Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat Review
By Shawn McKenzie 11/21/2003
I have now determined that the work of Dr. Seuss cannot be adapted to the big screen. After 2000’s Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas became one of the worst Jim Carrey movies ever, I was thinking that would be the end of Dr. Seuss on the silver screen. Unfortunately, that movie took in $260 million domestically, so Seuss’ most popular work, The Cat in the Hat, was inevitable. I kept an open mind, hoping that The Grinch was a fluke, but it wasn’t.
Jean Walden (Kelly Preston) is a single mother of two kids in a colorful but weird Dr. Seussian-type town. She works as a realtor for Mr. Humberfloob (Sean Hayes), a man who is worse than Monk on the popular USA TV series with his germphobia (he wears a bottle of hand soap on his belt and fires people for shaking his hand.) Every month there is a company party, and this month it is being held at Jean’s house. If the party is a success, it could mean good things for her, but if it is a disaster, especially if the place is a mess, she could be fired. This worries her, because her son, Conrad (Spencer Breslin), is a slob who always does the opposite of what he is told. He has an anal-retentive sister named Sally (Dakota Fanning) who does things like making her daily list of chores on her palm pilot (one chore is “make tomorrow’s list.”) She delights in seeing her brother getting into trouble, and actually requests that her mom give her a restriction like the many that she gives Conrad. Jean goes home that day to make sure the house is tidy for the party and discovers that Conrad has made his latest mess in an attempt to slide down the stairs. Unfortunately, Humberfloob calls her back into work just as she’s trying to get their home ready again. She needs a babysitter to watch the kids while she goes back to work (where was a babysitter that morning?), so she asks her semi-boyfriend, next-door neighbor Lawrence Quinn (Alec Baldwin) to do it, but he says that he can’t. He actually wants to send Conrad to military school, since the kid hates him. She gets the narcoleptic Mrs. Kwan (Amy Hill) to baby-sit instead. As Kwan drifts off into slumberland, the kids hear a noise in the closet and freak out when they run into a 6-foot tall, talking cat who calls himself The Cat in the Hat (Mike Myers.) He wants to relieve their boredom, so he gets them to sign a contract where they can have all of the fun they want without getting into any trouble. Conrad is psyched, but Sally and the pet Fish (voice of Sean Hayes), who can now talk and breathe outside its water for extended periods of time, don’t think it’s a good idea. They sign it anyway, and not long after, Cat creates havoc that doesn’t look like much fun (at least to me.) He messes up the house even worse with some purple goop that was supposed to be baked goods. He says twins Thing 1 (Danielle Ryan Chuchran and Taylor Rice; voiced by Dan Castellaneta) and Thing 2 (Brittany Oakes and Talia Prairie; also voiced by Dan Castellaneta), a.k.a. Thing A, or “Chocolate Thunder,” will fix things, but they make things even worse. Sally and Conrad need to figure out how to get rid of this Cat and the Things, find their missing dog that has a thing on his collar which locks out the Cat’s weird world, and clean the house before their mom gets home, or they will be in trouble for a very long time.
I liked Carrey before The Grinch, and I liked Myers before this one. In both cases, I was surprised at how unfunny they were in their respective movies. Myers’ Cat comes off like a cross between Herman Munster and Curly from The Three Stooges. He is very annoying every time he is on screen. His character is a troublemaker, like the title character in Beetlejuice, but unlike that Michael Keaton character, the Cat’s intentions are supposed to be good, which makes him even more annoying.
There are a few minute saving graces. Baldwin does a decent job as the evil boyfriend, and I always like Fanning, though another bad one from Breslin cancels out her performance. Hayes is funny as both Mr. Humberfloob and the Fish.
I know that Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat is going to be slammed by almost everyone who has any taste, but I fear that it will be a hit. Kids will like it, even though some of the innuendos really stretch the boundaries of its PG rating. Parents will only like the fact that it clocks in at only 78 minutes, because anymore
and they will be clawing the walls to escape. If the movie is a hit, I’m sure we will see Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham, and another comedian’s career ruined.
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