The good news? Cat clocks in at 74 minutes. The bad news?
You can never get them back. The movie is so bad, in fact,
that I am hands down calling it the worst movie of 2003. Yes,
one hundred Gigli’s (a movie, which, despite the bad
press was not that bad) before one Cat in the Hat.
Since its debut in December 2003, Cat in the Hat has domestically
grossed more than $100 million, according to IMDb. Recently,
however, the movie has caught the eye of the Razzies, or Golden
Raspberries, the awards begun in 1980 to identify the year’s
worst movies. Cat in the Hat has received eight nominations
(only one less than Gigli), including worst picture, worst
actor (Mike Myers) and “worst excuse for an actual movie.”
The film is set in the city of Anville, an almost psychedelic
version of the town that is the setting for Edward Scissorhands
(1990). Its residents are color coordinated with everyone (and
everything) else. This might be thanks to Bo Welch, who was
production designer for both Cat and Scissorhands. The movie’s
palette, in fact, gives Anville a 1950’s “Tupperware” vibe.
Some other odd things about Anville: only rotary dial telephones
are allowed in Anville, and everyone drives a Ford.
The movie is about two children, Conrad (Spencer Breslin),
an overweight slob, and Sally (Dakota Fanning), a hyper-achiever,
who are left home alone by their mother (Kelly Preston) and
with nothing to do. Enter the Cat, played by Michael Myers.
He spends most of the movie wrecking the house, quite literally
turning the place inside out, and teaches the children that
they too can, well, wreck the house and turn the place inside
out. Sally and the family’s pet fish (voice by Sean Hayes)
object to the cat’s methods—and madness—but
the Cat’s insanity prevails.
The movie has one subplot: Mom is dating their neighbor, Quinn,
played by Alec Baldwin. Quinn and Conrad, for whatever reason,
do not get along, and we taste their antagonism from the beginning.
If the theme “son of the wooed woman disliking the wooer” is
not formulaic enough, we also learn that Quinn is pressuring
Mom to send Conrad away to military school.
Yes, military school.
As the plot trudges along, we realize all too soon (because
we’ve read the book, and because the movie makes the
plot that predictable) that after damaging the house beyond
recognition, the end of the movie will come when the Cat returns
it to its original state. After, of course, causing sufficient
harm to the Alec Baldwin character for having the audacity
to 1) date Conrad’s mother and 2) even dare breathe the
word “military school”. I will not spoil the ending
If it ain’t broke
In the process of adapting the book into the movie, some changes
have been made which have resulted in a disrespectful, dumbed
down version of Dr. Seuss’ original material. Change
is not something intrinsically bad, but in this case the
changes simply do not work.
The book, for example, is really about two children who,
for whatever reason, are home alone on a rainy day, and the
that can be had playing inside, using one’s imagination.
The message? Just because you’re physically locked up,
so to speak, does not mean that your imagination should be
locked up as well. The rainy day, however, is a necessary premise
on which the whole story rests.
In the movie, however, it rains, but the rain is unnecessary
because 1) Mom has grounded Conrad, prohibiting him from going
outside, and 2) the weather clears up as soon as the plot needs
The movie does give us the obligatory tableaux of the
two children, elbows on the windowsill, hands against their
cheeks, both looking aimlessly out the window into the rain—but
once the plot determines they have to go outside to cause mischief
and mayhem, or to find a lost article, the weather magically
clears up, and out they go.
Another example involves the children themselves. In the book,
readers will notice that the two children actually act as one
unit; Dr. Seuss did not distinguish between them. A child is
a child, and both children were likewise torn between the anal-explosive
cat and the anal-retentive fish. The fish acted as the Freudian
superego, or mother substitute, countering the id of the Cat.
In the movie, however, the children are given strikingly different
personalities: the Type-A Sally, and Type-B Conrad. And it
is the list-making, prim and proper Sally who tempers the maniacal
Cat, instilling doubt in the audience’s mind as to his
motives and parroting the words of Mom not to do this or that.
The Sally character makes the fish not only superfluous, but
nothing more than an annoying side note who chimes in only
after we’ve forgotten about him.
The ultimate irony of this movie, billed as a comedy, is
that it is not funny. One scene where Myers plays opposite
parodying infomercials, is reminiscent of his work from Saturday
Night Live, and that was about as funny as it got. The sketch,
however, had nothing to do with the movie, and was anachronistic
to everything that came before and after it.
The amount of toilet humor surprised me, and made me wonder
who really was the target demographic. It is not funny for
adults, unless they happen to like scatological humor, and
the lines are phrased so that children won’t get it.
The movie was so “not funny,” in fact, that a laugh
track would have been helpful, as a cue, since I did not know
when to laugh.
To make it worse, before watching Cat, I saw an omen of what
to expect from our cinematic pantheon in 2004: Scooby Doo 2.
“ The horror! The horror.”
Editor’s note: We won’t
insult you by identifying theaters where Cat in the Hat
is currently playing, but if
you must see it, check your local listings. For more information
on the Golden Raspberries, go to www.razzies.com.