A Seuss Strike Out pt 2: The Cat in the Hat

cat in hat

There are some movies that are just bad ideas from the start.   A live action Cat in the Hat was one of those movies.  Unlike the Lorax where we have a fairly strong narrative with a fable-like story, the lovely Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss is basically a story about having fun on a rainy day.  There’s just not enough heft there for a feature film.

But nevertheless they made the attempt in 2003 and what you got was one of the worst movies ever made.  I have yet to hear of anyone that likes this movie.

The story of Cat in the Hat is 2 kids Conrad and Sally bored on a rainy day.  Their Mother is gone and they have nothing to do when in walks a cat with a hat who is determined to show the kids some fun.

“It is fun to have fun but you have to know how”

This fun consists of balancing a lot of stuff on a ball while the kids fish complains he is making a mess.  When that doesn’t work he unleashes 2 creatures called Thing 1 and Thing 2 who fly a kite in the house and make a mess.  Eventually the Cat helps them clean up and everything is good.

That’s it.  That’s the story.

What does the movie do with said story?  They turn it into a ghastly looking, shoutfest, with double entendres, potty humor, and a general mean spirited nature.  Part of the problem is the film confuses chaos with fun.  Characters shouting and making messes is not in and of itself pleasant to watch or entertaining.  Or maybe it is for 1600 words but not for 82 minutes in a movie!

Mike Myers is the lead cat and it is one of the most ghastly makeup jobs and creatures ever put into a movie.  I’m sure someone could redo the film and turn it into a horror movie.  In the book the cat looks more lean and lengthy but here it is awful.

cat in hat7Spencer Breslin and Dakota Fanning are the kids and they mostly scream at the Cat for making a mess and getting them in trouble. Again, not fun to watch.

cat in hat2The fish is there but like most things in this movie looks very disturbing instead of cute.

cat in hat9Thing 1 and Thing 2 arrive and don’t just fly kites but end up taking kids on amusement park type ride and destroy the house.  It’s not funny or interesting just exhausting.

cat in hat10Then they add plotlines with the kids Mother played by Kelly Preston and her horrible boss played by Sean Hayes.

cat in hat6She also has a horrible boyfriend played by Alec Baldwin who of course hates the kids and wants to send Conrad to military school.   I guess they were trying to add some kind of villain into the mix but it isn’t funny or compelling or fun in any way.

cat in hat5The worst of all is their nanny Mrs Kwan is a narcoleptic who they mock throughout the movie.  Some of it I found to be kind of racist and it is all thoroughly mean.  She’s treated like a human doll to beat up on and I suppose if she was some awful person that would be one thing but she pretty much sleeps the whole movie.  It’s not funny to see a woman treated like that.

cat in hat4Then to top it off we get a rave party scene with Paris Hilton making an appearance.  You know who you always want in your children’s movie- Paris Hilton in a skimpy party number. What were they thinking?

cat in hat8The Cat in the Hat creators need to spend more time with kids to understand what fun is for a child because their attempt to create it falls flat every time.  Nothing is funny and nothing is fun.  When a kid plays they are random but not usually complete chaos.  They may combine their Star Wars and GI Joe characters together in an epic story dominating Barbies (random) but they aren’t just flailing about throwing their toys around the room and if they are they don’t do it for 82 minutes.

That’s what was so ingenious about the Lego Movie.  They captured the randomness of a kids mind better than any movie I’ve seen.  You had the pirate, Harry Potter and Abe Lincoln all together but there was a story and an inventiveness that worked.  It wasn’t just madness all the time.

I suppose the writers were trying to take Myers Shrek style of comedy that was so successful at that time and apply it to this movie.  The problem with that is at least with Shrek (not a big fan of those films) there was an actual story and more than one performer to bounce the humor off of.  The little asides and adults only jokes are obnoxious in Shrek but I’d watch all 4 of those movies on repeat rather than sit through Cat in the Hat again.

cat in hat3Everything doesn’t need to be a movie and Cat in the Hat should have been stopped at the idea stage.  Some of the sets look bright and colorful but in total it feels like an assault to the senses so even that isn’t pleasant.

Badly done Hollywood!!  Seuss deserves better than this atrocity.

Overall Grade- F

17 thoughts on “A Seuss Strike Out pt 2: The Cat in the Hat

  1. I know everyone hates this movie. But I saw it when I was a very young child and I remember really enjoying it. My dad even took me to see it twice because we walked in a bit late the first time (when Conrad was riding the banister down the stairs) and I think he liked it well enough. I even remember having two book versions of this and I thought it was a very funny interesting take on the story. The Cat in the Hat wasn’t a very meaningful story to me (The Lorax was my favorite) and I thought having a live-action version of it was fun. I didn’t like live-action movies at the time but this was an exception just because it helped me transplant myself into the story. I thought Conrad and Sally were very relatable in terms of me and my own sister. I especially liked Conrad’s “Why do I always do the opposite?” and how that was represented with Thing 1 and Thing 2, who were very fun creations.

    The way they made it a traditional story with the dog they had to get back I thought was very creative.

    I know that there was a lot of raunchy adult humor in it but honestly I never got any of that. It all went straight over my head. The stuff that made me laugh was the Cat saying “We should all drive” and creating 3 steering wheels for the kids to drive the car with him. I loved the bad guy having his TV repossessed as he was watching it along with the other stuff in his house. “Hey, Rhode Island license plate, you never see those.” “No answering the phone, City Morgue.”, for example was a very dark and weird joke that I never quite got, but it had a great payoff with…

    The Fish: Children, this cat is currently in violation of… seventeen of your mother’s rules!
    [the phone rings, and The Cat answers it]
    The Cat: Hello, City Morgue!
    The Fish: [losing it] Eighteen!

    This was actually co-written by a Seinfeld writer and I think that shows.

    It did at least have the sweet ending where the Cat cleans up everything in time. I don’t know, it’s just the library had a computer game version of the book we could play, and watching a big-screen movie version of it, especially one as unrestrained and wild as this, was so much fun for me at the time.

    But then I didn’t even notice the message of The Lorax until I was about 8. The Cat in the Hat, to me, didn’t have a good message in the first place. The Cat was just as weird and creepy there as he was here. Mike Myers just played it up. The original book was actually mostly just an experiment by Dr. Seuss to see how he could construct a story with all the list of basic words he had prepared to teach children. My thinking was: I already knew how to read when the movie came out, so why not have fun with the story now?

    I’m scared to revisit it now because I haven’t seen it basically since it came out and I didn’t even realize it was so universally hated for years and years. And that shocked me when I did find out, especially that Dr. Seuss’s widow refused to let any more live-action movies be based on her husband’s works because of this! It just reminded me I never have one clue what goes through other people’s minds when they watch or read something. (The positive reception for Water for Elephants and Kung Fu Panda 2, and the negative reviews for The Casual Vacancy still make no sense to me.) It was like the Troper Tales on TV Tropes. I loved those, they were funny and fascinating to read, and then suddenly everyone was saying they were creepy and they were disposed of it entirely. I don’t get it. It’s like the complete reversal of opinions between Doug Walker and Confused Matthew on Moulin Rouge. Sometimes I wish something could be around just for me and no one else could read/watch it if they’re just going to declare that it needs to be disposed of and it can never happen again. I still miss Troper Tales and it makes me feel horrible that no one seems to agree with me. It didn’t make me a bad person reading Troper Tales, and it didn’t make me a bad person or harm me watching this movie when I was less than 8 years old. My sister said Twilight was made specifically for her. Can’t they keep these things around just for me?

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  2. I knew there would be someone who would like this movie. I have to believe if you saw it again it wouldn’t be your cup of tea. They are so mean to Mrs Kwan and it is really just 82 minutes of chaos destroying things. The plotline with the boyfriend and Mom at work are cringeworthy. The jokes aren’t funny to me at least even the one’s you cite (sorry but humor is super subjective). It is definitely one of my worst movies ever and I don’t blame Mrs Seuss for saying ‘enough is enough. No more Suess movies” after this.
    That said, if you like it still that’s great too. It has a 10% on rotten tomatoes. That means 1/10 critics gave it a 3 or higher. You are one of those 1/10. As I said in the review I agree that there is not enough material in the Cat in the Hat for a movie. It was a very silly enterprise. The Lorax at least has a narrative. The Cat in the Hat is about the cat making a mess and then cleaning it up. That’s not enough for a movie.

    But like I said in the review what I think the creators missed the mark on the most was the whole point of Cat in the Hat is the kids aren’t having fun so Cat introduces them to fun. That doesn’t mean chaos. They confused the randomness of a childs playtime with chaos. And that’s not entertaining for most kids to just have things screaming at each other, making messes and jokes they don’t understand. And it’s even worse for most adults. You can have nonsense like in Alice in Wonderland but that’s not the same as just flinging things at the wall and shoving people down slides and screaming all the lines. Alice in Wonderland is random but not chaotic except perhaps in moments (some parts are quite sedate).

    I’ve certainly had those things I love that got cancelled and wish they could stay around just for me. Last season there was a show called A to Z which I thought was so wonderful but it got cancelled. Sigh…At least still lots of great stuff endures. Anyway, if it bothers you a lot than perhaps reading these types of reviews isn’t for you? You are never going to find a critic who agrees with you on everything. I have a friend who hates reading reviews, even mine, because “she likes what she likes” and that’s fine. This is certainly not required reading. I try to not be too over the top in even my F reviews like a Confused Matthew or a Nostalgia Critic (I’m not nearly witty enough to pull that off). I’ve only done I think 8 of them so they are rare but I wanted to do this series because I feel all of the Seuss films have been so bad and he deserves better (or to be left alone!). Horton Hears a Who is tolerable but still not very good. I will leave that one out for the moment. Sometime probably closer to Christmas I will do The Grinch. Groan…It’s so awful IMO.

    Thanks always for providing your alternative point of view.

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    1. Yep. Couldnt agree more. They had nothing so they took Myers crude humor in Shrek and pushed it 1000% and it really is quite shocking and uncomfortable. I think when Paris Hilton shows up at a rave in a children’s movie you know they are out of ideas. Also I thought the treatment of Mrs Kwan was kind mean and a little racist.

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    2. Did you watch it when it came out? I have to admit, like Rachel, I just don’t get your tastes because this is about the level of quality as some of the stuff on your Top Animated Films I Like That Everyone Else Hates, like We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story.

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      1. I think We’re Back is more watchable than this. Not good but better than this. We all like different stuff and are puzzled by the tastes of others on occasion. That’s what makes this whole blogging thing fun is hearing different perspectives out.

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      2. Oh and I was actually on my mission when it came out but it was so notorious I thought “it cant be that bad”. Even with such super low expectations I hated it.

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