Chances are if you have switched on the TV, read a newspaper or
simply left the house any time in the past two weeks you know about
the new film version of “The Cat in the Hat.” Countless
promotions for the movie, including “Cat in the
Hat-Opoly,” abound and it’s no surprise that marketers
have worked to capitalize on the universal appeal of Dr. Seuss and
intriguing prospect of Mike Myers in a cat suit. What is baffling
is that so much time and effort went into advertising for a movie
that, as it turns out, is less entertaining than a telemarketer
call.

Janna Hutz
(Courtesy of Universal)
Janna Hutz
(Courtesy of Universal)

Recent collaborations between ingeniously imaginative art
direction and clever comedy have proved that a smart, enjoyable
children’s movie for all ages is possible (think
“Finding Nemo”). In the case of “The Cat,”
however, either someone forgot to consult the formula, or their
version of clever family-appropriate humor is Mike Myers in scary
make-up running around an unbelievably expensive set like a chicken
with its head cut off.

We’re getting ahead of ourselves with mention of the
actual Cat, who does not appear until 25 minutes into the film
which, in a 74 minute movie, is a relatively long time. First come
drawn-out introductions to an overly stressed yet ever-perky Mom
(Kelly Preston) and her two children, trouble-maker Conrad (Spencer
Breslin, “The Kid”) and goody-goody Sally (Dakota
Fanning, “I am Sam”). A paranoid clean-freak boss (Sean
Hayes, who also voices the animated Fish), and a sleazy boyfriend,
played almost too well by Alec Baldwin, add complications.

Mom is set to host a work party at her home later that night,
putting the children under strict restrictions to keep the house
clean at all costs. Mrs. Kwan (Amy Hill, “Next Friday), a
ridiculous caricature, is called in to baby sit, and in the
meantime exemplifies the film’s disappointing reliance on
cultural stereotypes for easy laughs. Finally, the Cat arrives to
the relief of the children (and the audience). Myers bounces onto
the screen with a toothy grin and a puzzling guffaw that strikes an
absurd balance between a swingin’ Mr. Powers and Goofy.

Admittedly, the first minutes of Myer’s utterly absurd
antics are entertaining. Soon after the respect/pity chuckles are
over, the reality of pathetic musical numbers and groan-worthy puns
sets in. Ten minutes of Myers running rampant and accomplishing
nothing save some truly forced facial contortions will find many
wishing he would simply go back to wherever it is that large,
talking felines come from.

Set design is one exceptional component of the film, drawing the
viewer into an impossibly colorful world of sculpted shrubbery and
Seuss-worthy gadgets. It’s a shame when poor taste and
recycled ideas so destroy the momentum that no one cares by the
time the fantastically designed and visually impressive house
cleaning finale rolls around.

The average viewer attracted to this movie most likely loved the
book, has strong childhood memories attached and is expecting a
light-hearted refreshing visual treat in the spirit of Dr. Seuss
himself.

For those I recommend two simple steps: 1) completely forget
that the movie version ever happened, 2) sit down and re-read the
book.

Rating: 1 star.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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