Click here 2 and a half stars

A rainy day
in catastrophe

Film tries to bring
another Dr. Seuss
character to life
but forgets
to add a heart

Mike Myers

"Dr. Seuss' Cat in the Hat"

Reviewed by Carlos deVillalvilla

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After the success of "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas," it made sense for producer Brian Grazer to try for a repeat. Take a beloved Dr. Seuss classic, stick an A-list comedian in the title role, and watch the simolians roll in.

Breslin, Myers, Fanning
Breslin, Myers, Fanning

Kelly Preston
Kelly Preston
The trouble with "Dr. Seuss' Cat in the Hat" is that instead of Ron Howard directing, it is Bo Welch making his big-screen directorial debut. And while this Cat looks slick (Welch is a prodcution designer), it lacks the heart that made the Grinch film so charming.

Conrad (Spencer "The Kid" Breslin) and Sally (Dakota "I Am Sam" Fanning) are polar opposites. Conrad is constantly doing his own thing, breaking rules and finding new and unique pathways to trouble. Sally is a bossy, tightly wound control freak who is the perfect little angel to the adults around her, but a nightmare to her friends.

Their mom, Joan (Kelly Preston), works at a real estate agency whose hypochondriac boss ("Will and Grace" funnyman Sean Hayes) has a phobia about germs, but insists his agents meet and greet clients at special monthly parties. It's Joan's turn to play the hostess, and the house must be absolutely immaculate or else, as the boss puts it, she's "FIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII-UR-DUH."

When her babysitter conks out, Joan rushes home, where her next-door neighbor and would-be paramour Quinn (Alex Baldwin) hopes to marry the attractive single mom and ship off the troublesome Conrad to military school. With an admonishment to her children to keep the house spotless, Joan leaves them in the care of a new sitter (Amy Hill) who turns out to be narcoleptic. And for the two bored siblings, the rain truly begins to fall outside ... which brings in a 6-foot tall Cat (Mike Myers). The Cat is all about having fun, and after some initial moments of "scream and run," he befriends the two kids in an attempt to bring them into balance.

Despite the protestations of a CGI fish (voiced by Hayes), the Cat wreaks havoc on the house, especially after the appearance of Thing 1 and Thing 2 (played by a phalanx of gymnasts).

With the Things is a crate which -- the Cat warns Conrad -- must be left closed and locked, else the world from which the Cat in the Hat comes will encroach on this one. Naturally the rule-breaking Conrad opens the crate and gets the crab-like lock stuck on the family pooch's collar. Said pooch promptly runs away, leading to a merry chase through town in which the suspicious Quinn follows, trying to get possession of the dog to finally bust Conrad permanently and give his mom a reason to ship the boy away.

If you've read the classic children's book, you basically know the story and how it ends. There is a great deal more back story here, and a ton of gags, some of which are a bit more adult than Theodore Geisel might have used.

Myers plays the cat as a demented cross between SNL character Linda "Kawfee Tawk" Richman and the Cowardly Lion; he has moments where he is charming, but sometimes goes a bit more over-the-top than works. The kids are cute enough, but Conrad is such a jerk early on you kind of hope that he does get sent to military school -- it might just do him some good.

The star here is the production design -- no surprise, since that's how Welch has mostly made his living. The town of Anville is a melding of the kitschy suburbia of "Edward Scissorhands" and the curved-line chaos of Whoville, with a bit of theme park architecture. Everything is in bright primary colors, not unlike the books. And while Myers is more of a Cheshire cat than the thin, angular drawing of the Seuss books, the vision is still very Seussian. But this Cat simply didn't have as much heart as it needed. These days, kid movies really need to play to adults as well, but "The Cat in the Hat" goes a bit overboard in that direction. Some of the jokes are inappropriate for younger children. Myers' Cat is more of a smarmy game show host than the force of nature depicted in the book, and there is almost no charm to him. Jim Carrey brought charm to the Grinch, which helped that film work.

This is a close call. It is a visually attractive movie, and there are some moments -- particularly near the end -- which are quite magical; just not enough to sustain an entire movie.

In the theater or home video?

A definite big-screen experience, particularly for the grand finale when the Cat, Conrad and Sally race for the Crate. Note to Universal; that would make a tremendous theme park attraction, and Islands of Adventure is starved for some new ones.


See cast, credit and other details about "Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat" at Internet Movie Data Base.