Universal got it right a few years ago when they adapted The Grinch who Stole Christmas. Jim Carrey was perfectly cast as the heartless Grinch, the costumes and set design were excellent and the mild deviations from Dr. Seuss’ classic were appropriate and added more heart to the story. The most important aspect that was captured was the moral of the story – that being angry and miserable leads to a unsatisfying life of loneliness and that an act of kindness can fill the world with joy.
Now take all…of the above things that were done right, remove them, mix in crude humor and double-entendres (that are way above the level of the intended audience) and you have The Cat in The Hat.
First of all, is there a moral to The Cat in the Hat? I’ve read the story to my kids and while the story is fun to read – I can’t find anything that they can learn from the story that is useful – unless you consider letting in a strange cat into your house so he can wreak havoc and then clean it up a useful moral – there is nothing redeemable about the story. Now, I realize that not every classic children’s tale needs to have a moral, but one that is chosen for a holiday release might want to have something in a heartwarming message.
Secondly, the story in itself is short, therefore Hollywood screenwriters need to make additions to the story to extend it to the 82 minute running time. The additions were completely useless and in some instances really detracted from the story and made it less kid friendly. The major addition that I am referring to is the neighbor played by Alec (how did I make it in Hollywood?) Baldwin who wants to “get with” Conrad and Sally’s mom while getting rid of the kids (he wants to send Conrad to military school). This role added nothing to the movie and in fact added a mature tone that was totally unnecessary. It really gave the movie a bit of a slimy feeling.
Now on to Mike Myers. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Mike Myers – Austin Powers is now a modern classic and his voice work for Shrek was really excellent. But Mike Myers does not do physical comedy. Watching him in this movie is like watching Mike Myers trying to be Jim Carrey trying to be the Cat In The Hat. He often slips into Dr. Evil’s voice, which is funny…to the adults watching. The kids (who are the target audience) will have no idea what is going on. As the movie moved on – and it seemed a lot longer than 82 minutes – it got less and less funny and it was not funny to begin with.
A children’s or family movie should not be based on bathroom humor and thinly disguised sexual humor (at one point the Cat’s Hat lengthens as he looks at a picture of Mom that gets pulled out like a Playboy centerfold). Do you really want to explain that scene to your children?
The film is presented as an anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1 transfer. The image is sharp and crisp. The colors are truly vibrant and radiate from the screen. There are no transfer defects that are evident. The skin tones and black level are well set. A very good transfer from Universal.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix will put your system through a good workout. The dialogue is clearly located in the centre channel and is clear most of the time but when the action gets intense and the sound effects are blasting, the dialogue may get muddled. This is not a major issue, however. There are plenty of pan around sounds during the kinetic action by Thing 1 and 2 and when D.I.R.T. is unleashed. Great use of the surround speakers. There is great dynamic range – your bass will get a great work out.
While the movie is something that should be avoided, the disc shines with the extras.Segments are devoted to the special effects of the movie – the CG Fish, the set design (which could have used more time) and creation of the Cat (and his 15-20 hats). The layout of the extras was also original in that the menu has Conrad and Sally enticing you to select their options for the special features. There is a short devoted to the stamp that was created to honor Dr. Seuss – nice piece of nostalgia and an opportunity to get a little insight into the famous author.
The commentary track was one of the most annoying tracks that I have ever heard. Once again somehow, Alec Baldwin is involved but it’s not really clear why. It’s really annoying when he asks questions like “Who does the voice of the Fish?” etc. It makes one wonder if he has even seen the movie in its entirety. Bo Welch, the director, does add a little insight into the making of the movie and the difficulties he experienced when not answering Baldwin’s inane questions.
The extras are completed with 16 deleted scenes that are presented in a rough format with no special effects. Some of the scenes are kind of funny and while they do not add to the story they could have been left in the movie to extend its 82 minutes running length. 6 minutes of outtakes are included which are funny for about 30 seconds but then get very old very fast.
While the movie was quite horrid and something that I will not allow my children to watch until they are 12, the DVD itself was very well done. Great production value in the transfer and audio mix combined with a set of great extras make this disc…a rental at best. The excellent extras cannot save this awful, awful movie.
Special Features List
- Seussville USA
- Feature Audio Commentary with Actor Alec Baldwin and Director Bo Welch
- 16 Deleted Scenes
- 20 Outtakes
- The Purr-fect Stamp
- The Real Dr. Seuss
- Dance-Along with the Cat
- The Mother of All Messes
- Music to A Cat’s Ears
- The Dirt on D.I.R.T.