Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat (2003)
Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat is a 2003 American fantasy comedy film directed by Bo Welch, produced by Brian Grazer, and loosely based on the Dr. Seuss' classic children’s book of the same name. The movie stars Mike Myers in the titular role of the Cat in the Hat, Dakota Fanning as Sally and Spencer Breslin as Sally's brother, Conrad (who is unnamed in the book). The Cat in the Hat is the second (and final) feature-length Dr. Seuss adaptation after the 2000 Christmas movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
Conrad and Sally Walden are two children who live in the city of Anville with their mother, Joan Walden. Joan works for neat-freak Hank Humberfloob, and is hosting an office party at her house. One day, she is called back to the office, leaving the kids with Mrs. Kwan, a tired babysitter, and forbidding them to enter the living room, which is being kept pristine for the upcoming party. Joan is also dating their next-door neighbor, Larry Quinn, much to Conrad's dismay. Larry is constantly on the lookout for any mischief Conrad may be up to, as he wants nothing more than to send him away to military school, as Conrad has earned the reputation of "trouble-maker", while his sister is characterized as "perfect and well-behaved".
Once their mother leaves, Sally and Conrad hear a bump from upstairs, which happens to be from a giant humanoid cat. The cat wants them to learn to have fun, but the children's pet fish doesn't want the cat around when Joan is away. The Cat balances some stuff, ruins Joan's best dress, jumps on the living room's couch, and bakes cupcakes that explode. In the process, he even releases two hyperactive things, Thing 1 and Thing 2, from a crate that he explains is actually a portal from their world to his world. The Cat tells Conrad that he only has one rule: never open the crate, then allows the Things to attack, but they then release their malevolent nature by making a mess out of the house. Despite the Cat's warning, Conrad picks the lock anyway. When the crate's lock attaches itself to the collar of the family dog, Nevins. Cat and the kids must go find him and the lock. They drive a super-powered car in search of Nevins and use Cat's magic hat, but face an obstacle when he loses it at one point. Conrad realizes that the Things always do the opposite to what they're told. and that this can be used to their advantage and has them stall Joan so can they can get home before her.
Meanwhile, Larry is revealed to be an unemployed man with false teeth and is in financial ruin, having been showing off the impression that he's a successful businessman in the hopes of marrying to Joan and sponging off of her. Larry sees Nevins running across the street and soon sees all of this and tracks down Joan to tell her, but Things 1 and 2 have stalled her on the road, posing as police officers. Larry is fed up about this, so he goes back to the house, telling Joan to meet him there.
By the time the kids return to the house with the lock, Larry corners them, but he is seemingly killed when the Cat pushes him off a cliff of "the mother of all messes", a dimension full of malevolent beings, emitting from the unlocked crate that entered the house. They navigate their way through the over-sized house and find the crate sucking up things that disappear forever once gone through, after Sally is nearly sucked up but holding onto Conrad, Sally has to put her trust into Conrad that he will catch her when he lets go of her hand and puts the lock back on the crate. The plan works: The house returns to its normal proportions but then immediately falls apart. The Cat then tells the kids that he planned the whole day, including making not opening the crate his one rule, as he knew Conrad could not resist and also admits he never really lost his magic hat. The kids angrily tell the Cat to leave the house. Conrad prepares to face the consequences when Joan comes home, but Sally admits that she will share the blame. Overhearing this, The Cat, having learned his lesson, decides to clean up the house. Larry returns when all is restored, thinking he has busted the kids, but when Joan comes in and sees the clean house (and a messy Larry), she doesn't believe Larry, and dumps him. When her party is successful, Joan and her kids play in the living room by jumping on the couch and having fun.
The film ends with the Cat, Thing 1 and Thing 2 deciding to take a vacation and walking into the sunset.
Why It Sucks
- The main problem with this film is that it is incredibly unfaithful to the source material and has numerous jokes and innuendos that are inappropriate for the original target audience.
- Similar to the live-action adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the Cat is very much the opposite of his book counterpart. In the book, he was kind, funny, well-meaning and while he was a bit of a nuisance, he never was a legitimate threat. Here, he is mean, unfunny, malicious and a genuinely sadistic threat; in particular, he pushes Larry off a cliff in the climax, and he literally stands there and smiles when Sally and Conrad find the crate and the former almost gets sucked up. What makes it worse is that he knew everything that was going to happen as he planned all of it, including remorselessly putting Sally and Conrad, two children, as well as Larry, their soon-to-be stepfather in near death experiences.
- The film adds a bunch of characters and plot lines that never appeared in the original book, such as Larry Quinn, a lazy, unemployed next-door neighbor who plans to marry Joan for money and to send Conrad to military school, and the house being messed up to the point of becoming an alternate dimension. The movie also adds extra morals that are incredibly forced and unnecessary instead of following the book's moral.
- Three examples of the inappropriate humor and innuendos issue are the Cat nearly swearing in one scene where he accidentally chopped part of his tail off, the infamous "Dirty hoe!" line, and the Cat showing his car in which he calls it the "Super Hydraulic Instantaneous Transporter" before he changed its name to "Super Luxurious Omnidirectional Whatchamajigger a.k.a. the S.L.O.W." to prevent Conrad from saying the acronym of the previous name, which is "s**t".
- Awful characters and unconvincing character development, especially with the conflict between Conrad and Joan.
- Flawed and unintentionally creepy character design, most notably with The Cat and Thing 1 and Thing 2.
- Shameless marketing in one scene, where the Cat uses Universal Studios cards during the climax.
- Bad graphical and special effects, especially for a film that was completed in 2003.
- Most of the conflicts were incredibly forced, such as the conflict between Conrad and Joan. They have little to no buildup to be so harsh in each other's words.
- The film has a racist Chinese stereotype in the form of Mrs. Kwan, a fat, sleeping lady who just so happens to be watching a Taiwanese parliament fight.
- There is a totally out-of-place cameo of Paris Hilton dancing in a club, with the Cat getting horny over her; this is poor grasp of the source material and another example of inappropriate content found in this movie targeted towards kids.
- There is a scene in the movie where Sally discovers that none of her ex-friends invited her to the birthday party. The movie holds on to this scene for a second while making the viewers think that Sally will reconcile with her friends, but unfortunately the movie decides to abandon Sally's arc for no reason.
- As unfaithful of an adaptation it is, the movie still has a few moments faithful to the book, such as the Cat in the Hat cleaning up the house. The environment and props also carry the Dr. Seuss feel.
- Additionally, the opening credits and logos are entirely well animated in Dr. Seuss's distinctive style, and the music played in the background is fitting and amazing.
- Decent soundtrack.
- While the humor tends to be weak, there are still a few funny moments, such as when Mr. Humberfloob shouts, "You're fired!".
- The moment when The Cat is beaten can be a bit heartbreaking, but is mostly satisfying considering his actions in the movie.
- Some of the characters can be at least somewhat tolerable.
- The S.L.O.W. vehicle is pretty awesome.
The film currently holds a 9% on Rotten Tomatoes and received an average grade of D+ from critics in the interpretation of Yahoo's film website. On Metacritic, the film has a score of 19/100 based on 37 reviews, indicating "overwhelming dislike".
Entertainment Weekly gave the film a 'D' rating.
The film opened at #1 at the box office with a domestic gross of $38,329,160. The total domestic gross was $101,149,285. In overseas markets, the film made $32,811,256. Overall, it made $133,960,541 against its $109 million budget and was labeled a box office disappointment.
Awards and nominations
The film was nominated for nine Golden Raspberry Awards including Worst Picture, but lost to Gigli. However, it did manage to win the Award in a new category called Worst Excuse For An Actual Picture (All Concept/No Content).
- Tim Allen was originally going to play the Cat, but he was busy with The Santa Clause 2.
- The studio also considered Will Ferrell to play the title character, but he was filming Elf at the time the film was being made.
- Mike Myers didn't want to be in this movie, but was legally forced into doing so after backing out of a proposed film adaptation of his Saturday Night Live character Dieter, Dieter's Day (which Brian Grazer and Bo Welch would've produced and directed respectively), which would've been about Dieter trying to rescue his pet monkey Klaus from David Hasselhoff, as well as co-star Jack Black.
- In The Simpsons Halloween episode "Treehouse of Horror XXIV", the last words of the monster, The Fat in the Hat, are: "I'm frightened of nothing, not even Hell's fires. Just don't let me ever be played by Mike Myers." which is an obvious jab at this movie.
- This film is getting a computer animated remake produced by Warner Bros.
- Shortly after the film's release, a sequel to the film, based on the book's sequel, The Cat in the Hat Comes Back was in development. However, Dr. Seuss' widow, Audrey Geisel, was highly disappointed with the film, and said she would not allow any future live-action adaptations of her late husband's work, so the sequel was eventually cancelled.
- In an interview for the AV Club's "Random Reviews" feature, Amy Hill said that Mike Myers was terrible to work with, because he refused to talk to anyone on the production aside from director Bo Welch. Myers also completely isolated himself from the cast and crew during filming breaks. Hill noted that the film ended up having long and pointless additional takes of scenes because Myers overruled Welch on whether they were good or not.
- Universal spent $1.2 million dollars on the Super Luxurious Omnidirectional Whatchamajigger, and the car is fully functional, having a top speed of 47 mph powered by an electric motor. It currently resides in the Volo Auto Museum, alongside a statue resembling the costume Mike Myers wore during filming.
- The Nostalgia Critic's immediate quote for the movie was: "This isn't Dr. Seuss! It's not even close! It's evil corporate pandering with freaky imagery that's promoting everything that's wrong with humanity! This was next to Son of the Mask, wasn't it?"
- As of 2020, this is so far the only film that Bo Welch had directed. Following the negative reception of the film, as well being nominated for Worst Director, he did not direct another film and went back to his previous career as a production designer, though has directed a few episodes of TV shows since.