The Cat in the Hat (2003)

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The Cat in the Hat
Update.png
The Grinch was a success
This film failed
His widow wanted it faithful
But Universal impaled
Genre: Comedy
Fantasy
Directed By: Bo Welch
Written By: Alec Berg
David Mandel
Jeff Schaffer
Based On: Characters by Dr. Seuss
Starring: Mike Myers
Alec Baldwin
Kelly Preston
Dakota Fanning
Spencer Breslin
Amy Hill
Sean Hayes
Photography: Color
Distributed By: Universal Pictures (North America)
DreamWorks Pictures (International)
Release Date: November 21, 2003
Runtime: 82 minutes
Country: United States
Budget: $109 million
Box Office: $134 million
Sequel: The Cat in the Hat Comes Back (cancelled)


The Cat in the Hat (also known as 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 from 1957. 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 live-action feature-length Dr. Seuss adaptation after the 2000 Christmas movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The film was released on November 21, 2003 in the United States by Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures.

Plot

In this live-action film based on the beloved children's tale, the trouble-making Cat in the Hat arrives at the home of bored young Sally Walden and her brother, Conrad, while their mother is out. The family's pet fish objects to the Cat's presence, but that doesn't stop the hat-wearing giant feline from trying to have fun, no matter how much destruction is left in his wake.

Why The Cat Falls Flat

  1. Executive meddling: The movie was supposed to be more in line with the book, while retaining its family-friendly subject matter and sticking to the source material. However, once the live-action Grinch film turned out to be a box-office hit, Universal wanted this movie to replicate that film and its success.
    • By drastically rewriting the script, adding in numerous jokes, innuendos, scenes and characters that are inappropriate for the original target audience, and having questionable casting choices, it made the movie completely unfaithful and insulting to the source material, and, effectively ruins a lot of charm and charisma from the original book.
    • In fact, the content of this film is suitable for a PG-13 or R rating rather than a PG-rated film.
  2. Similar to the Grinch from the 2000 live-action adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the Cat here in the film is very much the opposite of his book, The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss and TV special counterparts. In them, he was kind, refined, funny, goofy, well-meaning and while he was a bit of a nuisance, he was never a legitimate threat. In this film however, he is mean, crude, unfunny, harsh, malicious, cold-hearted, obnoxious and a genuinely sadistic threat who is more of a villain than a hero.
    • In the second and final season of The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss, the Cat went from a trickster like his book counterpart was to a Bear in the Big Blue House-like host who is a father figure of the Little Cats; with the Wubbuloscope, he also got way too much screen time and didn't leave enough for other Dr. Seuss characters. However, he was nowhere near as bad as he is in this movie.
    • In particular, he mocks Larry for being allergic to him and then he proceeds to push him off a cliff and he literally stands there and does nothing but smile when Sally and Conrad find the crate open and the former almost gets sucked in. To add insult to injury, when the house collapses and falls apart after Conrad locks the crate, The Cat laughs sadistically, brags that he "did it" (before changing it to we did it after seeing the looks on Conrad and Sally’s faces), and admits he knew everything that was going to happen as he planned the entire day, including remorselessly putting Sally, Conrad and Larry in near-death experiences.
    • Later on, he attempts to play as the victim when Conrad and Sally scold him out after he asks to plays tennis. In addition, he also lies about losing his hat in the club when he had it all along.
  3. At one point in the film, The Cat wants to cut his losses and ditch the kids, even though he knew the kids would suffer at the hands of Larry. This goes to show how The Cat cares about nothing but himself. Another example of this ignorance is shown when Thing 1 and Thing 2 are messing up the house, he admits that he would be furious if it were his house, then proceeds to laugh.
    • Additionally, he never shows any remorse or regret for all the chaos he causes throughout the film.
    • In addition, The Cat is also shown to be very stupid as shown when Conrad and Sally tell him to leave, he thought it was a game.
  4. The Cat himself thinks he can't rhyme, which is ironic, considering Cat's rhyming was one of the reasons why the original book was so beloved.
  5. Like the Cat (and similar to the Whos from the live action film adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas), Conrad and Sally are also nothing compared to their book counterparts, as Sally is a bossy, hypocritical, and controlling girl who is very sycophantic to her friends and believes the world revolves around her.
    • For example, she lies by claiming she told Conrad to not mess up the house when she never said anything and she even tries to convince her mother to ground Conrad.
    • Conrad is now a rule-breaking, irresponsible, and destructive brat who breaks the rules for fun and throws a fit when things don't go his way. He even says to his mother, "I wish I had a different mom."
  6. The film adds a bunch of inappropriate humor, as well as characters and plot lines that never appeared in the original book. For example:
    • Larry Quinn, the Walden family's greedy, lazy, arrogant, and unemployed next-door neighbor who bullies Conrad, manipulates Joan and Sally, and plans to marry Joan for her money and send Conrad to military school.
      • Ms. Kwan, a fat lazy babysitter who does nothing but sleep instead of doing her job, and hardly appears in the movie.
      • Mr. Hank Humberfloob, Joan's germophobic boss who is an absolute perfectionist, fired a worker for shaking his unwashed hand and requested a party at Joan's house.
  7. The movie also adds extra morals that are incredibly forced and unnecessary instead of following the book's moral.
  8. Too much laughable dialogue, inappropriate humor, innuendos, and scenes that include, but are not limited to:
    • When Larry tells Conrad about how he is going to send him to military school, he nearly calls him a "Little Son of a bitch" before Joan walks back in, which he picks him up and pretends to love him.
    • The Cat explains how his mom and dad made him before Conrad quickly changes the conversation.
      • The Cat lusts over a picture of Joan at one point to the point his hat enlarges (implying he has an erection), which is disturbing, bestiality, and inappropriate for a PG-rated film.
      • The Cat once again lusts over the photo of Joan, this time on the slip and slide while trying to catch Nevins. Also, this time, we get to see the full picture of their mother. She is seen in a bikini, which explains why The Cat's hat enlarged earlier in the film.
      • When the Cat scans Sally with the "Phunometer", The Arrow Gauge points at a section labelled "Serial Arsonist" (which means committing an offense by fire), then The Cat taps on the machine and it switches to "Control Freak".
      • The Cat telling Conrad and Sally not to listen to the fish because he drinks where he pees.
      • The scene where The Cat sings about having fun has him almost mentioning a boy who chopped off his balls before he quickly changes it to "boy who wasn't fun". Similarly, in a deleted scene where sings this song, he nearly mentions a girl who had bugs up her ass before he changed it to "just ask who wasn't fun".
      • The Cat, after drinking a bottle of milk, claims it's gonna comeback to haunt him and his stomach gets big, implying the milk will give him diarrhea.
      • The Cat, at one point in the film, dresses up as a redneck trucker, shows his butt, and farts at the audience.
      • The Cat, while jumping on the couch, mentions it’s without the abused animals and clowns that have hepatitis.
      • If you look closely, there's an alcohol reference in a PG-rated film where Larry comes into the house to steal beer.
      • The Cat telling the host he’ll get him and make it look like a bloody accident. He even tells the host to shut up and threatens to end him.
      • The Cat nearly yelling "Son of a bitch!" in one scene where he accidentally chopped part of his tail off.
      • When the Cat has cupcake mixture on his finger, he tries to get Sally and Conrad to eat it, implying that the Cat has a booger on his finger.
      • The Cat pretending to be their mother before using her dress to clean the cupcake stains.
      • Larry, secretly fat, is seen watching a TV show of a topless woman dancing as the cable guys repossess his TV. And after the cable guys repossess the TV, he is seen scratching his belly button. To add extra salt into the wound, the woman on screen can be heard moaning if you listen carefully!
      • The Cat telling Nevins "it's time to die!".
      • The infamous "Dirty hoe!" line. Immediately after, The Cat attempts to make out with it after apologizing.
      • The scene where the cat disguises himself as a piñata and one of the guests hits him in the crotch, which is animal abuse.
      • The Cat showing his car in which he calls it the "Super Hydraulic Instantaneous Transporter" (S.H.I.T.) before he changed its name to "Super Luxurious Omnidirectional Whatchamajigger" (S.L.O.W.) to prevent Conrad from saying the acronym of the previous name (which is actually a mild swear word).
      • The Things, while pretending to be policemen to stop Joan, end up choking one another and yell "Police brutality! Illegal choke hold!".
      • The roller coaster scene where the toilet is lit on fire, the Cat almost says "That really burns my ass" but the roller coaster falls before he can fully say it.
      • After getting off of Ms. Kwan, when The Cat receives the picture of them on the roller coaster, the picture shows him vomiting in a bag.
      • After getting kicked out by Joan, Larry tries to woo Joan back to his side, but he sneezes and the purple goo comes on to his hands from his nose after she rejects him, which exposes his true nature.
  9. There is also a totally out-of-place cameo of Paris Hilton (whom the Cat is attracted to) dancing in a club.
    • Immediately after the Cat and the kids leave the club, the Cat gets horny over her by licking himself nonstop.
  10. Awful characters and unconvincing character development.
  11. False advertising: Some trailers showed scenes that aren't even in the film such as the Cat hiding from Conrad and Sally on the living room ceiling and the Cat opening the door to the house.
  12. Flawed and unintentionally creepy character designs and makeup, most notably with the Cat and Thing 1 and 2. For example:
    • The costume design for the Cat doesn’t even look like a cat. He looks more like a giant skunk.
    • Thing 1 and Thing 2 look awkward, maybe even weird and terrifying. Even worse, they're all just ordinary human beings and performed by live performers with digital upper lips added, which in turn was a failed attempt to translate the original 2D character designs into live-action.
  13. Shameless product placement. For example:
    • The infamous scene where the Cat shows Universal Studios pamphlets during the climax. For a few seconds, the film even has to pause for the Cat to point out the pamphlets.
    • Everyone in the movie drove a Ford (Except for the Cat). Everyone in the town of Anville drove a Ford Focus, except for Larry, who drove a 2002 Ford Thunderbird.
  14. Lackluster special effects and visuals, even by early 2000s standards. The Fish, in particular, looks a bit ugly. They couldn't even make him look good.
  15. Most of the conflicts were incredibly forced and unconvincing, particularly the conflict between Conrad and Joan. They have little to no buildup to be so harsh in each other's words.
  16. Plot holes, such as Joan not seeing through the Things disguise when if they choke each other, which obviously reveals their actual size.
  17. Filler: There is a scene in the movie where Sally discovers that none of her ex-friends invited her to their birthday party; the movie holds on to this scene for a few seconds, which makes the viewers think that Sally will reconcile with her friends, but the movie then instead decides to abandon Sally's arc for no apparent reason, although there is a deleted scene of that (see below).
  18. The acting is really, really bad. Conrad and Sally's actors (Spencer Breslin and Dakota Fanning) never show enough emotion throughout the film with monotone voices and the adult actors/actresses don't seem to care about their performances.
    • In particular, Spencer Breslin sounds like he has something in his mouth.
  19. There are multiple times throughout the film where the Cat acts like he agrees with the rules Conrad and Sally tell him, only to purposely break them right after.
    • For example, when Sally tells him that their mom said they can't jump on the couch, he acts like he agrees only for him to purposely say "not like this!" and then proceeds to mess up the couch.
  20. Mike Myers is not very well cast as the Cat in the Hat. However, he was one of the only American actors available at the time to play the Cat (see Trivia below).
  21. The romance sub-plot of Joan and Larry feels pointless and serves no purpose to the actual story.
  22. There are two scenes that are racist.
    • The first is the scene where Ms. Kwan watches Taiwanese parliament which shows them fighting instead of discussing things civilized.
    • The second is the scene where The Cat tricks Larry into handing over Nevins, he dresses up like a Jamaican stereotype.
  23. Due to this film not doing very well and the negative reception (similar to what Batman & Robin did), it permanently killed Bo Welch's directing career.
  24. In a earlier scene when Conrad asks The Cat how he got to their house he says he drove there, but later on when he mentions his car to get Nevins back from Larry, Conrad confusedly asks "You have a car?". This just proves that the movie cares so little for its own continuity.

Redeeming Qualities

  1. As unfaithful of an adaptation it is, the movie still has a few faithful moments to the book, such as Things 1 and 2 messing up the whole house and the Cat cleaning it up with a cleaning machine near the end. Besides this, the sets and props also carry the Dr. Seuss look and feel.
    • Additionally, the opening credits and logos are entirely animated in Dr. Seuss' distinctive style, unlike the 2000 Grinch film.
  2. David Newman's score is is fitting and amazing most of the time, so are the songs courtesy of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.
  3. While the humor tends to be weak, there are still a few funny moments such as the "Kupkake-Inator" scene.
  4. Some of the characters can be at least somewhat tolerable.
  5. The S.L.O.W. is a pretty awesome vehicle.
  6. At least the film's tone/atmosphere is a bit lighter compared to How the Grinch Stole Christmas' slightly dark and eerie one.
  7. The film could be considered so bad it's good.
  8. The Cat did rhyme in a few instances.

Reception

The Cat in the Hat was universally panned by critics, audiences, fans and moviegoers alike, largely for its adult-oriented humor, innuendos (which they found it unnecessary and insulting to the source material despite having some faithful elements), screenplay, characters, and Myers’ performance, while David Newman's musical score and the production values were mostly praised. The film currently holds a 9% on Rotten Tomatoes from 163 reviews with an average rating of 3.4/10. The website's consensus reads: "Filled with double entendres and potty humor, this Cat falls flat." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 19/100 based on 37 reviews, indicating "overwhelming dislike". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a grade of "B-". On IMDb, the film currently holds a 4/10 rating. Entertainment Weekly gave the film a 'D' rating.

Box office

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, making it a box office bomb. The film was outgrossed by The Matrix Revolutions and Elf.

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 one-off category called Worst Excuse For An Actual Picture (All Concept/No Content).

Trivia

  • Before Mike Myers was cast as the Cat, other actors were considered for the role. For example:
    • Tim Allen was originally going to play the Cat, but he was busy filming The Santa Clause 2 for Walt Disney Pictures.
    • They also considered Will Ferrell to play the Cat, but he was busy filming Elf for New Line Cinema at the time the film was being made.
    • Billy Bob Thornton was then considered to play the Cat, but he was also unable to do it as he was busy filming Bad Santa for Dimension Films at the time the film was in production.
  • Mike Myers didn't want to star 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 titled Dieter's Day (which Brian Grazer and Bo Welch would've also produced and directed respectively), which would've been about Dieter trying to rescue his pet monkey Klaus from co-stars David Hasselhoff and Jack Black.
  • The Simpsons Halloween episode "Treehouse of Horror XXIV" has a parody of The Cat in the Hat by having a monster named The Fat in the Hat. As he is dying, he says: "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 film.
  • In 2012, an animated remake of the film was announced by Illumination Entertainment following the success of The Lorax. However, no further information regarding this project was announced until in January 2018 where Warner Animation Group announced that they have picked up the rights for the animated version along with many of Seuss' works, which will be produced by J. J. Abrams' Bad Robot Productions and expected to be theatrically released in 2024. In addition, there are also animated films that are in works, such as Oh, the Places You'll Go! and Thing One and Thing Two, which will be also produced by J. J. Abrams' Bad Robot Productions, as well as expected to be released in 2026 and 2027.
  • A lot of the adult humor in this film was originally meant for How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but director Ron Howard cut it out as he hated it and felt it was insulting to the source material.
  • Eric Roth (best known for writing the 1994 hit Forrest Gump) was originally set to write the script when the film was first announced in 1997.
  • Originally, Marc Shaiman was set to be the main composer for the score for the film, but due to David Newman already being chosen to score the film, Shaiman instead wrote the film's songs with Scott Wittman.
  • Shortly after the film's release, a sequel to the film based on the follow-up book The Cat in the Hat Comes Back was in development. However, Dr. Seuss' widow Audrey Geisel was so disappointed with the first film (both with its inappropriate humor and its box office performance) that she banned all future live-action adaptations of her late husband's work and the sequel was eventually cancelled.
  • Prior to filming, giant props made for the film were stolen from the set; the local police found the props vandalized with graffiti in a shopping mall car park in Pomona, California. Despite this, no arrests had been made, to which filming was set to start the next week.
  • Although director Bo Welch and a publicist for Mike Myers denied it, several people said Myers himself had considerable input into the film's direction by telling some of the cast (co-stars Alec Baldwin and Kelly Preston) how to perform their scenes.
  • In an interview for the AV Club's "Random Reviews" feature, Amy Hill said that Myers was also terrible to work with during filming, because he refused to talk to any of the cast and crew members aside from director Bo Welch, and during filming breaks, he isolated himself from the cast and crew by hiding in his trailer. Hill also noted that the film ended up having long and pointless additional retakes of scenes because Myers overruled Welch on whether they were good or not. In addition, he always showed up on set late and there were scenes he would downright refuse to do unless he was given a chocolate bar, which led to one of the producers setting up a Tupperware full of chocolate bars. Hill described Myers as being a diva.
  • Universal and DreamWorks spent $1.2 million on building the Super Luxurious Omnidirectional Whatchamajigger for the film, to which the car is fully functional by having a top speed of 47 mph powered by an electric motor. Nowadays, it resides in the Volo Auto Museum, alongside a statue resembling the costume Mike Myers wore during filming.
  • It gave us The Cat in the Hat with the Baseball Bat meme.
  • 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?"
  • This movie aired on Cartoon Network.
  • This is so far the only film that Bo Welch had directed. Following the negative reception and box office failure of the film as well as being nominated for Worst Director, he did not direct another film and has since returned to his career as a production designer. In fact, the only thing he has directed since are five episodes of the Netflix series Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events.
  • In a deleted scene where the fish calls Joan, Joan is seen playing a Game Boy Advance after talking on the phone.
    • Another deleted scene at the end concludes Sally's character arc in satisfactory way by inviting her ex-friends to the party to reconcile with them and giving them cupcakes.
  • Like many movies during the early 2000's, it spawned its own game on multiple consoles.

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