Dr. Seuss, the pseudonym for author Theodor Geisel, has made an incredible impact on children’s literature, not to mention children everywhere. For generations, his easy-to-read books for young kids have taught them to read, made reading a whole lot of fun, and won the hearts of many children as well as their parents who can easily agree that Dr. Seuss’s books are great for childhood development. It’s easy to find people who are familiar with Dr. Seuss titles such as How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Green Eggs and Ham. Perhaps the most recognized title of the Dr. Seuss bibliography is The Cat in the Hat, a book that even I myself read as a child and loved very much.
I say all of this because the 2003 live-action film adaptation is a big slap in the face. You would think that the movie would pay wonderful tribute to the original book and its creator. In fact, when the movie starts, you see the logos of Universal Pictures, DreamWorks, and Imagine Entertainment with a similar color and design motif as the beloved Dr. Seuss book. It’s also accompanied by some delightful music and followed by opening narration that suggests the story will be a delightful one for the whole family. Well, I hate to say it, but the movie is really a bait-and-switch.
The movie makes the mistake of doing what a lot of family films do: throw in some content for the adults in the audience that is assumed to completely go over the kids’ heads. Yes, I understand that a modern feature-length film based on a children’s book needs to come up with new material. At the same time, you have to create characters who fit the spirit of Dr. Seuss. Here, the Mom, played by Kelly Preston, is a real estate agent, which is fine by me, but she works for a mean germphobic boss. There’s also Alec Baldwin as a man who is romantically interested in the Mom and Amy Hill as a narcoleptic Korean babysitter whom Mom asks to babysit her kids Sally and Conrad, played respectively by Dakota Fanning and Spencer Breslin. To me, the Baldwin character and the babysitter are totally unnecessary, not to mention rather annoying.
That’s only the beginning. After about 20 minutes, we are subject to the most annoying character of the movie: the Cat in the Hat, played by Mike Myers. That’s right, folks. The title character who is supposed to be a benevolent child-friendly character is instead an obnoxious and creepy one. Mike Myers plays the Cat with a mischievous personality and a laugh that definitely reminds me of the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz. Oh, and the Cat admits that he’s not good with rhymes, which is a sacrilege given that the original book was a rhyme book.
At this point, let me announce that this review has two purposes. Besides sharing my observations and thoughts on the movie, I am using this review to provide content advisory for parents. This is a so-called family film that has so many inappropriate jokes that I would advise not showing this film to kids. In fact, one of the writers for this movie is Alec Berg, whose credits include Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Who in their right minds chose to hire someone like him to write the script for a movie based on a children’s book? Anyway, allow me to point out how awful the jokes get.
In an early scene, the Cat is admiring a picture of the Mom, actually opening the picture like it’s a centerfold and then showing his hat and tail having an erection. Another moment: the Cat drinks milk and lets out a huge burp because he’s lactose intolerant. Then there’s this joke that’s not inappropriate for kids, but is just unfunny and totally out of place for a Dr. Seuss story: the Cat having Sally and Conrad sign an incredibly long contract before the Cat continues his antics. Really, this movie is much more about the Cat than about Sally and Conrad, who are mostly just standing and watching.
It does get worse, unfortunately. There is an unfunny scene where the Cat is pretending to star in a television cooking show. Two inappropriate things occur: the Cat accidentally cuts his tail with a meat cleaver, and the Cat yells “son of a b****” even though the last word is bleeped. In another scene, the kids’ pet fish talks to the Cat, warning about the mess that is being made. The Cat ultimately has the fish thrown into a toilet. Yeah, I’m not kidding. This is the kind of scene that would horrify the kids and really upset their parents. The writer who came up with that joke should be absolutely ashamed, and I mean it 100%.
I save the worst for last. In one scene, the Cat gets mad at a gardening tool, specifically a hoe, and actually calls it a “dirty hoe.” Even if kids have no idea that the joke insinuates prostitutes, I’m sorry. It doesn’t belong at all. Then there is a vehicle whose former acronym spells a four-letter curse word. And if that isn’t weird enough, the Cat and the two kids wander into a nightclub, where Paris Hilton (yes, the same hotel heiress who became famous after a leaked sex tape) makes a cameo in one shot, and her attire is somewhat revealing. My reaction to all of this: WHAT THE HELL WERE THOSE WRITERS THINKING?!
So is there any story in this movie? Well, sort of. I mean, you do have the Cat making a mess and the two kids worried that Mom will come home to see the mess. And there is a lesson at the end about being balanced when it comes to having fun and taking life seriously, illustrated by the personalities of Sally the intelligent and responsible girl and Conrad the fun-loving but undisciplined boy. Even so, these story bits that really should be the focus of the movie are so heavily buried in adult-oriented humor that it’s not even worth trying to promote this as a family film. It’s just a series of annoying tasteless antics by the Cat. Oh, and I forgot to mention the Cat’s two companions, Thing One and Thing Two, who in this movie are hyperactive scary-looking out-of-control freaks.
I didn’t like this movie after the opening narration ended, I gradually disliked it over the course of the movie, and I was left with a sour aftertaste once the movie was over. Aside from the fact that it was boring, the movie was just awful. You cannot throw in dirty adult jokes within the context of a family film and expect it to still be a family film. The stuff that is appropriate for a family film must be the primary content of the film, not the last thing people see. I could be nice and give this movie 2 out of 10 stars because there’s a tiny resemblance to a family film here, but given how blatant the writers were and their lack of regard for the target audience, the movie deserves my lowest possible rating. It doesn’t do the book justice, and it’s a cruel insult to all kids and adults out there. To the writers of this movie, shame on you for conceiving a movie for adults while passing it as a family film. Don’t even think about trying to fool us again.
(Note: The official title of this movie is Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat. However, I refuse to mention Dr. Seuss in the title because the story in this movie is definitely not his.)
Anthony’s Rating: 1/10