Cat’s in the bag

Hearing the cling of a fork upon crystal, the already tubby Cat screeches to a halt for a midday Fancy Feast chowdown.

Hearing the cling of a fork upon crystal, the already tubby Cat screeches to a halt for a midday Fancy Feast chowdown.

Rated 1.0

A couple years back, Ron Howard’s Imagine Films sued Mike Myers for reneging on his deal to write and star in Sprockets, what looked to be a promising screen adaptation of his SNL skit featuring Dieter, the German goth talk show host ("Touch my monkey!"). Myers settled the suit by agreeing to star in another Imagine film, which has turned out to be Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat.

As Myers might say: “HELLO! Bad move!”

Those who had a hard time tolerating Jim Carrey in heavy prosthetic Grinch makeup in Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas can expect to be completely horrified by the appearance and sound of Myers as the legendary cat. Strangely alternating between a caustic impersonation of The Wizard of Oz‘s Cowardly Lion and his female persona from the SNL skit Coffee Talk, Myers is an abomination. Decked out in white facial makeup that makes him look more ghostly than feline, he’s awfully hard on the eyes. He looks like the result of a one-night stand between a fat lemur and a drunken Austin Powers.

While the original book had a couple of kids learning some cute lessons from a mischievous cat with a big hat, the film portrays that cat as an obnoxious, yelling fool. Any kid left alone with this thing would scream their blasted head off. I’m an adult (by some accounts anyway), and the freak made me want to scream and cry.

Being a filmed adaptation of one of the more cherished books of the children’s reading genre, respect for the source material is imperative. To accomplish this, Myers repeatedly vomits, farts and obsesses about getting his balls cut off. When he spies a photo of Kelly Preston (who plays the challenging role of Mom) his giant stovepipe hat goes erect, as does his tail. If this isn’t horrifying enough, the cat hangs from a tree during one sequence so that children can beat him like a piñata. For posterity’s sake, one of those kids nails the hanging cat with a bat to the balls. Kids gather such useful info from filmmaking gestures like these.

It’s saying a lot when you have child actress Dakota Fanning in your film, and she isn’t the scariest thing about it. Actually, Fanning is almost not terrifying as Sally the control-freak daughter the cat comes to visit, turning in a fine-tuned performance. Playing naughty brother Conrad, Spencer Breslin is an annoying little bastard, making one glad for the prospect that he will soon grow up and go away. Alec Baldwin reduces himself to that of the conniving boyfriend, spending a portion of the film covered in purple snot. Get his Oscar ready ‘cause he’s going to be dancing at the ceremony with Billy Crystal come February!

While Ron Howard’s attempt at the world of Dr. Seuss was inexplicably dark and grainy in appearance, first-time director Bo Welch goes in the opposite direction with Cat. Everything is ultra bright and garish, with yellow and lime green being the principal colors of choice. All that both directors have proven is that perhaps Seuss’ world is impossible to capture with live film. Perhaps a nice big CGI adventure should’ve been the route taken. Big Hollywood celebrities buried under mounds of fur haven’t done the trick.

So what’s next? John Travolta wearing big elephant ears for Horton Hears a Who? Reese Witherspoon cast against type as a talking magical fork in Green Eggs and Ham? Given the financial success of the Seuss films thus far, it’s a good bet somebody will think of something for more movies. It’s also a good bet that with any future live-action Seuss movies, discerning filmgoers’ stomachs will turn and their heads will ache.