess of the house at the same time. Quinn sees them and tries his best to tell their mother.

Director Bo Welch has his background in production design, and it shows here. So while he cannot really direct anything decent here, he does create a strange and beautiful land that looks like it stepped out of a Seuss book. Bright colors and oversized furniture and decorations are everywhere. It's sad that the settings are so lively but the characters are devoid of life. Baldwin feels woefully out of place (like he did in Thomas and the Magic Railroad), and Myers slowly becomes annoying. The Cat in the Hat just doesn't work as film. As an example, look at The Grinch. There was a lot more story to work with there, but the original animated special was fantastic. The Cat in the Hat would make a great half hour animated special, but anything beyond that would be seriously pushing it.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 22 minutes, Rated PG for mild crude humor and some double-entendres.

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