leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh
A truer title would be "Mike Myers' Cat in the Hat," since this coarse, loud assault on the senses bears few traces of Dr. Seuss's tartly whimsical sensibility but fairly oozes Myers' brand of smirking humor; HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS is a marvel of Seussian accuracy by comparison. The original tale in verse is surreal simplicity itself: Two children, home alone on a rainy day, are at first delighted, then dismayed, by an anarchic cat. The cat promises oodles of fun, makes a terrible mess of the house with the help of kite-flying dervishes Thing 1 and Thing 2, restores order and vanishes just before Mom gets home. The film embellishes the story and lards it with smug pop psychologizing, sarcastic product placements and a cameo by celebri-tramp Paris Hilton, none of which could be considered improvements. Mom (Kelly Preston), now a busty single parent/realtor in too-tight clothes, is a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She must host a business party for her tyrannical, germophobic boss, Mr. Humberfloob (Sean Hayes), and if her home is anything short of spotless she's fired. Her children, prissy control freak Sally (Dakota Fanning) and pint-sized one-man wrecking crew Conrad (Spencer Breslin), epitomize youthful dysfunction. Her picture-perfect boyfriend, Lawrence Quinn (Alec Baldwin), is pressuring her to send Conrad to military school, and she's so stressed she doesn't even see what a phony Lawrence is — he's secretly a lazy, unkempt boor who hates kids and is only courting her for her money. As soon as Mom's out of the house, the Cat (Myers) appears in an upstairs closet, stashes sleeping baby sitter Mrs. Kwan (Amy Hill) on a hanger and starts stirring up trouble. By the time production designer-turned-director Bo Welch's exhausting farrago is over, the Cat has destroyed the kitchen in a parody of cooking shows; been mistaken for a pinata at a neighboring child's birthday party; taken the siblings to a rave (filled, naturally, with blissed-out groove-lovers in hats just like his); prompted a car chase; plugged Universal's theme park; and allowed the house to be transported into another dimension. Frenetic and cheerless action aside, the film's real problem is the Cat, who looks most unmagically like a second-string college sports-team mascot and conducts himself like a risque baggy-pants comedian. Seuss's cat embodies unbridled childish energy run amok; how he'd squirm at the sight of one who leers at a va-va-va-voom photo of Mom while his tail and stovepipe hat rise lewdly!