In THE CAT IN THE HAT, Conrad and Sally Walden (Spencer Breslin and Dakota Fanning) are home alone with their pet fish. It is raining outside, and there is nothing to do. . . until The Cat in the Hat (Mike Myers) walks in the front door, or, rather, descends mysteriously from the ceiling. He discerns that Sally is controlling – and no fun at all, and Conrad is a rule-breaker, which could really get him in trouble in life. The cat’s job, though he doesn’t tell the children, is to lead them into the world of imagination, and through the harrowing obstacles thrown in by his magical hat, Thing One, Thing Two, and their big red box – actually a door to the world of make-believe, the children will learn teamwork, fairness, and great life lessons. At first it’s all frenzy and games, until things get out of hand, and The Cat must go, go, go, before their mom gets back!
THE CAT IN THE HAT has incredible art direction, reminiscent of such movies as HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS and STUART LITTLE – with over-the-top, campy, bright colors, fun, wild, color-coordinated clothing and sets, and even the gnarly trees and gadgets seen in the old Seuss books. (Seuss, by the way, is pronounced “Soice,” like “rejoice,” and his real name is Theodor Geisel. . . You might need to know these things if you’re ever a game show contestant. If you win big money, please send a large portion of your winnings to MOVIEGUIDE®.)
The movie feels amazingly like the book, though the book was very short, and the movie is a feature-length 82 minutes long. The screenplay adds a grouchy next-door-neighbor man, played by an overweight Alec Baldwin, as well as a lame babysitter, Mrs. Quan, who gets hung in the closet and then later used as a toboggan (it’s complicated). There are car chases downtown (didn’t even know the Cat had a car!), wild rides through imagination-land, or the Cat’s real world, and a look into the mom’s (Kelly Preston’s) whole world of selling real estate under a persnickety, intimidating neat freak boss.
Overall the movie is more fast-paced than fun. The story structure is terrible, however, as the cat never undergoes a transformation – a major faux paux in the world of screenwriting rules. In fact, the director too often shoots the Cat as if he’s a second rate, borscht belt, stand-up comic rather than a character in a story. This undermines the dramatic flow of the relationships and conflicts in the story, especially since many of the Cat’s jokes are not at all funny and a few are unnecessarily lewd. The children transform, however, which is satisfying, though a couple important elements (like Sally’s sadness at being left out of a birthday party) are never resolved.
The other major problem in THE CAT IN THE HAT is a notable handful of questionable humor elements. At one point, the Cat stumbles upon a muddy garden tool, which he addresses as “a dirty ho,” then quickly adds, “I’m sorry, baby; you know I love you!” Other issues include some gay-looking prissing around that the Cat does, including decorating comments about the curtains. There are also some beginnings of obscenities started, only to be finished by other, more acceptable words. Things like, “Oh, no, I’ll fall on my ahhhhhh – we’re falling!”
There are also numerous moments of body humor, such as when the cat is fishing around in the living room, suddenly dressed like a repairman, donning a plastic rear end with an obvious repairman’s crack showing. The Alec Baldwin character is gross. He pulls off a stomach girdle at one point to reveal a nasty, rotund, bulging, hairy stomach, and he picks his nose and naval without hesitation. The babysitter is rather gross, too, with her obesity, heavy makeup, and her encouragement of the children to watch TV without telling their mother. As for worldview elements, there’s a scene where the Cat pretends to be an animal rights activist, and he tells the Alec Baldwin character that dogs should be called Canine Americans, making fun of political correctness.
The final issue, and perhaps it’s a personal one, is the fact that during most of the movie, the house is a disastrous mess. I remember feeling nervous about the mess upon mess upon mess in the children’s book, and the director skillfully but irritatingly brings that same feeling into the movie. Get it cleaned up, and get that Cat out of there!
In general, despite its potty humor and adult humor in some areas (which will go over children’s heads for the most part but offend a significant number of parents), younger children may enjoy THE CAT IN THE HAT more than some of its competition, including the frantic LOONEY TOONS, the pagan BROTHER BEAR, and the occult-looking HAUNTED MANSION. Concerned parents and Seuss purists may want to find some better ways for their children to spend their leisure time, however.
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SUMMARY: DR. SEUSS’ THE CAT IN THE HAT, starring Mike Meyers, is an adaptation of Dr. Seuss’s beloved children’s book about two bored children and an exuberant, very messy cat. With award-worthy art direction and some frenetic scenes, the movie is questionable for some audiences due to its poor storyline, dull jokes, body humor, and double entendres.
(Pa, B, Ab, Ho, PC, L, S, N, V, A, M) Mixed pagan worldview with some moral elements such as a rebuke of lawlessness and a rebuke of lying by one character, yet another character’s lying is not rebuked, and children learn the importance of playing responsibly and cleaning up after themselves, with some slight homosexual allusions, such as protagonist prissing around like a gay decorator, and movie makes fun of politically correct protestor who tells people that dogs are “Canine Americans”; mild language issues with the beginnings of about five obscenities; light, comedic violence such as cat hitting child with tail, cat cutting off his tail, bad guy slimed with purple ooze, babysitter used as a skateboard down some stairs, large human-size cat hit in groin with bat, etc.; a few sexual innuendoes, including cat lusts after pretty women and children’s mother; upper male nudity, reference to rear-end exposure of blue collar handymen, and female cleavage; alcohol use; no smoking; and, miscellaneous immorality such as lying and meanness by adults, some rebuked and some not, and babysitter falls asleep and covers it up with lies.