The Cat in the Hat Movie Review

Make a movie about a black cat, and you're just asking to be cursed with a streak of bad luck. Yet even the most hardened cynic will be surprised at how far Universal's The Cat in the Hat strays from the childish antics of Dr. Seuss' original work. Judging from this humorless monstrosity, the Cat team spent 10 years working on their film's decorative appearance and a combined 10 minutes writing sleazy jokes and a catastrophic script that I wouldn't use to line a litter box.

Director Bo Welch and production designer Alex McDowell earn a few points for their visions. Welch perfected his craft on lavishly bizarre features like Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice, and McDowell's design work on Cat literally sets Seuss's story free from the page. The gorgeous sets form a pastel feast for the eyes. They're a sight to be seen, yet they're inserted into an unwatchable bomb that shouldn't be seen by anyone.

As for Seuss, his story stays the same with minor revisions. Single mom Joan (Kelly Preston) sells real estate, but her job is at stake. Her boss, Mr. Humberfloob (Sean Hayes), has an odd germ fetish, and he demands that her house be spotless when the company hosts a gathering of real estate clients there that evening.

Joan's children, meanwhile, have issues. Control freak Sally (Dakota Fanning) plans each minute of her day in a pocket organizer. Brother Conrad (Spencer Breslin) needs parental supervision, but he's too busy keeping his mom's smarmy boyfriend (a sinister Alec Baldwin) from shipping him off the military school. One rainy day, the kids are visited by a troublesome cat (Mike Myers), who promises fun but delivers mayhem.

Our luck changes for the worse the minute Myers' black cat crosses our path. Never before has a title character sucked the energy and humor out of a project the way Myers does when he prances across the screen. His black cat is a Roach Motel of comedy. Jokes go in, but the laughs don't come out.

Myers' approach to the cat is a mystery. He can't shed the sounds of his past characters, from Linda Richman to Dr. Evil. His impressions lean more towards a mixture of the Cowardly Lion and Match Game panel member Charles Nelson Reilly. With a lack of material, Myers opts to mug more than a street gang in Central Park, and his shtick grows annoying almost immediately. He's trapped in a one-man show where every gag bombs.

Cast members not shackled to a cat suit come out okay. Baldwin finds the right comedic tone using one-quarter of the make-up Myers requires. Fanning continues to prove she's the best actress still shopping at Gap Kids. And Hayes gets decent laughs hiding behind a glossy talking fish.

But it's not enough to justify the efforts on screen. Cat boasts a truncated 81-minute runtime, but has enough material to fill eight. All in all, this Cat is a dog.

The critic sat on the cat.


Comments

The Cat in the Hat Rating

" Unbearable "

Rating: PG, 2003

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