At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat “03”

MPAA Rating: PG/ Genre: “Fantasy” “Comedy”/ Stars: Mike Myers, Spencer Breslin, Dakota Fanning, Kelly Preston, Alec Baldwin, Amy Hill, Sean Hayes, Steven Anthony Lawrence, Paris Hilton, Bugsy the Dog, Candace Dean Brown, Daran Norris, Clint Howard, Paige Hurd; Voice of Sean Hayes/ Runtime: 82 minutes

It may be surprising to know that, out of all the literary adaptations that have come and gone in the world of film and the like, there have been only a handful which were based on stories written by that indelible genius Dr. Seuss. Yet even among these few there are a pair of distinct and noteworthy camps to be found. The first camp includes the 2008 animated film Horton Hears a Who! & (maybe just maybe to some tiny degree 2012’s The Lorax) as well as the series adaptation of Green Eggs and Ham that premiered on Netflix here recently. These are the ones that, if nothing else, manage to act as a kind of how-to manual for bringing this unique and iconic auteur’s work to life. By that I mean these are the ones which both respect yet also reinvent the source material, but do it with love and passion for the iconic writer’s whimsy, quite lively characters, and amusing text (and insightful subtext). As for the first two however, those being the How the Grinch Stole Christmas from 2000 which received mixed reviews as well as the 2003 The Cat in the Hat which was critically and commercially obliterated are best seen as beaten-up, mud-drenched signs in the road which read in no uncertain terms “DEAD END! TURN BACK NOW!” Yet, and in all fairness, although the 2000 Grinch is not as horrible as the 2003 Cat in the Hat, this pair of films still manage to in equal measure annihilate the timeless magic of the source material, allow a comedian of some measure of talent to enjoy themselves a bit too much even as the production is already way too bloated, and completely overlook just what has made Seuss and his stories so iconic even after all these years. Yet Cat still manages to take its disrespect and dislike for the source material one torturous step ahead of everyone else as we see it cough up this iconic tale that kids have all cherished for over 5 decades like a really, really bad hairball.

Now just how bad is the 2003 Cat in the Hat you may be wondering dear reader? Put it this way: this movie is so bad and so reviled that the widow of Dr. Seuss not only downright despised what the film did to her husband’s work, but she made it absolutely crystal clear that never again would she let there be another live action adaptation of his work. Yet as excruciating as that may have been, having to unfortunately watch this creative team stampede all over the grave of Seuss whilst he is turning at least 7 times in the grave is even worse. Indeed instead of just giving us a simple story of a mischievous, but well-at-heart- feline who causes havoc for a pair of kids, film helmer Bo Welch manages to figure out just what this story needed the most: adult comedy, toilet humor, and cameos by none other than Paris Hilton. (Oh, sarcasm you delightful vixen. Whatever would I do without you in my life?) Also while Jim Carrey may have brought a degree of heart to the role of the Grinch, Mike Myers is a nightmare in fur at his best and a horrific dry heave of a cough at worst thus resulting in you constantly wondering why he would agree to this if he didn’t have any desire to do justice to the character. Indeed the character will not amuse you in any way, but will instead drive you to the edge of madness. Also he may not make you laugh, but he will sure irritate the heck out of you. Finally he also won’t make you want to know more about the loony world that he and Thing 1 and 2 and all their gadgets and gizmos come from. Rather he will make you want to either pick up the phone and call 911 and tell them there is a stranger harassing these two troubled kids or take this DVD outside and brutally annihilate it with a golf club or baseball bat.

Now as much as I despise the art of deriding performances given by child thespians, I still think it should be said that the pair of kids our obnoxious and hopefully neutered mastermind of chaos and anarchy comes a’calling on ehhhh harasses with no mercy whatsoever, that are Conrad and his sister Sally, both are not only completely lobotomized of any genuine characterization whatsoever, but even worse, they prove to be just as much of an irritant as Myers and the downright terrifying live action interpretations of Thing One and Thing Two though Alfred E. Newman from MAD Magazine’s blue-haired cousins would be a just as apt description. Of course, surprise surprise, the rest of this cast isn’t really any better though in that regard I can put more fault on the film helmer and the unholy trinity of screenwriters that brought this loaded litterbox to life instead of thespians Alec Baldwin, Kelly Preston, Sean Hayes and Amy Hill for piling on the unnecessary characters and other narrative wrinkles to begin with. For starters, we see that Baldwin is playing a not-very-nice neighbor to our main family the Waldens by the name of Larry, and who we soon learn, is an utter slime who is determined to intrude and marry our two child protagonists’ mother for the money because that “totally makes sense”. All he has to do is make Conrad out to be a juvenile delinquent and persuade his mom to send him on an all-expenses paid vacation to the Colonel Jojo Rabbit ehhh Wilhelm Military Academy for Troubled Youth (because this was totally in the timeless source material). Things just get even worse from there as we witness Hill getting paid to nap on the family couch as a narcoleptic babysitter by the name of Mrs. Kwan, and Hayes entering this fever dream as both Joan’s hair-trigger and hand-sanitizer obsessed boss Mr. Hummerfloob (they wanted Howie Mandel due to all the hand sanitizer, but he was thankfully busy) as well as voicing the stuffy goldfish who despises everything to do with the Cat and his behaviors (smart fish). Now let me be clear: I am fully aware that this source material doesn’t give a filmmaker nearly as much to make either a decent hour and a half adaptation or an 82 minute nightmare. Yet there’s a difference between expanding a beloved children’s story with tender loving care like The Lorax or Horton Hears a Who! and gutting said story, filling it with a bunch of unnecessary nonsense, putting it back together and then giving this horrifying monster life which is, ironically, the only thing this film is actually successful at doing.

Now from a visual perspective, it should also be noted that The Cat in the Hat doesn’t even fare well in that area either. Indeed as tragically witnessed, gaudiness just gives way to horrendous splashes of color, odd and unnerving creatures, and just plain unsightly gadgets and gizmo and none of which gifted with what made Dr. Seuss’ story so timeless. Indeed everything in this atrocity is a terrifying look at what happens when both things are taking as over the top as you could possibly begin to imagine and when someone thinks downright atrocious means the same thing as magical. Yet magic this film ain’t by any stretch of the imagination. Indeed this Razzie darling may attempt to keep hidden its twistedness behind a candy like sweetness, but everything still looks absolutely repulsive and disjointed as you may have expected. Yet not helping matters by any stretch is the fact that the Cat is one of the more nightmarish sights you could ever lay eyes on in a kid’s film from the early 2000s. I mean let me put this in a personal perspective dear reader: my little brother doesn’t flinch when Michael Myers pops up and terrorizes people in Haddonfield or when the shark shows up in Jaws, but simply seeing Mike Myers as the Cat scared him so bad I literally had to pause it and make sure he was good to keep watching. A thing of tragedy really since he’s grown up with The Cat in the Hat due to older brother every now and then while growing up telling him the story before bed. Heck even Jim Carey’s turn as the Grinch didn’t unnerve him like the Cat did and Howard was legitimately trying to make the Grinch as unappealing of a character as humanely possible. (For what it’s worth I wasn’t left unscathed either and I’m a few years shy of hitting three decades in this world). Now I don’t doubt that somewhere out there, probably under rocks, there are humanoids who legit like this film and I hope that someone who fits this description comments on this review and defends it. Indeed I may have been quite clear for my disdain for this film, but I also will be the first to acknowledge that I too have movies I will always cherish regardless of what 99.9% of the world thinks. Thus if you are someone who actually loves this movie then more power to you and I hope you will grace this review with your comments in defense of it.

All in all if you would like me to be even more demeaning than I already have been throughout this review, “And at long last this film ended with a thud! Well thank goodness I said out loud for quite really and quite truly this film is no more and no less than a downright dud!” Fear not though dear reader for if there was anything I hope you take away from what you have heard it’s that this film is a giant turd!” In case it wasn’t obvious by my attempt to say what Dr. Seuss himself would have said about this land of pure abomination fever dream come horrifyingly to life, not only did I not laugh or even chuckle at any point in time during this “film” but I literally came close to furious crying and I think I got a really bad case of both boredom and food poisoning (not only from just having to look at Mike Myers in costume, but because I think I got at least three refills of popcorn and loaded it with as much butter as possible so I didn’t have to hit the play button again any time soon. Suffice it to say then that absolutely, positively nothing about this ugly and downright disturbing hairball manages to live up to the iconic story for kids that supposedly was its inspiration. Indeed it is annoying, degrading, completely bloated (even at the runtime of 8 minutes shy of an hour and a half) and completely not worth anyone’s time or effort to try and sit down and watch let alone call a film. Watch at your own risk. On a scale of 1-5 I give Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat a solid 1.5 out of 5.