A Look Back at ‘Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat’ – The Movie that Killed Future Live-Action Dr. Seuss Adaptations!

After the major success of Ron Howard’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Universal took it upon themselves to adapt another beloved book by Dr. Seuss, the classic story of The Cat in the Hat. Unlike The Grinch however, Bo Welch’s adaptation was a flop, not just critically, but financially as well. I remember wanting to see this movie at age 9 as I loved the source material. But I had heard so many bad things about it. Parents said it was too crass to be shown to children, while Audrey Geisel (Seuss’ wife) thought it was so terrible that she refused any of Seuss’ further works to be adapted for live-action. When I saw it in the store, I ended up putting it in my mom’s cart and she bought it for me, despite her warning. I seemed to like The Cat in the Hat enough, but as I grew older, I ended up dismissing it as an abomination to what Seuss worked on. In many ways, that is true. A lot of the humor was mainly for adults, but not in a clever way that kids could miss, yet adults could appreciate, but in a way that went overboard. I could not understand how it did not get a PG-13 rating. At the behest of my three-year-old son, I decided to revisit this movie on Netflix. I almost refused, but I gave in for the sake of my child. I had not seen this film in years, so I figured “What the hell”. Upon watching, I knew I had to do a write-up to determine whether The Cat in the Hat is as bad as I remember, or if it was just misunderstood.

The first ten to twenty minutes of The Cat in the Hat are pure imaginative, colorful bliss. You can see it in the production design as well as the costumes (being that Welch is a production designer for movies, it’s no surprise), adding a really nice touch and coming off straight from a Dr. Seuss book (It sure has a lot more joy than what The Grinch had to offer). Everything looks pleasant and nice, then Mike Myers shows up and everything goes downhill quick. While a lot of effort was put into the body suit and white makeup that Myers had to sport, his performance comes off as grating and miserable. I am sure that a lot of it had to with the actor being forced to play this part, but even he couldn’t quite make the most of it, no matter how hard he tried. At least with The Grinch, Carrey gave it all and actually had some witty zingers. Here, Myers is just the equivalent of a guy who thinks everything he says is the funniest thing on Earth, yet falls flat on his audience. I am not gonna lie and say I didn’t enjoy some of the humor. There is a skit where Myers as The Cat plays two different versions of himself in a parody of food infomercials that got a good laugh out of me, as well as a fantasy sequence set to Lionel Richie’s “Easy Like Sunday Morning”. For the most part, it is cringy, especially with the onslaught of dirty jokes. Adding to the discomfort are the likes of Thing 1 and Thing 2, who are pure nightmare fuel with their grins. The one Seussian effect that is the least terrifying is the fish (Voice of Sean Hayes). As a character, his presence works both visually and comedically, I might add.

I would say that the one aspect that makes The Cat in the Hat bearable are the humans, who have a good idea on how to give their performances. Spencer Breslin and Dakota Fanning as the messy Conrad and his control freak sister, Sally, the late Kelly Preston as their mother, Joan, even Hayes gives off a funny performance as Humberfloob, who could fire anyone at a literal touch of the hand. Even Alec Baldwin makes the most of it as the villainous Larry Quinn, whose goal is to send Conrad to military school and marry Joan. Yet his moments could have been trimmed as he has what may be the most uncomfortable moment in anything Dr. Seuss.

So is The Cat in the Hat a bad movie? Without a doubt. Though with whatever flaws it may have, I do give it a sense of forgiveness for its visual style. That is pretty much all this cat has going for it.

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