The Cat in the Hat
starring Mike Myers
3 stars

The Cat in the Hat isn't quite the painful perversion of Dr. Seuss that, say, The Grinch was. Whereas The Grinch inflicted upon us Whoville key parties and a Grinch with a heart of gold, the movie Cat in the Hat at least nominally attempts to align itself with the idea of the book and execute a simple fun-based agenda.

As far as the look of the film goes, you really can't fault it. All the various artists and craftspeople responsible for bringing the visual world of Dr. Seuss "to life" did as good a job as anybody could, laying out the sets and costumes in stark pastel color schemes, going hog wild on building the bizarre props and animating the various wild-n'-wooly set pieces. The film looks as it should, which is no surprise considering the director is Bo Welch who came to the director's chair after a lengthy run as one of Hollywood's premier art directors, designing the look for Barry Sonnenfeld's Men in Black movies as well as Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands and Batman Returns (I defy anyone to see the Cat's suburb and not instantly be reminded of Ed Scissorhands' pastel neighborhood). Welch cares about how things look, and for him a movie like The Cat in the Hat is the perfect platform to put together a spacey dreamland of visual oddities.

However, most of us go to the movies for more than just show reels of weird production design. This is supposed to be fun. Of course, this is the Hollywood version of Dr. Seuss fun, so we must sass things up, load the film with contemporary references, treat us to scenes of the Cat leering over the kids' mother and cutting ironic winks at the audience. 

Yes, cool as it looks, there's a rather desperate quality to the "fun" that we're supposed to be having. Within minutes of his arrival as the Cat Mike Myers performs a song on the subject of fun, forcing the reluctant kids to sit down and listen and roll their eyes and grimace and be not entertained as we are not. And as though the movie wasn't sure we'd get which parts were awesome, one of the kids has to yodel out "AWESOME!" at the conclusion of every scene just so we're clear.

The Cat in the book is slyly sophisticated, cooly debonair as he sets the Things loose to tear up the home. The Cat in the movie is, as you'd expect, a joke-cracking goofball, an overheated pastiche of random Mike Myerisms. Oh, you'll hear Austin Powers in there, and you'll note a touch of Fat Bastard wandering into the Cat's routine, and Wayne from Wayne's World worms his way into a scene or two. 

It's not terrible comedy. As we know from Austin Powers, Mike Myers is a funny guy. Certainly here he's doing what he's being paid to do, which is to cram in as many jokes and bits as he can, whether or not they play towards any kind of coherent or respectful interpretation of Dr. Seuss's Cat. The screenwriters did what they coould to expand the story, taking the action out of the house for a brief spin through Anville before heading back home to confront the transdimensional danger of the Cat's unleashed crate of superfun. As Hollywood Seuss desecrations go, The Cat in the Hat functions and even minimally entertains. It's just not very, y'know, good.