Of all the cartoon classics that made themselves a daily routine during those sweltering summer vacations in Jacksonville, The Cat In The Hat ranks as possibly THE one that I watched the most. If machines could think, that VCR probably would have dealt me a few spankings of its own.
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I felt mostly ambivalent toward 2001's The Grinch. While I liked what they did, it just wasn't the same. With The Cat In The Hat, it's mostly more of the same. But I hesitate to have too much faith in my own intolerably inane skills as a critic, because how do you know when exactly you're crossing the line between saying that the movie blows and saying that growing up blows? Maybe that's all it is.
I'll tell you this much -- I laughed. I had a good time. There were loads of one-liners, funny faces, pranks, and even a few brushes with vulgarity (none of which would compel me to deprive my own kids of the pleasure, had I any). The atmosphere was right on target, even if much happens outside the house itself. There's difference number one.
The differences between the new and the old go on for miles. Foremost among them is the plot, and in second place is a whole lot of character conflict.
But let's start with the plot, shall we? In the original, it was all about trying to find that moss-covered three handled family gredunza. The cat busted in the house all angry, the kids just looked at each other like "What?" Remember that scary music that played? Here, it goes completely the other way. The Cat appears out of nowhere and the kids run away screaming. Then, they just start having fun. That's basically it, except for some line of bologna about showing the boy (Spencer Breslin) how bad it is to make a mess.. by making a bigger one, and showing the girl (Dakota Fanning) how not to be so uptight. (Deja vu, anyone?)
In the original, the fish was THE antagonist. He was actually a frustrating character to watch, and when he was finally converted via a little language lesson (a gato in a sombrero, you say?), it was such a great moment! Here, he is just another victim of the haphazard shenanigans, or worse yet, a reminder of how much better Finding Nemo was. Closest thing to an antagonist here is a next-door neighbor who is trying to impress the kids' mother by looking like a rich guy, but actually has false teeth and a beer gut, and sits in his house watching you-know-what. No kidding. Even more outlandish is his unsubstantiated obsession with disposing of the son by sending him off to military school. Dylan was right, the times they are a changin'.
One of my favorite parts of the original was when they went on the big scavenger hunt for the moss-covered three handled family gredunza, and they have to mark all the places where it isn't. It isn't in this keyhole (No?) and it isn't on my knee (Hmm, mark the keyhole K-300, mark the knee 57-G!) Okay, it's a little sad that I still remember that. But I was saddened that they couldn't have found a way to at least incorporate this into the new one. Or how about "Nobody Loves Me"?
As if this all were not enough, the mystery surrounding the mother has been completely uncloaked. She's a legally blonde... something, I don't remember (my bad!) and she is hosting a party at her house that night. If it's not clean, she will be fired, because her boss has verminophobia. How perfect is that? Couldn't they just have gotten the house clean for the sake of having it clean? Why do we need an elaborate backstory to it?
Thing 1 and Thing 2 are only there because they have to be. And not to hit below the belt or anything, but they looked absolutely frightening!
Humor these days has become so random. I think it's almost gotten to a point where "the more absurd, the better". There are traces of toilet humor, situational humor, irony, exaggeration, sarcasm and all that jazz. Chances are you're going to laugh more than a few times. But you may groan as much.
As far as songs go, the Cat himself got to sing and dance, and he was quite the wire jumper. But oftentime, it went by so fast that you could barely tell what he was saying. I don't know how much Smash Mouth paid (or got paid) to have 1/3 of their album played behind this thing either, but it must've been a pretty penny!
Acting? Don't ask. This is the stuff of third-grade school plays. Which, as I always say, is probably the whole idea. But I'll say this much -- Sean Hayes playing the Mom's boss makes the wildest Jim Carrey look like a sane individual. His character is utterly SMACKED out of his mind. Sean's "moment" near the beginning was one of my biggest laughs. Don't know if the same will hold true for you folks, probably not!
Bottom line, don't be a rule breaker. Above all else, Keep It Simple Stupid! Oh, but how funny is it that I should bring up KISS while talking about this movie! You know what I'm about to say...
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