The worst kid's film since "The Grinch" (also produced by Imagine Entertainment - ironic, given the lack of imagination here), "Cat in the Hat" is another example of the "fast food"ing of children's entertainment - fare that doesn't offer any sort of challenge, any sort of message and generally throws everything but the kitchen sink at the audience in an attempt to grab their attention. Oh, and I forgot the most important part - the film is ready made for all manner of promotional fare, from kid's meals to toys to dolls to whatnot.
The movie takes place in the fictional town of Anville, which looks like a toy set itself. Mom (Kelly Preston) is headed out, leaving tots Sally (Dakota Fanning) and Conrad (Spencer Breslin) with a babysitter, who promptly falls asleep. Meanwhile, once the babysitter's away (er...well, passed out), the cat will play. Mike Meyers, under a boatload of make-up, turns the house upside down, with the assistance of Thing One and Thing Two.
Ah, but Mom's got to throw a party for work later that night, and if her germ-phobic boss (Sean Hayes) finds the house is a disaster, she'll be in trouble. Meanwhile, Conrad's about to be thrown into military school by Mom's new boyfriend (Alec Baldwin). Forget about the plot, though, as the focus here is on Mike Meyers trying to provide a one-man show (read as: an assault) for nearly 90 minutes. He sings, he mugs, he dances, he changes costumes, he makes inappropriate jokes, uses his array of accents (which we've all heard too many times at this point) and eventually, starts to become incredibly annoying. The direction to Meyers seemed to be: "Do whatever you want! Only louder!".
This is all even more disappointing, given the talent involved. Bo Welch, making his directorial debut here, is certainly one of the most talented production designers around, having worked on the "Men in Black" films, "Joe Versus the Volcano", "Edward Scissorhands" and "Batman Returns". Emmanuel Lubezski is one of the finest cinematographers working today, providing spectacular imagery in Alfonso Cuaron's "Great Expectations" and "Little Princess", as well as Tim Burton's "Sleepy Hollow". Finally, production designer Alex McDowell has worked on "Fight Club" and "Minority Report". Yet, there's nothing particularly inspired about the look of the film, which is as loud as the title character.
Totally inappropriate for kids (the mere appearance of no-talent Paris Hilton as a skimpily dressed club goer, an attempt at spelling the S-word, an instance where the Cat calls a rake a "dirty 'ho" and then talks about how he still loves it), the screenplay doesn't display any intelligence, despite being written by three former "Seinfeld" writers. There's also racism - see one moment where Taiwan's parliament is shown on TV kung-fu fighting, complete with badly dubbed soundtrack.
...And yet, "Cat" made $100 million dollars. Audiences dismayed about the existence of this kind of movie need to start being more demanding and turning movies like this, which are already creative disasters into financial failures, too.
VIDEO: "Cat in the Hat" is presented by Universal Pictures in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen (Pan & Scan version also available). Despite not exactly enjoying the look of the movie, this is certainly an impressive transfer. Sharpness and detail are absolutely first-rate, as fine detail is always apparent, even into the backgrounds.
The picture did display some minor edge enhancement at times, but otherwise appeared free of flaws such as compression artifacts. The print, as one might expect from a recent release, was free of dirt, debris or any wear. The film's over-the-top color palette was rendered accurately, appearing well-saturated and bright, with no smearing.
SOUND: "Cat in the Hat" is presented by Universal in Dolby Digital 5.1. This is actually a moderately fun sound mix, with a good deal of the action extended off-screen in a way that's certainly aggressive and gimmicky, yet not distracting. Surrounds light up with a good deal of discrete sound effects, while the front speakers cleanly reproduce the action, music and dialogue. Dialogue seemed especially well-recorded and clean, with no distortion or other issues.
EXTRAS: The extras are thrown into a couple of disorganized menus, hosted by the two child actors in the film. Of interest is 6 minutes of outtakes, which are funnier than anything in the movie, although I'm surprised that they included a few moments where Hayes, Preston and Baldwin offer bleeped (although still easily seen) curse words.
Surprisingly, a commentary with director Bo Welch and actor Alec Baldwin is buried in a sub-menu. The commentary gets off to a rocky start, as the first few moments has Baldwin proclaiming Preston the winner of the "cute mommy" award (according to Welch, Meyers called her "Yummy Mummy") and Welch making an unpleasant joke about cinematographer Lubezski being dragged off the set kicking and screaming due to not having a green card. Baldwin then proceeds to make a joke about having a dream about being tied up by the babysitter character.
The commentary proceeds along this route, with the two sometimes providing some interesting insights about working with the actors and the technical process, in-between instances of inane chatter and a few moments of bizarre and/or inappropriate humor.
The rest of the supplements are largely very brief featurettes. Costume designer Rita Ryack and director Bo Welch are interviewed in a piece about the different hats that had to be made for the feature. Dr. Seuss is profiled in a very brief featurette. Next is a look at the car that the Cat and the kids drive in the film, with interviews from Meyers, Welch, producer Grazer, production designer Alex McDowell and others.
"The Kids" is about just that - following the two child actors around and interviewing them - which, inevitably, leads to a few minutes of them talking about how wonderful Mike Meyers is. "Cat Stacks" has Welch and the film's visual FX artists talking about how Meyers, as the Cat, achieved that noteworthy balancing act. The film's visual FX supervisors return to chat about the film's biggest sequence, "the Mother of All Messes", with additional behind-the-scenes footage and interviews.
"The Purrrfect Stamp" is a short Postal Service-sponsored featurette about the Dr. Seuss stamp and the process of selecting stamp images. Sponsored by Proctor and Gamble, "The Dirt on D.I.R.T." looks at the cleaning machine. "The Cat" briefly looks at Meyers getting ready for the role, "The Fish" profiles Hayes and "Seussville USA" is an overview of the creation of the look of the film.
Rounding out the DVD is a featurette on the music, 16 minutes of deleted scenes, "dance along" feature and DVD-ROM features.
Final Thoughts: Read children the book instead, as the movie is a disaster.
The Film 1/2 *