THE CAT IN THE HAT
** (out of 5)
November 21, 2003
Mike Myers as THE CAT IN THE HAT
Dakota Fanning as SALLY
Spencer Breslin as CONRAD
Alec Baldwin as QUINN
Kelly Preston as MOM
Amy Hill as MRS. KWAN
Sean Hayes as MR. HUMBERFLOOB/VOICE OF THE FISH
Directed by: Bo Welch
BY KEVIN CARR
I’ve always been a fan of Mike Myers, but I’ll be the first to admit that he isn’t much of an actor. Sure, he can play wacky characters like Austin Powers and Shrek, but he has a shockingly limited repertoire of personalities in his bag. He digs up every possible old joke, voice, character and style to round out the Cat in the Hat, and he ends up with nothing more than a caricature of Mike Myers.
What would have been bearable would have been if Myers chose a character (even one of his stock characters) and made that the Cat. After all, that’s what he did with Shrek (who is nothing more than his old “If it’s not Scottish, it’s CRAP” character on Saturday Night Live). When Jim Carrey brought the Grinch to life in Ron Howard’s film three years ago, at least the character of the hairy, green curmudgeon fit well into the Jim Carrey standard bag of tricks.
We would have been better off if Universal had thrown off the tired and disproved shroud of “we need a name” and cast a talented unknown as the Cat in the Hat rather than forcing all of Mike Myers’ tired personalities into the shoes. By relying on Myers, it has eternally soiled the memory of one of Dr. Seuss’s most beloved characters.
Like “The Grinch,” the writers on “The Cat in the Hat” had to expand the story to fill an hour and half of screen time. But by forcing the basic characters into a semi-coherent story, they made it worse. There was simultaneously too much story and too little story. When the plot needed to be expanded, we were treated to cliches and hackneyed ideas – like the conniving boyfriend, the uptight sister and the rule-breaking brother.
“The Cat in the Hat” follows the same basic storyline of the book – in that there are two siblings on a rainy afternoon that are visited by a troublemaking cat while their mother is away. The film expands to bring in Mom (Kelly Preston), who is working as a real estate agent and must host a work get-together at her home for her anal-retentive boss Mr. Humberfloob (Sean Hayes).
After the babysitter quits, Mom runs home to take care of her two kids, Sally (Dakota Fanning) and Conrad (Spencer Breslin). However, she is called back to work. She leaves the kids again with a narcoleptic babysitter with strict orders to not trash the house. During the lazy afternoon, a mysterious Cat in a big floppy hat shows up and starts causing chaos. Meanwhile, the sleazy neighbor Quinn (Alec Baldwin) is trying to win the hand of Mom with hopes of sending Conrad to military school.
In many ways, “The Cat in the Hat” has enough funny things in it to make it enjoyable in small chunks. However, when strung together, it just becomes irritating. “The Cat in the Hat” would have worked much better as five-minute segments to break up a television show or even to intro longer movies. But as a full-length feature film, it gets boring fast.
Even my two-year-old son got bored in the deluge of bright colors and funny sounds – and he sat through “Good Boy,” “Brother Bear,” “Piglet’s Big Movie,” “Looney Tunes: Back in Action” and “Finding Nemo” without a problem. At least he wasn’t terrified of the abomination of make-up that was the Cat in the Hat. (When will Hollywood ever push their ego aside and do it like the book?)
The charm of Dr. Seuss was his ridiculous rhyming scheme, which was haphazard at best but beautiful in its silliness. In many ways, it was as if Dr. Seuss came up with the first part of a phrase and then made up a word at the end to make it rhyme. In “The Cat in the Hat,” when they added new narration and verse, there was none of this creativity. The rhymes fell flat, sounding as if they came from the pages of a third grader’s notebook rather than a master storyteller.
Ultimately, “The Cat in the Hat” left me feeling empty inside. There’s no warmth and character from the original Dr. Seuss book, and there’s no substance or soul in the story elements added to pad out the 400-word picture book to feature-film length.