Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat

on November 01, 2003 by Michael Tunison
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Encouraged by the blockbuster commercial success of his less-than-classic 2000 screen version of "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas," producer Brian Grazer returns to the scene of the crime with a similarly broad comedic take on the good doctor's "The Cat in the Hat." The results are even more disappointing this time around--both as an adaptation of a beloved children's book and as a vehicle for "Austin Powers" star Mike Myers, who ends up giving one of his least-amusing movie performances as the titular stovepipe hat-sporting feline.

Using Seuss' slim 1957 story as a springboard for a set of over-the-top new characters, CGI sight gags and a veritable litter box of potty humor, the film follows a pair of ordinary suburban kids ("Uptown Girls'" Dakota Fanning, "The Santa Clause 2's" Spencer Breslin) given strict instructions to keep their house in spotless condition on the day their overextended single mom (Kelly Preston from "What a Girl Wants") plans to host an important company party there. Any possibility of Breslin's mischief-inclined tyke actually following orders vanishes with the arrival of Myers' Cat, a New Yawk-accented, fun-loving furball with seemingly unlimited means to create chaos with various magical gizmos.

While Myers is certainly one of the more creatively gifted comics on the scene today, his character-based spoofy style doesn't translate as well to the demands of a creature-suited performance as Jim Carrey's more physical brand of insanity did in "The Grinch"--particularly given "Cat's" sometimes painfully flat script. It's telling that the funniest bits have nothing to do with the Seuss story, such as when Myers plays dual roles in a TV cooking show parody. Preston and Alec Baldwin (as a scheming love interest of Mom's) struggle visibly with the mediocre material, though the nine-year-old Fanning manages to delight with some amazingly assured character work as the film's strongest human character, a miniature control freak ticking off her daily goals on a palmtop organizer. Starring Mike Myers, Alec Baldwin, Kelly Preston, Dakota Fanning and Spencer Breslin. Directed by Bo Welch. Written by Alec Berg, David Mandel and Jeff Schaffer. Produced by Brian Grazer. A Universal release. Comedy. Rated PG for mild crude humor and some double entendres. Running time: 81 min

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