Seuss’s Cat in the Hat — and his Cat Comes Back sequel — are staples of kid-hood with nary an equal. Only Seuss has that whimsy, the rhymes and the rhythms, those rubbery drawings and fractured Seuss-isms!
Trees, Clouds and Houses are Right
With four kids, I know the Hat Cat tales by heart
From the “Up, Up Fish” game to the Z-Cat “Voom!” part.
(Don’t ask me what “Voom” is. I can’t really say.
It’s deus ex machina the Dr. Seuss way!)
But then came Jim Carrey in a Grinch Santy suit
And self-centered Whos greedy for Christmas loot.
It was dark and subversive and almost Orwellian
And not at all charming or Theo Geisel-ian.
So fans of the doctor must feel trepidation
At the next big-screen take on a Doc Seuss creation.
With Mike Myers under the latex and all
Would we get Austin Powers up there on that ball?
The Cat in the Hat starts earning a smile
With studio logos in Dr. Seuss style.
In fact, the whole film has the right kind of look;
Trees, houses, and clouds seem right from the book.
That’s better than that Ronnie Howard could do
With his gloomy old Who-ville and misshapen Whos.
But production design alone isn’t enough,
And The Cat in the Hat’s nothing like up to snuff.
The Kids and Cat are All Wrong
The book’s quiet kids are now quite vexatious —
Sally’s smugly severe, her brother hellacious.
(What the brother’s name is, the book doesn’t state,
But I’m sure it’s not “Conrad,” as the film would dictate.)
And Mom! She’s now single, and has a career
(Exactly what happened to Dad isn’t clear).
And an oily neighbor wants Mom for his wife
While plotting to get Conrad out of her life.
In one “charming” scene, the boy tells his mother
That he wishes his mom were somebody other
than her — to which she replies with aplomb
That she sometimes wishes the same. (Good answer, Mom!)
Equally dismal, for sheer miscalculation
Is the Mike in the Hat, who bears little relation
to Doc Seuss’s Cat. Mike just doesn’t attain
What the Cat’s all about. Let me explain:
The Cat, like all tricksters — think of Bugs Bunny —
Is out to have fun — not to be funny.
Bugs Bunny’s not out to make Elmer Fudd laugh,
Much less teach some lesson on Daffy’s behalf.
It’s all just a lark to him, all games and tricks,
Not to be confused with tired comedy schticks.
The Cat is just like that — though all in good fun
And he’s sure to put all his toys back when he’s done.
But Mike Myers mugs like it’s Saturday Night,
With comedy sketches and routines without bite.
He’s a joker, a clown, a comic, a gawk,
And he sounds when he tawks like he comes from New Yawk.
And then, in the end, the film actually purports
To tack on a lesson or moral of sorts —
“Have fun, but behave,” or something as deep
And falling quite flat from the Cat, who’s a creep.
Another Kid's Story Hijacked
And the content! The Grinch’s key-party game
Compared to The Cat in the Hat seems quite tame.
From the “You dirty hoe” joke to an underground rave
With a slinky young dancer the Cat seems to crave…
Then there’s the photo of Mom on the table
Which the randy Cat’s paws somehow appear able
To unfold like a centerfold, cat hat erect.
Then, told it’s their mom, he quits out of respect.
Yes, the Cat now has mojo — yeah, baby, groovy!
Except he goes “OH yeah!” instead in this movie.
What’s next? Will the Sneetches get wild and crazy?
Will the Lorax get jiggy with Daisy-Head Mayzie?
What might Hollywood make of the Collapsible Frink?
Or the Seven-Hump Wump? I shudder to think.
2003, Universal. Directed by Bo Welch. Mike Myers, Spencer Breslin, Dakota Fanning, Alec Baldwin, Kelly Preston, Amy Hill, Sean Hayes.
US Conference of Catholic Bishops: A-II Adults and Adolescents
Some rude language; some minced and coyly averted vulgarities; mildly suggestive content; grossout humor; mild black humor and cartoon violence.
Overall Recommendability: D Discouraged
Artistic & Entertainment Value: 2 stars (out of four) Mediocre
Moral and Spiritual Value: Problematic
Appropriate Audience: Teens and Up
For more information on this movie's ratings, visit the Decent Films Guide at the link below.
(c) 2003 Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Steven D. Greydanus is a film critic for the National Catholic Register and appears weekly on Ave Maria radio. His website is the Decent Films Guide.