Published Nov 01, 2003So what is this, like the second live-action Dr. Seuss ever made? You can bet a silly amount of money it won't be the last. What The Cat in the Hat might lack in outright humour it makes up for in special effects, ensuring that a new generation of kids have a whole new way to look at Dr. Seuss.
Following in the furry footsteps of Jim Carrey's devilish Grinch in 2000, fellow comedic Canadian Mike Myers takes the role of the Cat, who magically infiltrates the home of Sally (I am Sam's Dakota Fanning) and Conrad (Spencer Breslin from Disney's The Kid) one particularly dull rainy day. But as the Cat shows Sally how to be less of a control-freak and Conrad less of a rule-breaker, they must contend with a dictatorial fish (voiced by Sean Hayes of Will & Grace), their mother's duplicitous boyfriend (Alec Baldwin) and a world of mayhem, all before their mother (Kelly Preston) gets home.
The Cat in the Hat attempts to stay within the plot of the book, framed in the intro, the end and a little in-between with actual text. The costumes, set design and special effects are really well-done for such a difficult story. Dakota Fanning and Spencer Breslin are natural enough in the roles to make living in a lime green and fuscia house seem average, and while the performances of Baldwin and Preston are a little more over the top, Baldwin's few moments in the spotlight rival Myers' for humour. Myers' interpretation of the Cat, however, is an assortment of his Saturday Night Live characters punctuated with the husky laugh of a nightclub performer. And half of Myers' comedic appeal is his facial expressions, which are all but lost in the bulky mask he wears.
With the addition of a babysitter that is shockingly mistreated, a few seriously questionable jokes, and the truly irritating "Thing One" and "Thing Two," this isn't the best adaptation that Universal could have made. But if a preview so packed with eager kids that some had to be turned away is any indication, the flaws in this flick aren't going to dim its box office take. (Universal)