Based on the playful surrealist tale by Dr Seuss, The Cat in the Hat tells the story of an exuberant human size feline (Mike Myers) who lives in a hat. For 78 minutes, first time director Bo Welch and his team of three writers could not afford the effort of adding anything more to the famous story other than is encapsulated in the film’s title. A tenuous plot is only one of its imperfections.
Joan (Kelly Preston) has two rather mischievous offsprings. Conrad (Spencer Breslin) is a spontaneous and adventurous boy, while his sister Sally (Dakota Fanning) is the antithesis, meditated and authoritative. One day Joan is called into work when a cat appears behind the children. Of course it is no ordinary cat, it’s the size of a man – and speaks rather oddly in a vaguely Scouse accent.
The children sign a contract stating that they must have unlimited fun. Two very sinister things called Thing 1 and Thing 2, who do the very opposite of what they are told, trash the house. It becomes a race against time to clean up before Joan arrives home from work to host a house party for her boss. And it doesn’t try to be anymore confusing that that.
Unfortunately for the director and the actors concerned, the film is more memorable for the vivid sets than any attempt at stimulating children’s imagination or inspiring creative thought through intriguing stories. The brightly painted sets and costumes are often mesmerising and would certainly attract children’s attention. For the most part, Mike Myers gives a hammy performance and is only occasionally funny. But a once slender Alec Baldwin offers some amusing moments as Lawrence, Joan’s boyfriend.
Thus far, the film has received harsh criticism for its inappropriate toilet gags and sexual innuendo. Like The Simpsons – which suffers similar complaints – there are astute observations of the American suburbs and the middle class families who occupy them. There is a subtle hint of irony in the humour. It would have been beneficial and far more thought provoking had this avenue of comedy been explored thoroughly.
The Cat in the Hat is entertaining to a point. Unfortunately, the minimal amount of merit it receives cannot outweigh the feeble plot, the ridiculously short running time and the superficial humour. It would be much more engrossing to read the book, because ultimately this is a vacant film.