The Cat In The Hat

The Cat In The Hat


Reviewed by: Claire Sawers

Be warned. There's lots of gunge. There are pigtails and screaming and puerile slapstick gags. There are even musical numbers. This is a children's film and there's no denying it. But for anyone taller than a metre, what makes it bearable are the wink-wink, nudge nudge grown-up jokes.

Mike Myers dons a life-size furry cat suit and gives his personal twist to the classic Sixties kids story of The Cat In The Hat, reeking havoc on a small town. That means multiple accents, lots of dressing up and bugging behaviour so laboured it ends up being very funny.

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It's nowhere near as good as the Saturday Night Live stuff, or Wayne's World, but the unmistakable quirky and infectious Myers humour is definitely there.

Those with sheltered, meaningless childhoods may not know the original story by Dr Seuss. Basically, two bored children are stuck in the house on a rainy day, with only their goldfish for company. Enter the Cat in the Hat, a mischief-maker extraordinaire, who brings impish friends Thing One and Thing Two to teach the kids how to have proper fun.

The film version requires substantial padding, as the book only lasts for a few pages. So the children's mother (Kelly Preston) becomes a Yummy Mummy and power-dresser, who juggles family duties with a demanding job in real estate, all the while trying to lead a fulfilling romantic and social life. It's all so Noughties.

Her charming beau is actually a sleazy ne'er-do-well and, predictably, the kids cotton on fast. Alec Baldwin is fantastic as Quinn, the beer-slugging slob, who transforms into a twinkle-toothed Lothario, whenever the mum is around. He provides one of two star turns, the other being from Sean Hayes - better known as Jack, the screaming gender-bender from Will & Grace. He is just as gloriously camp here, first as obsessive control freak Mr Humberfloob, then as the voice of the sappy goldfish, who hates breaking rules. When the Cat in the Hat takes the children on a high-speed car ride, the goldfish cowers terrified in his bowl and confesses sheepishly once the car stops, "I wet my jar".

The lengthy action sequences are tiring and low on laughs. Adults should zone out and leave kids to follow the ridiculous plot. Constant catastrophes will keep them in stitches, but for grown-ups, it seems a long wait till the next good gag.

The one-liners often disappoint, but some genuinely funny moments stand out among the kiddy clowning, like Myers pretending to be on a mock cookery programme, making cupcakes (or 'coopcakes') with a Cheshire accent. He becomes threatening and abusive to his cheesy all-American co-host, much to the amusement of parents and almost total confusion of kids.

His right-on stoner with dreds is another minor highlight, as is the camp interior decorator ("These drapes are so out they're in!"). Much of the comedy relies on the great panto tradition of double-entendres, designed for adult-only enjoyment. Although the jokes aren't frequent, or good enough, to make this a grown-up comedy in its own right, for parents who are there in an accompaning capacity, it stays on the right side of entertaining.

One definite plus is the pastel-coloured marshmallow set and candy-coloured comic book costumes. These are truly inspired and absolutely in keeping with the weird and wonderful world of Dr Seuss. There is a strange satisfaction to be gained from watching the perfect house, decorated in apple-green and lilac gingham, being ruthlessly and totally trashed by the Cat, only to be restored later, of course, to the neat-as-a-pin state that he found it in.

The original children's book is a must-read, but this big screen version totally fails to match that classic quality, although will be good fun for kids and not too painful for parents and might even encourage people to read the book again.

Reviewed on: 02 Apr 2004
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The Cat In The Hat packshot
A magical cat arrives at the home of two bored children to show them how to have fun.
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Director: Bo Welch

Writer: Alec Berg, David Mandel, Jeff Schaffer, based on the book by Dr Seuss

Starring: Mike Myers, Alec Baldwin, Kelly Preston, Dakota Fanning, Spencer Breslin, Sean Hayes, Amy Hill

Year: 2003

Runtime: 82 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US


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