DVD Review HTF Review: The Cat in the Hat

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Jason Perez, Mar 5, 2004.

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  1. Jason Perez

    Jason Perez Second Unit

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    [​IMG]

    The Cat In The Hat




    Studio: Universal
    Year: 2003
    Rated: PG
    Film Length: 78 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
    Captions: English
    Subtitles: French, and Spanish
    Audio: English – Dolby Digital 5.1; French and Spanish – Dolby Digital 5.1




    Release Date:
    March 16th, 2004




    Please forgive my abruptness. I was going to think of a clever rhyme to start this review out with, but after watching this movie, I am so mad that I want to dive right in. Bo Welch’s adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ beloved The Cat in the Hat is a shameful butchering of one of the most popular children’s books ever written – so much so that it is almost not even worth the effort to rip it. No, wait…on second thought this film deserves to be derided, especially for investing so little effort in recreating the spirit of fun found in the book. Obviously, the book itself is far too short to make a feature film out of, so it needed some padding. I only wish it had not been in the form of excruciating, gaudy, and unfunny live-action comedy, which consists mostly of bodily function humor and crude gags (some of which are inappropriate for the target audience).

    The ringmaster in this horrific circus, director Bo Welch, was a production designer for Tim Burton once upon a time, so it should come as no surprise that the bold, cartoon-like sets, costumes, and props are the star attraction of the film. In almost every other instance (Dakota Fanning gives it a good go!), however, The Cat in the Hat is downright awful.

    To briefly summarize the plot, we get to see how the title character’s unique behavior helps to bring the lives of two very different siblings into balance. While young Sally (Fanning) is orderly and mature, her brother Conrad (Spencer Breslin) is more wild and carefree. When the two kids are left alone with a narcoleptic babysitter by their mother Joan (Kelly Preston), the Cat (Mike Myers) appears, intent on teaching the conservative Sally and disobedient Conrad how to let loose and have fun. Unfortunately, the Cat’s destructive, madcap antics create a tense situation, as their mom needs the house to be clean for a house party that evening, and her boyfriend (Alec Baldwin) is looking for any excuse to send the bratty Conrad to military school. After the Cat wreaks havoc on the house, the two tykes must try to restore order, clean up the mess, and learn neatly packaged life lessons about what it takes to be well-adjusted children. My question is, with such a simple premise, how did this talented group of people turn The Cat in the Hat into such a woeful, chaotic mess?!?!

    Unlike The Cat in the Hat, the other film adaptation of a Dr. Seuss classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas had a coherent storyline to compensate for its inadequacies. Conversely, The Cat in the Hat is basically an empty fable that puts forth the preposterous notion that the sudden appearance of a magical, mischievous cat can make ill-mannered children see the error of their ways. What is most astounding is that this wide-open premise should have allowed the screenwriters to stretch the boundaries of their imaginations, but they somehow ran out of entertaining ideas just as suddenly as the Cat made his appearance.

    Indeed, it almost seems as though the filmmakers relied far too much on funnyman Mike Myers to provide give the Cat in the Hat its spark. In this regard, Myers (who I love!!!), who speaks here in grating, insolent tones, was extremely disappointing and unfunny in this movie. It is probably not entirely his fault, but basically, his character is confined to making wisecracks that fall stone dead as soon as they leave his lips, waving his limbs around in manic fashion, and laughing in an extremely annoying manner over and over again.

    Doesn’t sound funny? Just wait, there is more…for as this painful one-man vaudeville act drags on, we get to see Myers rehash characters he played frequently on Saturday Night Live, mug ceaselessly through a series of boring set pieces, and spend still more time mugging for the camera. Once again, this is not exactly my definition of ''fun,'' and this is coming from a big Mike Myers fan! All I can hope for is that Mr. Myers does the decent thing and declines to appear in a sequel, if one is offered to him.

    To sum things up, I found The Cat in the Hat to be a soulless endeavor, completely bereft of imagination, immediately forgettable, and clearly designed to cash in on the financial success of The Grinch. Although this debacle managed to earn over $100 million domestically, I remain hopeful that the cool critical reception that greeted The Cat in the Hat will inspire both the studios and comedic actors to think twice before desecrating the memory of any more classic children's books! If you value your time, avoid this poor excuse for entertainment at all costs!!! Believe me, it did not receive this year’s Razzie® award for worst picture for nothing!





    SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
    The hairball that is The Cat in the Hat is coughed up by Universal in anamorphic widescreen, and as much as I hated the film, I must admit that it looked simply stunning on my display (now fed by a Denon 2200)! Color reproduction (aside from the slightest bit of dot crawl – see The Cat’s crate and tie) is first rate, with vibrant cartoon-inspired colors, whites, and flesh tones all appearing just as they should.

    Black level is also consistent, in both depth and detail, giving the image a rich texture and three-dimensional appearance. Fine detail is extremely impressive, often extending well into the background of a given shot. Further, although edge enhancement is evident on a few occasions, it appears in such moderation that it shouldn’t be a problem for anyone with the ability to sit through the film. Finally, I did not notice any compression related issues, but due to the brief running time of the film, and most of the extras, disc space was probably never an issue.

    All in all, this is a superb transfer of a very colorful and good-looking film! In fact, aside from the aforementioned dot crawl, which really isn’t too bad considering the variety and amount of bold primary colors in the film, the only other thing that I could even remotely complain about was the slightly soft appearance of shots where characters are set back from the camera. Again though, this does not prove to be a persistent problem, and everything else looks so weirdly wonderful you might not even notice it. Bo Welch is very gifted at creating visually appealing shots; it is just a shame that this Cat didn’t have more meat on its bones in other areas…



    WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
    The wild and crazy affair that is The Cat in the Hat is presented by Universal in Dolby Digital 5.1, and let me tell you that this mix makes pretty good use of all six of the channels! To begin with dialogue is reproduced quite naturally, and is easily discernable even during scenes where the whole house is literally falling down around the characters.

    Frequency response is also pretty good, although in my opinion the low end did not provide enough reinforcement to the sourced music in the film. Still, the soundstage is incredibly spacious, and the whimsical score by David Newman was recreated exceptionally. Where this track really excels though, is how effectively it turns the chaos inspired by the Cat and his Things into an enveloping experience for the listener. In that regard, the surround channels are very active during several sequences in the film, and help to create a whirling dervish of sound that hits the listener from all angles!

    Except for the mediocre bass response during the musical numbers, especially during the first half of the film, this track really left me with nothing else to complain about. Good job, Universal!!!




    EXTRAS, EXTRAS!!!


    NOTE: Trailers (which you can fast forward through) for Dr. Seuss’ Animated Classics, the live action Peter Pan, and Shrek 2 precede the feature.


    FISH BOWL:

    Feature Length Audio Commentary
    In the feature length commentary for The Cat and the Hat, provided by director Bo Welch and actor Alec Baldwin, the listener is “treated” to comments that are screen-specific, mostly trivial, and generally as unfunny as the film is. Indeed, some of their comments are very crude, and at times they are content to simply recite lines from the film before the characters speak them. Now how the f*&^ is that supposed to provide any insight into the creative process, or even keep someone investing their valuable time in this commentary interested?!!?!?

    Well, I’ll quit ranting about it now, before my blood pressure rises any more, and briefly describe some of what I found to be among the very few high points:

    --- Bo Welch talks about the difficulty inherent in turning Dr. Seuss’ wonderful short story into a live-action feature film, and why they had to move away from using rhyming.

    --- Welch discusses the film’s color scheme, which was designed to make the Cat stand out. This was done by using very little in the way of black, red, or white on the sets.

    --- At several points, Welch and Baldwin reveal concepts that were abandoned, and the use of digital technology to tweak some of the backgrounds in outdoor shots.

    All things considered, if you can make it through the film, you can probably make it through this commentary track, but I would not recommend it. In my honest opinion, there just is not enough insight offered to make it worthwhile.


    Deleted Scenes
    There are a host of deleted scenes (16 in all), most of which are brief, and also as forgettable as the material in the final cut of the film. Additionally, these scenes play as one continuous reel, and cannot be selected individually.


    Outtakes
    The outtakes section is filled with a host of very short bloopers, line flubs, and other antics. Standard stuff really…


    CONRAD’S EXTRAS:

    The Hat
    Over the course of this very brief extra, the filmmakers and cast talk about the variety of hats used by the Cat, for either trick shots or as the characters mood changes. “The Hat” was somewhat interesting, but it was also over in a flash.


    The Real Dr. Seuss
    This quick piece contains an excerpt from an old game show, where viewers seem to have been asked to identify the real Ted “Dr. Seuss” Geisel. In addition, Mike Myers and producer Brian Grazer, among others, discuss the impact of Dr. Seuss’ books on their lives, and how Mr. Geisel actually wrote The Cat in the Hat in answer to a challenge.


    The S.L.O.W.
    “The S.L.O.W.” is another brief extra, which offers some detail on the Cat in the Hat’s car, which has a rather long, silly name. There are a couple of cool shots of the car at various stages of construction provided, as well as a discussion of how the car was driven.


    The Kids
    Dakota Fanning and Spencer Breslin take center stage in this bonus feature, and talk about what it was like working on the project, especially the fun they had with Mike Myers. Director Bo Welch also chimes in, and talks a little bit about the kids’ performances in the film.


    The Cat Stacks
    In this mini-featurette, the filmmakers discuss their struggle to translate the book’s image of the Cat in the Hat balancing on a ball, and balancing a variety of items with his hands, onto the screen.


    The Mother of All Messes
    A short piece describing the chaos that ensues after the Cat’s red crate gets opened, and how animators rendered the “mother of all messes” seen in the movie.


    Dance Along With the Cat
    Kids (or adults) can learn an 8-step dance, and subsequently perform the dance along with the Cat! Come on, you know you want to try it!!! [​IMG]


    SALLY’S EXTRAS:

    The Dirt on D.I.R.T.
    In this featurette, Mike Myers and company talk about the design of the Cat’s versatile and cartoon-like D.I.R.T. cleaning machine.


    The Cat
    “The Cat” is a brief piece that focuses on the development of the Cat’s look. In particular, Bo Welch and the design team talk about the effort to incorporate Mike Myers’ rather expressive face into the final costume, and the process of automating some of the Cat’s costume. Finally, Mike Myers talks about his experiences filming in the suit and extensive make-up.


    Seussville U.S.A.
    Over the course of this short featurette, director Bo Welch discusses the creation of the idealized world that the characters in The Cat in the Hat live in. He then walks the viewer through the modifications done to old town Pomona, California, and the construction of the Seussian neighborhood out in Simi Valley (my neck of the woods!).


    The Fish
    In “The Fish”, the cast and filmmakers talk about the fish, voiced by Sean Hayes, who is supposed to provide the voice of reason in the film. The animators then discuss the process of making sure the fish has an appropriate appearance, and displays the correct emotion, in each scene.


    The Purrr-fect Stamp
    This interesting featurette gives the viewer some insight into the process of creating a U.S. postage stamp - from suggestion to final product. The example used is the creation of the cool, colorful stamp celebrating the creative genius of Ted “Dr. Seuss” Geisel!


    The Music
    It is probably because I love music so much, but this was my favorite extra on the disc. During this short featurette, composer David Newman discusses his concept for scoring the film, and reveals some of the interesting (and strange) modifications done to musical instruments, and the unusual techniques he employed, to attain a “Seussian sound” for the film! Weird, perhaps…but David Newman’s whimsical approach to devising a score appropriate for the story was certainly very creative.



    SCORE CARD

    (on a five-point scale)
    Movie: [​IMG]
    Video: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Audio: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Extras: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Overall: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]



    THE LAST WORD
    If my comments on the film were not clear enough, The Cat in the Hat is an abysmal film that desecrates one of the most creative and popular children’s books of all-time. Really and truly, I cannot see how this would be entertaining for anyone over the age of three, and I am getting fed up with the recent trend of substituting bodily function “humor” for actual comedy.

    In terms of presentation, however, Universal stepped into the batter’s box and knocked this clunker out of the park! The video and audio quality is simply stunning, as vivid, cartoon-inspired colors pop off the screen and whimsical noises whirl about the spacious soundstage. There are also a ton of extras provided, although most are very short, and only a few are really amusing. On second thought, given its target audience, maybe it makes sense to make the extras to be shorter in length, to appeal to children’s shorter attention spans.

    All in all, I have to give some credit to Universal for putting together a very solid DVD! That being said, The Cat in the Hat is still such a poor film that I would not recommend renting it, much less buying it. Children deserve intelligent, quality entertainment as much as adults do, so send a message to the studios by avoiding this release like the plague!!!


    Stay tuned…
     
  2. ScottR

    ScottR Cinematographer

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    Surely I can spend loose change and dollars on a better movie........there's just got to be one out there! [​IMG]
     
  3. Magnus T

    Magnus T Supporting Actor

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    Uhm... Gigli won this years Razzie for worst picture. It did however win for "Worst Excuse for an Actual Movie (All Concept/No Content!)".
     
  4. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    Very well done Jason. I felt the same way about Looney Tunes - Back In Action, in that it too, was nothing more than an attempt at a quick cash grab.


    Herb.
     
  5. MatthewLouwrens

    MatthewLouwrens Producer

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    Bit of a shame, as I still say live-action Suess is something to be seen - the problem isn't that it's live-action, it's that they had no respect for the source material and becomes just another star vehicle. Still, if it avoids another CITH disaster, that's good news.

    Read the whole article, anyway. It's a good read.
     
  6. Ernest Rister

    Ernest Rister Producer

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    I'm surprised people were so lenient with Dr. Seuss' The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, because The Cat in the Hat merely repeated the same sins as the Ron Howard heart-breaker -- get well-known comedic character actor, put him in plastic suit, stretch story out from 23 minutes to 90 minutes, spend an obscene amount of money on tacky art direction, litter the film with innuendos to sex and bodily functions so the teens will laugh...

    Was The Cat in the Hat *really* much different than The Grinch? I think for some odd reason, The Cat in the Hat was a safer film to bash than the Jim Carrey travesty. Both do equal harm to the memory of the beloved books. Both feature many of the same sins. One was a smash, the other a disaster. Is it really no more complicated than the fact that Jim Carrey is more respected as an off-the-wall physical comedian than Mike Meyers? The criticial response to this film reminds me of Middle School, how one kid can tell a joke and bring the room down, while another kid can tell the same joke later, and get spitballs thrown at him. It's not the message, it's the messanger.

    Both films sucked, both films were painful to watch, both films do injury to the works of Dr. Seuss.

    I'm waiting for Drew Carrey to get cast in Horton Hears a Who, in which Carrey gets dressed up in a plastic elephant suit, and takes his miniature Who to Vegas for fun with slot machines and Who-kers.
     
  7. Jesse Skeen

    Jesse Skeen Producer

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    I absolutely hated The Grinch, but I still want to see this because the trailer looked interesting- if I do see this I'll try to judge it on its own, and not as a bastardization of the Dr. Seuss story. People in silly makeup aren't my thing, but I do like weird production design.
    However, since Universal has once again put forced trailers on this disc, I'll probably end skipping it. If I do get this, I won't buy any of the titles advertised.
     
  8. Robert Anthony

    Robert Anthony Producer

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    I refused to see the movie the instant I saw a "Grinch Credit Card" commercial on TV. American Express, I think.

    Here's the Grinch--the main character of a story who's sole purpose was to reinforce the belief that the holidays shouldn't be about commercialism and presents, and gifts, about buying things and getting things, but about spending time with the people you love, people who's company you enjoy--and he's selling credit cards. The Movie and everything surrounding it was the very DEFINITION of cross-promotional cash grab.

    Anything that betrayed the message or the feeling of the book and cartoon THAT badly wasn't going to get my money.

    That and Jim Carrey had pretty much completely forgotten how to be funny by then anyway.
     
  9. ChrisBEA

    ChrisBEA Screenwriter

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    I'm sorry you had to sit through this dreck. My ticket was free and I wanted to walk out of the theater (something I've never done).

    Conversely, I really enjoyed the Grinch.

    This was my pick for worst of the year.

    Avoid at ALL costs.
     
  10. Ernest Rister

    Ernest Rister Producer

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    Grinch was my choice for worst of 2001. I see the rest of you going after Cat In the Hat as nothing more than critics paying "catch up". There are no sins in CAT that a free-thinking critic cannot also apply to GRINCH. They BOTH sucked.
     
  11. ChrisBEA

    ChrisBEA Screenwriter

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    And that's your opinion.
    I liked the Grinch, not perfect, but it had nice design work, a likable heroine, perfectly cast grinch, and more or less kept in line with the tone of the story.

    Cat on the other hand. Decent design, story padding that was not in tone with the story, jokes that weren't appropriate for age group, a miscast cat. It was terrible from start to finish.

    I don't feel I'm playing "catch up", I'm just sharing my own opinion.
    I still hope everyone who hasn't seen this avoids it.[​IMG]

    Be sure to check out Elf when it is available, there's a wonderful film for the whole family!
     
  12. Jason Perez

    Jason Perez Second Unit

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    Magnus T (post #3),

    Thanks for the correction! You are right!!! The morning I finished the review, the Razzies had just been announced, and several different people told me that "The Cat" had received the dubious worst picture award. Unfortunately, their web page would not load up for me, so I could not see it for myself, and had no reason to disbelieve my friends.

    Anyway, although both were absolutely horrible, I think Gigli deservingly received the award. Which do you think was worse???

    Now if you'll excuse me, it is time to pay those liars back...[​IMG]

    Regards,

    Jason
     
  13. Ernest Rister

    Ernest Rister Producer

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    Ah, the first Grinch apologist...

    "I liked the Grinch, not perfect, but it had nice design work, a likable heroine, perfectly cast grinch, and more or less kept in line with the tone of the story."

    Same exact thing could be said of Cat in the Hat. Oh, the Humanity! (last time I checked Dr. Seuss didn't write about the Who-Mayor's wife beng sexually attratcted to the Grinch)
     
  14. ChrisBEA

    ChrisBEA Screenwriter

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    Ya know, whatever.
    Fact is I liked the Grinch regardless of your feelings on the matter.
    Cat in the Hat was an awful misguided piece of trash.
    Nothing wrong for liking one and not the other. The only thing in common is the source author. One worked, One didn't.
    I'm not trying to defend either one, just stating how I feel.
    I'm done now, time to go cleanse the palate....
     
  15. Ernest Rister

    Ernest Rister Producer

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    "Decent design, story padding that was not in tone with the story, jokes that weren't appropriate for age group, a miscast cat. It was terrible from start to finish."

    Same exact thing can be said about GRINCH. Can't see how one worked and the other didn't. They're both cut from the same corporate cloth. CAT was in every sense a sequel to GRINCH.
     
  16. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Producer

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    Have to disagree here. House of the Dead remains my personal most hated film of all time. thus winning the 2003 "worst film" award, and I would glady watch both Gigli and Cat in the hat again, back to back, to avoid another viewing of HOTD.

    But otherwise, the review is OK. Mr. Perez simply needs to find new and more descriptive words to describe how horrible this movie actually was. This is harder than it seems since so many films seems to defy description. "Boiled-shit-served-to-dead-dogs-that-get-stuffed-into-a-dog-house-fashioned-from-vulture-shit-that-gets-set-on-fire" is the best compound run-on sentence I could fashion to describe how badly this movie stinks.
     
  17. Randy A Salas

    Randy A Salas Screenwriter

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    No, it's the director. The Grinch was given somewhat of a pass not because it starred Jim Carrey, but because it was directed by Ron Howard. It didn't hurt either that it was the first live-action foray into Seuss after his widow opened up the license and that it made millions of dollars right away. With The Cat in the Hat, Bo Welch didn't have anywhere near the cachet of Howard.

    One other difference between the two movies is the popularity of the source material. The Grinch has appealed to all ages for generations, largely because of its holiday message and the popularity of the wonderful cartoon. Although everyone knows the story of The Cat in the Hat from their childhood, its appeal has largely been confined to a young audience.
     
  18. Brian Kidd

    Brian Kidd Screenwriter
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    Itching for live action Seuss? Look no further than THE 5000 FINGERS OF DR. T.! Script and lyrics by Seuss. It has become one of my favorite kid's films. The production design is right out of the good doctor's artwork; much more so than either of the recent cinematic abortions. It also has that great touch of creepiness to keep adults interested. Columbia has a cheap DVD out of it with a decent print that really showcases the lovely Technicolor photography. Any Seuss fan worth his weight in ham owes it to him/her/whoself to pick it up.
     
  19. Magnus T

    Magnus T Supporting Actor

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    Hopefully, if I'm fortunate enough, I'll never find out. [​IMG]
     
  20. Keith Paynter

    Keith Paynter Screenwriter

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    If it hadn't been for my son wanting to see The Grinch, I never would have gone. Thankfully, my son has matured and I didn't have to make the same mistake twice. I was more a fan of the original television specials by Chuck Jones than the books (although they are charming in their own right), and The Cat's vehicle will be best remembered by me as the "Moss-covered-three-handled family Gridunza".

    No more live action Seuss films! Yay!

    An animated Horton feature? Possibly an improvement, but the problem still remains of stretching a 10 minute book (and 22 minute TV special) into an 80-plus minute movie still is cause for concern...
     

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