U.S. Release Date: November 21, 2003
Distributor: Universal
Writer: Alec Berg, David Mandel, Jeff Schaffer
Producer: Brian Grazer
Cast: Mike Myers, Dakota Fanning, Alec Baldwin
Running Time: 1 hour and 22 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG (for mild crude humor and some double-entendres)

Scat in the Hat
by Scott Holleran

"The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house all that cold, cold wet day." Those simple words in rhyme begin Dr. Seuss's popular 1957 children's book, The Cat in the Hat, which producer Brian Grazer has used to make one of the most vulgar movies in years.

Based on an interesting story conceptualized to introduce children to reading with an emphasis on rhyming, which encourages better language skills, Grazer's movie, directed by Bo Welch, is its anti-conceptualization.

Mike Myers as the Cat is breathtakingly bad and it's not his fault. Grazer, who told one reporter that he insisted the Cat be portrayed as "an anarchist," as against the friendly but irresponsible intruder in the book, has merely replaced the innocent with the obscene. When Sally (Dakota Fanning) and Conrad (Spencer Breslin) offer the Cat some milk when he arrives, he explains that he's lactose intolerant.

From there, the Cat in the Hat, written by those who delivered Seinfeld, in all its neuroses about nothing, is all crude humor. A sample of the paper thin story: Alec Baldwin, playing the mother's boorish boyfriend, picks lint from his navel—the kids watch as the Cat ogles their mother's centerfold picture while his hat gets an erection—there are references to whores, there is profanity and there is a flood of body fluids including vomit.

This is Fat Bastard in the Hat and it is nauseating. During the screening, two mothers grabbed their children, left the theater and did not return. Dr. Seuss fans should try to find the made for television animated specials instead.

Alex McDowell's vibrant production design is appropriately childlike and the movie's look is appealing. But here, too, director Welch, who did the production design for The Wild, Wild West and Men in Black, emphasizes the frantic over the fun; an entry to the Cat's underworld is an orgy of hedonism that features the hollow Paris Hilton in a cameo.

In the book, the children resist the Cat's mayhem, and the boy stands up to the Cat. Here they are accomplices, tricked into ruining their own home when the Cat measures their personalities on the Phun-O-Meter—they register as control freak and potential arsonist—and there's something terribly wrong when a movie based on a landmark child's educational book relishes misspelling words.

The boy, who is inexplicably pudgy, has been thoroughly emasculated while the sister is imbued with Girl Power. The mother, only suggested in the book and played by Kelly Preston, has been transformed into the prototypical single mother whose singleness is an excuse to neglect her kids while men are to blame for everything. The Fish, with the voice of Sean Hayes (who also plays another role), the voice of reason in the book, is presented as a killjoy.

Children raised on Seinfeld, Woody Allen and Austin Powers are likely to love this movie. Children, and generations of adults who enjoyed reading Dr. Seuss, whose faces acquire that look of wonder when Mom or Dad reads to them before bedtime or when they're reading themselves, are best steered clear of the scat in this hat —- and that's that.

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