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The Cat in the Hat (2003)

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The Cat in the Hat
The Grinch was a success, but this film failed. His widow wanted it faithful, but Universal impaled.
Genre: Comedy
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: September 3, 2003 (TIFF)
November 8, 2003 (Universal CityWalk)
November 21, 2003 (United States)
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.


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 This Cat Falls Flat

  1. Executive meddling: The movie was supposed to be more in line with the book just like the cartoon special, while retaining its family-friendly subject matter and sticking to the source material. However, once the live-action Grinch film (which Universal also distributed) turned out to be a box-office hit, the studios wanted this movie to replicate that film and its success.
    • By drastically rewriting the script, adding in numerous random jokes, innuendos, characters, scenes that are inappropriate for the original target audience, and having not great 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, that would more likely be suitable for a PG-13 or an R rating rather than a PG-rated movie.
    • While the 2000 live-action Grinch film wasn’t perfect in its way and still has some innuendos and dark and serious tone, it at least tries to be faithful to the original source material.
    • Even the animated Grinch film from 2018 and the 2012 version of the Lorax (which Universal also distributed), while also not perfect, at least they both try to stay faithful to the original source material.
  2. Similar to the Grinch from the 2000 live-action adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the Cat is very much the opposite of his book, the 1971 cartoon special, The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss and TV special counterparts, he was more likable and memorable, and was never a legitimate threat. In this movie however, he is sadly more of a sadistic threat who is more of a villain than a hero.
    • 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, bragging that he "did it" (until changing it to we did it after seeing the looks on Conrad and Sally’s faces). Conrad and Sally scold him for destroying the house, telling him if they shut the crate, then they would be okay. He then asks Conrad and Sally to play tennis with him until they found out that he had his hat all along, which proved that he lied about losing his hat at the club. He then admits that 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.
  3. At one point, The Cat wants to cut his losses and ditch the kids, even though he knew the kids would suffer at the hands of Larry. Unlike his book and TV special counterpart, this just proves that he’s selfish as he only cares about himself, thus making him very unlikable and mean throughout, and another example of this ignorance is shown when the Things are messing up the house, he tells Mrs. Kwan while she was sleeping that if it were his house, he would be furious about it, and then proceeds to laugh.
    • Additionally, he never shows any remorse or regret for all the chaos he causes throughout.
    • In addition, he 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 that his rhyming was one of the reasons why the original book was so beloved (despite the fact he does rhyme in a few scenes).
  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 flanderized and are 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, and 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", which is just laughably bad.
    • For example, Sally 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 him.
  6. It adds some pointless characters who never appeared in the original book. For example:
    • Larry Quinn (who is the villain), 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. Although don't get us wrong, Alec Baldwin's performance is good as mentioned below on RQ#9, despite the bad script he was given.
      • Ms. Kwan is a fat lazy babysitter who does nothing but sleep instead of doing her job, and she hardly has a lot of screen time in the movie.
      • Mr. Hank Humberfloob (although Sean Hayes' performance is good as mentioned below on RQ#9), 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. It adds a bunch of inappropriate and indecent humor and innuendos:
    • 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.
    • In two scenes (one of which was deleted), the Cat lusts over a picture of Joan at one point to the point his hat enlarges (implying he has an erection), which is quite disturbing for a PG-rated movie. The Cat in the Hat himself is technically an animal, so him lusting over Joan and Paris Hilton (later on, and mentioned below) is actually considered bestiality.
      • In the deleted scene, we get to see the full picture of their mother. She is seen in a bikini, which explains why his hat enlarged earlier in the actual movie.
    • 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".
    • During the part where The Cat sings the "Fun" song, he almost mentions a boy who got sent to a vet who cut off his balls before he quickly changes it to "Boy that 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 "Ask me was it fun?"
    • The Cat, after drinking a bottle of milk, gets fat and claims it's gonna come back to haunt him and his stomach gets big, implying the milk will give him diarrhea. After this phrase, he makes a huge and unfunny burp and he returns to his natural size.
    • The Cat, at one point, dresses up as a trucker, shows his butt, and farts at the audience.
    • The Cat, while jumping on the couch, mentions it’s a circus without the tortured animals and drunken clowns that have hepatitis.
    • If you look closely, there's an alcohol reference in a PG-rated movie 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.
    • The Cat yelling "SON OF A BI-" after he accidentally chops off his tail, before getting cut off by a "HANG IN THERE BABY!" screen.
    • When the Cat has cupcake mixture on his finger, he tries to get Sally and Conrad to eat it, implying that he has a booger on his finger.
    • 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’s infamous “Dirty hoe!” line. Immediately after, he attempts to make out with it after apologizing for nothing.
    • The scene where the Cat disguises himself as a piñata and one of the guests hits him in the crotch, which is animal abuse.
      • When distracted, The Cat attempts to whack the kid with the bat.
    • Nevins pees on Larry's meal in his car.
    • 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 profane swear word).
    • The roller coaster scene where the toilet is lit on fire (which is the same scene where the Cat shows Universal pamphlets), the Cat almost says "Something 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.
  8. There is also a scene where he lusts over a totally out-of-place cameo of Paris Hilton.
    • Immediately after the Cat and the kids leave the club, the Cat once again gets attracted to her by licking himself nonstop.
  9. The movie also adds extra morals that are incredibly forced and unnecessary instead of following the book's moral.
  10. There is absolutely no character development for anyone.
  11. False advertising: Some trailers showed scenes that aren't even in the actual movie such as the Cat hiding from Conrad and Sally on the living room ceiling and the Cat opening the door to the house.
  12. There is one infamous scene that gives an insult to the pro-democracy protesters in Taiwan like when the kids and Kwan watched the TV coverage of a mass fight in the Taiwanese Parliament, which happened in real life.
  13. 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 (depending on your view).
    • 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.
    • The Fish, though his appearance is quite hard to hard to describe at best, can be described as similar-looking to many things. The best way he could be described is that his face looks nothing like what his book counter part was, and is really atrocious to look.
      • Speaking of, even if the design of the fish in the book counterpart didn't look like an actual goldfish, or really any fish, still, his design can still be considered close to an actual fish. Then again, it wouldn't be a good idea to even put him in a live action film, as if you were to think of a similar design, there wouldn't be really any good way to make him look cartoonish.
    • By carefully looking at some of the humans (excluding Sally, Conrad, Joan and Larry), they look somewhat plastic-like, same as the Fish, Thing 1 and Thing 2, the Cat, and the entire town that they live in.
  14. Shameless product placement. For example:
    • Perhaps the most infamous scene where the Cat shows Universal Studios pamphlets during the climax. For a few seconds, the movie even has to pause, just so he can 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 different Ford, a 2002 Thunderbird.
    • In the bonus features, there's a deleted scene where Joan plays Conrad's Game Boy Advance.
  15. Lackluster and outdated special effects and visuals, even by early 2000s standards.
  16. 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.
  17. There are some plot holes:
    • There's a scene with Joan not seeing through the Things disguise when if they choke each other, which obviously reveals their actual size.
    • A scene 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).
    • During the scene where The Cat pretend to be a piñata at the birthday party, one of the kids hits him in the groin, which causes him severe pain. This contradicts the lyrics to one of The Cat’s songs as the lyrics strongly implies that he got castrated at the vet, meaning that he should not have felt as much pain from the piñata blow.
  18. The acting (for the most part) is very bad, especially Mike Myers' performance as the Cat, as well as Spencer Breslin as Conrad and Dakota Fanning as Sally.
    • Conrad and Sally show little to no personality throughout the movie, and in particular, Conrad sounds like he has something in his mouth.
    • Unfortunately, Mike Myers was one of the only actors available at the time to play the Cat (see Trivia down below).
  19. There are multiple times where the Cat himself 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. The romance sub-plot of Joan and Larry feels pointless and serves no purpose to the actual story.
  21. There is a scene when the Cat tricks Larry into handing over Nevins, he dresses up like a Jamaican stereotype, which can be racist and offensive to Jamaican people.
  22. Awful direction by Bo Welch.
  23. Due to this movie not doing very well at the box office and the negative reviews it got (similar to what Batman & Robin did), it permanently killed Bo Welch's directing career, as well as cancelling the sequel The Cat in the Hat Comes Back (which is a follow-up to the original book).
    • And also, due to the negative reviews this movie got, Audrey Geisel (who is Dr. Seuss' widow) decided not to allow any further live-action movie adaptations of his work.
  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 it cares so little for its own continuity.
  25. The pacing isn't all that great.
  26. Anachronism: The film, while having its exact date unknown and having some fantasy aspects included in it, has a lot of aesthetics that look akin to that of the 1950’s and 1960’s due to the attire the characters wear, their fashion choices, and the architecture of the buildings, yet for some reason, people are seen driving modern cars and Conrad is seen playing a Game Boy, which had not been invented in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Redeeming Qualities

  1. Although there's a lot of poor grasp of the source material as mentioned above, the movie still has a few faithful moments to the book and the 1971 cartoon, such as Things 1 and 2 messing up the whole house and the Cat cleaning it up with a cleaning machine near the end.
  2. David Newman's soundtrack and his score 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 and most of the dialogue is laughable as mentioned above, there are still some funny moments, plenty of memorable quotes and lines, despite some of them being inappropriate for a PG-rated movie. For example:
    • The "Kupkake-Inator" scene.
    • "Honey, it was ruined when she bought it."
    • "If this were my house, I'd be furious."
    • "No more big government."
    • "I'M SO EXCITED!"
    • The scene where Larry falls down the cliff yelling "Judas Priest!"
    • "Get out of my way, you hippie freak."
    • "Yes, but not this Philippines."
    • "How many shots?"
    • "I'll get you, and it'll look like a bloody accident!"
      • "Shut up! I mean it! I will end you!"
    • "Alright, Nevins...time to die!"
    • "Wait a minute, two people can't drive at the same time!" "You're right... we should all drive!"
    • "I think there's something wrong with your brakes, when's the last time you had them checked?" (said while holding the severed brake pedal)
    • "I don't know, there's this little voice inside my head that's saying, "This is a bad idea", but I can hardly hear that little voice because at the same time an even louder voice is screaming, "LET THE TWELVE-YEAR-OLD DRIVE!!""
    • "A monster! Where?
    • "Airbag... standard."
    • "You're not just wrong, you're stupid."
      • "And you're ugly just like your mom."
    • The scene where the Cat shows the kids his car, but turns out to be a dust cover revealing the S.L.O.W.
    • "I can't believe you whizzed on my taco!"
    • "Just sign my petition... with this large, oversized pen that requires two hands."
    • "Thing 2 would like to clarify that just because he wears the number '2' does not imply in any way that he is inferior to Thing 1. He says you may feel free to call him 'Thing A', if you like. He will also accept 'Super Thing', 'Thing King', 'Kid Dynamite', 'CHOCOLATE THUN-DA'...Or 'Ben.'"
    • "You don't try. You do." "(nervous) Yes, ma'am. Right away, ma'am.
    • "Cupcakes? OH YEAH!"
    • Even if it was actually animal abuse (as mentioned above), the Cat does get some karma for his actions by getting hit in the crotch and when the kids tell him to get out and leave.
  4. Some of the characters are tolerable, such as the fish, since he isn't flanderized compared to the Cat, Conrad, and Sally (even if his design looks weird as mentioned above).
    • In fact, the fish might be the only likable character because he acts like the voice of reason.
  5. The design of the S.L.O.W. is a pretty awesome vehicle, although it wasn't really in the book.
  6. At least the tone/atmosphere of this movie is somewhat a little bit more lighter compared to the live action Grinch movie's slightly dark and eerie one, and due to how bad it is, it could also be considered so bad it's good.
  7. The Cat himself does actually rhyme in a few instances.
  8. The cinematography, although indecent, is quite good.
  9. Although most of the acting is bad as mentioned above, some of the acting is actually good, despite their actors being wasted. For example:
    • The late Kelly Preston gives a good performance as Joan Walden.
    • Alec Baldwin gives a fitting performance as Larry Quinn.
    • Sean Hayes' performance as Hank Humberfloob is funny.
  10. Larry getting dumped by Joan at the end is satisfying, especially seeing him blubber.
    • In face, one of the deleted scenes gives him a funny comeuppance.
  11. Just like Battlefield Earth, this movie could've had some potential to be a good live-action adaptation of the book, but due to the bad script and not great attempts at humor, it was poorly executed compared to the book it was based on, which is much better.
    • Not only that, if this movie did a lot better at the box office, we would've gotten the sequel The Cat in the Hat Comes Back.


The Cat in the Hat was universally panned by critics, audiences and fans of the book, 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).


  • 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 dropped out as 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 Miramax/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. Also, Dan Castellaneta, The voices of Thing 1 and Thing 2 in the voiced, even voice the main protaganist, Homer Simpson.
  • 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' late-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.

See Also


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