Movie Review: The Cat in the Hat

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 funnot 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.

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