Dr. Seuss wrote books that have been part of many a childhood. Now Imagine Entertainment selects another Seuss classic to mutilate as they convert it to the big screen. The Cat in the Hat is not a horrible movie. It follows in the footsteps of How the Grinch Stole Christmas in creating a visually impressive translation of the Dr. Seuss world on screen. Most of what appears on screen feels very faithful to how Dr. Seuss showed his world in his books. Unlike Grinch though, the story feels pointless, with no real rhyme or reason to anything that occurs. People are introduced, events pass by, and characters change, but the audience is never drawn into those characters or events enough for any sort of reaction other then an odd curiosity at what we’ve just seen. So while the Cat in the Hat is not horrible, it is very bland.
Loosely following the Dr. Seuss children’s book, the movie tells the story of two children who are visited by the mysterious Cat in the Hat. He arrives to help them have fun, cause a little chaos, and perhaps teach a lesson along the way. Since something so simple wouldn’t work well for a feature length film, the movie has padded these events slightly. The two children are Conrad and Sally, the offspring of Joan Walden, a real estate agent played by Kelly Preston. The kids are different in personality to an extreme: Sally (Dakota Fanning from I Am Sam) is an organized control freak, while Conrad (The Kid’s Spencer Breslin) is a troublemaking rule breaker. They do share one thing though – a dislike for their mother’s boyfriend and next-door neighbor Leonard Quinn (Alec Baldwin desperately in search of a career) who is interested in sending the kids off to a military school. Meanwhile, their mother is preparing a party for her co-workers, including her hypochondriac boss Mr. Humberfloob (played by Will & Grace’s Sean Hayes, who also pulls double duty voicing the family’s fish). Called back to work, Mrs. Walden has no choice but to leave the kids with their babysitter and a warning not to mess up the house. That’s when the Cat in the Hat appears on the scene.
Mike Myers as the Cat is a good argument for CGI characters in movies. Instead of the slender rubbery character from the books, we get Myers in a costume that makes him look like a slightly overweight cat/rat creature. It’s the one area where the movie fails to hold true to a Seuss style and nowhere near as impressive as the costume work in Grinch not that we should expect it to be. Rick Baker’s ingenious skill in bringing the Seuss characters to life was left behind with that film. Instead we get Myers in makeup and a cat suit with a Brooklyn accent and some really strange character work. At least Thing One and Thing Two, the troublemaking duo that follow the Cat around, look more Seussical in nature.
The worst part of the film is the writing. The movie is rated PG for crude humor and double entendres. While crude humor in a kid’s movie is nothing new, the double entendres are misplaced. Rather then a kid’s movie, the writing and humor seem to follow Myers’ typical style as witnessed in the Austin Powers and Wayne’s World movies, which is definitely more for the teens and adults. Several cutsey “near misses” with curse words will most likely tease kids to finish the sentences, which means the movie will inspire the same behavior in its audience that it’s trying to rid its characters of.
What all of this means is that you end up with a film that’s too childish in appearance for an adult to stand, but too adult in writing and plot to hold a kid’s interest. The movie should have picked a target audience and stuck with it rather then try and cater to children, parents, and Mike Myers’ fans. Might we suggest Dr. Seuss’s material itself? The DVD release boasts a decent amount of extras: Sixteen deleted scenes, twenty outtake scenes, almost a dozen featurettes and a “Dance with the Cat” tutorial to teach kids a Cat in the Hat dance. Unfortunately, like the movie, the disk is not executed as well as it would like to make everyone think it is.
First you have to navigate your way though the DVD’s extremely annoying interactive menus. No, wait, first you have to fast forward through the trailers for other Universal movies. You can’t bypass these, just fast forward through them, which means you’ll be watching them every time you put the disk in your player. Then you get to the interactive menu, which is problematic at times. First the characters appearing on screen continually harass you to make a selection, starting about a second after you are allowed to make selections. Then you watch whatever you’ve selected and once it’s over you are returned to the interactive menu… or at least at times you’re returned to the menu. Sometimes, due to an irregular bit rate, the DVD would crash on me, requiring me to remove it from my player and start from square one. Remember those trailers for other Universal movies you have to watch every time? If you don’t, you will by the time the disk crashes the third or fourth time.
Now as far as actual content goes, the dozen or so featurettes are all extremely short pieces highlighting various parts of the movie, from the music, to some of the devices in the movie, to the Cat himself. Not one is probably more the four or five minutes in length, meaning you could have put them all together for one decent sized behind the scenes look at the movie, except not much in the way of behind the scenes info is given in the shorts. They tend just to highlight their part of the movie and give a little added information from the cast’s experiences.
The deleted scenes are okay, adding nothing to the film other then a few more scenes that are just as bland as the movie itself. There is no real reason why these scenes above any others were cut. The outtakes are kind of funny. Myers jokes with the kids as he and the children stumble through lines. Baldwin comes across as a bit of a prima donna, talking down to the kids and stopping the camera as he bumbles his lines. Spencer Breslin falls down quite a few times, which actually adds more physical comedy to the DVD then the movie itself had.
There is a commentary track from director Bo Welch and Alec Baldwin. Why Baldwin instead of Myers or any other member of the cast? What else is he going to do with his time? Really, it’s better he record a commentary track for Cat in the Hat than tackle another sub-par role elsewhere.
Due to the technical errors with the DVD, the lack of content despite its efforts to look like it has some real features, and the movie itself just being bland, this is not a high recommendation. One of the trailers I got to watch almost a dozen times at the beginning of the disk advertised that the classic animated Dr. Seuss cartoons were coming to DVD soon. Hopefully those will be a better release and more worth a consumer’s time.
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