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“I’m not so good with the rhyming.” – The Cat (Mike Myers)
DIRECTED BY: Bo Welch
FEATURING: Mike Myers,, Spencer Breslin, ,
PLOT: Two children left alone at home encounter a human-sized talking cat who leads them on a series of wacky and destructive misadventures.
Shall I spin you a tale of a movie gone wrong?
Of 82 minutes that feel three days long?
Then I’ll tell unto you, just right there where you’ve sat
Of the travesty known as The Cat in the Hat.
‘Twas a gray day in Hollywood, no dreams to dream,
When one junior executive cooked up a scheme:
“What we need’s some IP we can plunder for cash.
It can be mediocre, can even be trash!
All we need is the title; who cares if it’s rank?
They’ll fill up the theaters, and we’ll all make bank.”
“You’re so right,” said his colleagues, “it’s easy as pie.
For familiar content, we won’t even try.”
So those vultures considered what might be of use
And decided to dig up our dear Dr. Seuss.
“We’ve done it before,” they all cried. “It’s a cinch.
We grossed two-sixty mill on that trash heap, The Grinch.
Which proves that we needn’t pretend like we care. No,
That garbage still vacuumed up mucho dinero.”
The honchos began to assemble the parts
That would demonstrate all of their filmmaking smarts.
A novice director? Sure, that’ll be fine.
“We’ll pick some guy known for production design.”
“And a script?” a small voice piped up. “I took a look
And it might be a challenge to translate a book
That’s so short. We’ll get ripped by the Dr. Seuss nerds;
It’s one thousand six hundred and twenty-six words.”
“Damn the length!” came the riposte. “Damn logic and plot.
For those minor objections,” they said, “we care not.
Once we get a big star, we’ll have no cause for worry.
His comedy chops will fix things in a hurry.”
So they looked at the feline displayed on the front
And decided to try an uproarious stunt.
Tall and thin, long of limb, with a wide, gleeful eye…
“Mike Myers!” they cried. “There’s no doubt he’s our guy!”
And perhaps that is how we arrived at this place,
At a movie so lacking in wit and in grace.
To begin, the expansion is plain as a fact.
The story as told is too lithe and compact.
Consider the Things, who are given no wherefore.
They bring with them mayhem, and then they leave. Therefore
The screenwriters have to add more bits within bits,
And that only gets you a couple more minutes.
(And as seen in the movie, the Things are atrocious.
Disturbing and freakish and quite no-no-no-cious.)
So of course they invented stuff. How could they not?
The original’s not really loaded with plot.
There’s an hour to fill, and no more left to say,
Which is why we get plotlines from some other play.
A germophobe boss, a would-be paramour,
And a slumberous sitter all fill out this bore.
But story’s not all. Oh, that’s just the beginning.
Do you really want something to set your head spinning?
I give you The Cat, who brings chaos to life,
But his actions are surely the least cause of strife.
It’s his whole personality, reeking of smarm,
As if wanting your love was the heart of his charm.
He’s vulgar and oversexed, hammy and rude
With that “Coffee Talk” accent that Myers has brewed.
And his eyes! Oh, his eyes! What a horrible sight.
With his permanent squint, they extinguish all light.
You can pile on the makeup, but trying is moot.
It isn’t The Cat; it’s a hack in a suit.
Worst of all, he’s convinced he’s an absolute riot
And laughs at his own jokes, which ought to earn quiet.
Do you think Dr. Seuss would find it apropos
For a joke where The Cat gets to say “dirty hoe”?
I’ll go on: here’s an inkling of what will portend
For the viewer who toughs it all out till the end:
Spaying and cat boners, theme parks and contracts
Lactose intolerance, lawyers and butt cracks,
Off-color acronyms, water flume rides,
Paris Hilton and Taiwanese parliament fights,
Vomit and corsets and Rasta dreds and
Even lingering looks at Mom’s mammary glands.
You can tell they weren’t sure what they needed to fix,
So they pelted the wall hoping one thing might stick.
“Say, funny is easy, can be manufactured
By pushing the wacky until it is fractured.
Let’s speed up the film, add some Elfman-like tracks,
And make certain there’s never a chance to relax.
Oh, and put all our chips on production design;
Maybe if you’re all dazzled, the film will feel fine.”
But it doesn’t. It strains and it vamps and it pleads
For the smiles that it wants and the laughs that it needs.
All this effort is tactile. You easily see
Enough flopsweat to fill up the Caspian Sea.
Why else would a chunk of the film’s running time
Be a parody ad? Not a joke. It’s a crime.
Is it weird? Sure, it’s weird. In a class all its own.
But that isn’t a compliment. Nay, it’s a groan.
It’s weird in the way that a stake through the brain is:
You’re surprised, till you notice how awful the pain is.
It isn’t the species of weird you enjoy;
It’s repeated inanity, till you say, “Oy.”
‘Cause it’s bad, oh, so bad. It’s rock-bottomly bad.
Ranks among the worst cinema viewings I’ve had.
It’s a tiring mess and a terrible bore
And it’s only ideal for those kids you abhor.
Didn’t laugh, didn’t smile, happy feelings were void.
My primary feeling throughout was “annoyed,”
And that was before Smash Mouth covered the Beatles,
At which point I desperately signaled, “Retreat!-les.”
So, The Cat. About that… I can’t play diplomat.
He’s as mirthful and fun as a cancerous gnat.
If you let me, I’d pound that cat flat with a bat
And return him from whence he was previously shat.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“If the producers had dug up Ted Geisel’s body and hung it from a tree, they couldn’t have desecrated the man more… The big-screen ‘Cat’ represents everything corrupt, bloated, and wrong with mainstream Hollywood movies. It takes a slender toddler-classic about the joys of anarchy — a 10-minute bedtime read at best — and pumps it into 73 minutes of state-of-the-art vulgarity. It lets a pampered star get away with doing Austin Powers in a funny suit. It substitutes belches, farts, and splattery computer-generated effects for the good doctor’s low-tech whimsy, and it makes sure there’s enough product placement and soundtrack tie-ins to profitably extend the franchise well into next year.” – Ty Burr, Boston Globe (contemporaneous)
ADDITIONAL READING: This profile of actress Amy Hill, who portrays the narcoleptic babysitter Mrs. Kwan, culminates in a discussion of why The Cat in the Hat was probably no more pleasurable to work on than it is to watch. Her stories may provide some insight into why this movie turned out the way it did.
(This movie was nominated for review by I”Herb,” who argued it was “ill conceived since it was marketed as a children’s movie while it’s a fantastically weird and funny piece about our entertainment culture and may even show surreal subconscious influences of Sigmund Freud.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)