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The Cat In The Hat (PG)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary with actor Alec Baldwin and director Bo Welch; Deleted scenes; Outtakes; The Cat. The Fish. The Music; Seussville U.S.A. The Real Dr Seuss; The S.L.O.W. The Kids. The Cat Stacks; The Mother Of All Messes; Dance-along With The Cat.

HAVING been nominated for eight Razzies for worst film, at the annual alternatives to the Oscars, and after attracting innumerable bad reviews when it opened in America before Christmas, I entered The Cat in the Hat screening with a great deal of trepidation, worried that another of Dr Seuss’ classic children’s tales had been ruined.

The Grinch, especially, still haunts my memories, given the saccharine-coated overload it delivered a few years ago, despite the best efforts of Jim Carrey in the title role.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I emerged afterwards, having quite enjoyed The Cat in the Hat.

While certainly not great, the film is a pleasant enough breeze through a literary classic, which delivers enough laughs to keep both the children and adults amused.

It also clocks in at a fairly trim 80-odd minutes, which means that it doesn’t outstay its welcome.

The principal reason for its success, however, lies in the casting of Mike Myers as the titular cat, whose comic repertoire is given a considerable workout, as he bids to teach two disaster-prone children how to have fun, properly, while also reminding them of the benefits of looking out for each other, and being a good family.

Myers is a blast, clearly revelling in the opportunity to play a role he has sought his whole life, and throwing in plenty of sly nods to the adults, while dealing with the visceral gags for the kids.

Think of Dr Evil in a cat-suit, and you might get somewhere close to what to expect, although Myers does enough to suggest that he isn’t merely transferring one comic persona to another.

He is a furry bundle of energy, and helps to elevate what could have become a colourful, but drab, family movie, to something worth seeing if you are stuck for some way to keep the kids amused during the school holidays.

Alec Baldwin, too, appears to be having fun, as Quinn, a smarmy next door neighbour with designs on the children’s mother (Kelly Preston), while the kids themselves (played by Spencer Breslin and Dakota Fanning) just about manage to stay the right side of precocious, despite some seriously dodgy moments early on.

In book form, Theodore S Geisel’s story has remained on the Top 10 best-selling hardcover children’s list since it was originally published, in 1957, and while it may be difficult to understand why - given the multitude of gags surrounding bodily functions in the film - it certainly remains an enjoyable romp, with a simple story to tell.

Credit, too, deserves to go to director, Bo Welch (the three-time Oscar nominated film production designer behind the likes of Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands and both Men in Black movies), for laying off the schmaltz, and allowing Myers to take centre stage, and the gags to come thick and fast.

And while the end product may be strictly juvenile, it should have the little ones purring with delight, and is no way near the cat-astrophe some of the US notices have suggested. Hats off to Myers, then, for pulling this Cat out of the bag.

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