The Cat in the Hat
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Bo Welch
scr Alec Berg, David Mandel, Jeff Schaffer
with Mike Myers, Dakota Fanning, Spencer Breslin, Kelly Preston, Alec Baldwin, Sean Hayes, Amy Hill, Clint Howard, Danielle Ryan Chuchran, Brittany Oaks, Taylor Rice, Talia Prairie
release US 21.Nov.20, UK 2.Apr.04
03/US 1h22

Don't jump on the couch: Fanning, Myers and Breslin disobey the rules.

myers preston baldwin
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After the success of Ron Howard's The Grinch, hopes were high for this adaptation of another Dr Seuss classic. Alas, this time the filmmakers seem to have decided that the Dr Seuss charm was too simple for them, opting instead for knowing, crude humour full of pop culture references. This not only yanks us out of the dreamlike on-screen world, but it makes the film painful to watch.

Joan (Preston) is the single mother with two energetic children, Sally and Conrad (Fanning and Breslin), and a slimy boyfriend (Baldwin) who's scheming to put the kids in a military academy. But Joan has more important things to do today, like prepare for a big party to impress her extremely picky boss (Hayes). So she leaves the kids in the hands of the sleepy Mrs Kwan (Hill). Enter The Cat (Myers), a rule-breaking party animal who encourages Sally and Conrad to do whatever they want, even if it means destroying the house in the process.

Like Jim Carrey in The Grinch, this film either sinks or swims on Myers' Cat. Myers is a very funny actor and writer, but he plays the Cat as a has-been Jewish comic with a Charles Nelson Reilly laugh and several meaningless catch-phrases. It isn't that this is completely unfunny--several scenes are sharply hilarious--but it's utterly wrong for this character, leaving the whole film floundering like the bad-CGI fish that continually scolds the kids. Why didn't Welch restrain Myers even a little bit? And why was the script allowed to wander so far from the original tale? The writers pointlessly strap on several lame subplots and an obvious moral lesson for each character. The actors are all fine, if a little too arch. And the film's design is eye-catching--a frothy storybook land in garish colours and designs. When the film sticks to Dr Seuss' tone, it's quite magical. But those are very rare moments in an otherwise joyless movie. And it's frankly far too violent and tasteless for the kids it's aimed at.

cert PG vulgarity, violence, language 25.Jan.04

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2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall