|Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat|
|Written by Mel Odom|
|Tuesday, 16 March 2004|
The story of “The Cat In the Hat” is probably one of the most well-known in the world, having been read for generations by kids all around the planet. Few adults can possibly be found who don’t know the Cat in the Hat; most have probably read the Cat’s adventure to a young pre-reader. And the hat — when the familiar red-and-white hat is seen, nearly everyone recognizes it immediately.
Although the original story never mentioned that the mother was a single mom (something that would have been extremely rare in children’s literature when the book originally came out), the movie blends today’s culture with the fascinating imaginary world Dr. Seuss created. In keeping with the original book, the opening narration in Chapter 1 begins as poetry. The town is simply breathtaking, matching the look and feel of a Dr. Seuss world.
In Chapter 2, we learn that the mother, Joan (Kelly Preston), works at a real estate company and has also been handled the responsibility of hosting the company party that night. Her boss Lawrence (Adam Baldwin) doesn’t like kids, and warns her that if her house is as messy as it was the last time, she’ll be fired. The boss is in a hurry, and the “whoosh” he makes as he moves away echoes through the surround sound system. The jingle and jangle of the business office plays through the left front and right front speakers, placing the audience squarely in the center of the action.
Chapter 3 offers a teasing bit of expectation with the children, as Conrad (Spencer Breslin) appears in hairy monster feet that looks like the Cat’s feet. Conrad is obviously a rule breaker, while Sally (Dakota Fanning) is completely anal retentive. The suit Conrad makes for himself to luge indoors is incredibly inventive, involving sponge cakes and popped popcorn bags for padding. Of course, Conrad makes a complete mess of the house. The thump of Conrad smacking into Joan’s car lights up the subwoofer.
The “ping” of Lawrence’s smile broadcasts clear and clean through the surround sound system. Of course, Lawrence (or Larry, as Conrad calls him), is a total louse. Lawrence wants to send Conrad off to military school. (One matter of note is Preston’s cleavage, which is probably welcomed by Dads everywhere who sit home with the kids to watch the film, but seems somewhat out of place in a kid’s movie.) Sound effects also kick in while Lawrence is making martial arts-style moves. The phone rings through the left front speaker, sharp and immediate.
Joan gets called back in to work in Chapter 5, after Lawrence tells her he’s too busy to help her clean the house and get ready for the party. Lawrence fakes his meetings, then returns to his house. The babysitter, Mrs. Kwon, goes to sleep while watching television, something that obviously happens all the time.
Chapter 6 returns to the original story, with Conrad and Sally sitting around with nothing to do. The rain echoes all through the surround sound system and the thunder quakes through the subwoofer. After the huge “bump” in the closet that registers heavily on the subwoofer, the music is used to increase the suspense and let us know something bad is about to happen. The screaming, screeching kids running through the house trying to escape the Cat tears through the sound system. Mike Myers proves again how facile he is with rapid-fire humor. The Cat’s quick movements are sound-augmented. Then the Cat rips a table top off and shoots down the staircase while “Wipeout” thunders through the surround sound system. From there, the Cat sees a picture of the kids’ mother and has highly suggestive reactions that many parents may not believe belongs in a kid’s movie. The Cat’s phunometer shows that Conrad and Sally are sadly in need of fun.
The Cat’s hat comes up with the first of many devices in Chapter 7, as it produces a CD player and the Cat produces an entirely gross hairball. Right after that, the Fish climbs out of his fishbowl and starts talking. The Carmen Miranda number, complete with fruit bowl hat, rocks the surround sound system, but again, the Cat uses suggestive humor that parents may feel is inappropriate. The thunder of a bull running into the wall is huge, but pales in comparison to the horrible belch that follows. The kids have to sign a contract to keep the Cat with them.
In Chapter 8, the Cat induces the kids to invade the living room after they were told not to enter it. Again, although parents will probably love Mike Myers’ humor, some parents may object to the “plumber’s butt” the Cat displays while making adjustments to the couch. An elephant trumpeting rolls through the surround sound system as country ho-down music fills the speakers. Flashbacks reviewed by the Fish are hilarious when shown so rapidly. Then Lawrence shows up to raid Joan’s refrigerator (and some parents may question Joan’s having beer in the fridge) and let Sally know how rotten he truly is. The television show in the kitchen is extremely funny, showcasing Myers’ talent for accents, especially the Scottish dialect that is much like the one he uses in the “Shrek” movies. The language that the Cat uses when he chops his tail off, although he only partially says it, may also be objectionable. The head-bobbing soul sister putdown is riotous, especially when accompanied by the snappy soundtrack that rolls through the surround system.
Chapter 10 moves forward in a huge step when the Cat brings Thing 1 and Thing 2 in to clean up the mess made by the Kupkake-inator. The Crab lock the Cat uses to keep the box closed is awesome. Of course, the Cat tells Conrad he can’t open the curious box and, of course, the presence of Thing 1 and Thing 2 immediately make the bad situation even worse in seconds. The household belongings get broken, scattered, and messed up even worse than before. Sally and Conrad pursue the Things with huge nets, and the musical accompaniment makes the situation even more active. Conrad picks the crab lock, which promptly affixes itself to the dog’s collar. The Things play football with the dog, tossing him through the window and letting him get lost with the crab lock.
The Cat tells Sally and Conrad in Chapter 11 that things are going to get even worse now that the crate is unlocked. If the lock isn’t found, the Mother of All Messes will arrive. The Cat plays organ music that rolls through the surround sound system. Next door, Lawrence takes off his girdle, removes his dentures, and gets his television repossessed, letting the viewers know exactly what a deadbeat he is. Lawrence decides to go after the dog to try to get in Joan’s good graces. The Cat plays dramatic music on his whiskers, which is very funny. The Fish’s breakdown is terrific. However, again the Cat potentially steps over the comfort zone of some parents with his double entendres (which are warned about on the DVD box).
In Chapter 12, the Cat masquerades as a piñata with disastrous results. Later in the chapter, the Cat reveals that he has a vehicle and the “dust cover” is a work of computer graphics that has to be seen to be believed. The Cat’s car engine roars in Chapter 13, thundering through the subwoofer. The Fish is used as a siren.
The story progresses like a rocket ship on rails, heading through familiar territory for kids’ stories with lessons, but the sound treats continue with the clang of the wreck, the “whoosh” of the Cat’s hat airbag deploying, the rifle-like sound of the huge ink pen Lawrence uses, and the music in the underground dance club. Later, the Cat’s home world invades Conrad and Sally’s home, bringing with it dozens of interesting noises and sounds that kids will enjoy.
The DVD has a lot of extras, all of them broken down in short segments that are bite-sized for kids who bring them up. They’re also interesting on the same level as the movie, presenting young viewers with a lot to do, as well as plenty of Myers in the Cat makeup.
Although “The Cat In The Hat” has some questionable double entendres and some episodes of near-cursing, the movie itself provides enough action and excitement to lure an adult mind through it, and plenty of visual stimuli and music to draw young viewers into the Cat’s zany, madcap world. Perhaps only a real Myers enthusiast would want to pick up the DVD to complete a collection, but the movie is definitely worth a rental for a family night of light entertainment, or for one of those movies pre-schoolers and kindergarteners will watch again and again.