The Cat in The Hat

7 out of 10


Laughs For Kids AND Adults

The Cat in the Hat is, at it's most simplified, a story of two very different siblings who learn to get along. Well, not really. That does happen, but the movie is mostly about the crazy adventure they have after signing a contract with a six foot tall talking cat in an oversized red-and-white-striped stovepipe hat. The two siblings are Sally and Conrad Walden. Sally is the good one, an adorable 9-ish control freak who is already researching grad school. Conrad, at about 12, invariably does the exact opposite of what he is told, and begins the film by inventing a new sport: indoor stair louge. Their mother, Joan Walden, is a real-estate saleswoman who works for a neurotic clean-freak named Hank Humberfoob and is throwing a "meet and greet" party that night. The house is so spotless it sparkles, and the kids are under strict orders that it is to stay that way. This doesn't seem like it should be a big problem, until the cat arrives. It starts with a sound emanating from the upstairs cupboard. We never do find out how the Cat gets there, but once he is it doesn't take long for trouble to start. In just a few minutes, the house is splattered with purple goo from the kupkake-inator, which is supposed to make cupcakes out of anything.

After a spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to clean it himself, the Cat brings in reinforcements: Thing 1 and Thing 2. These adorable little guys always do the opposite of what they're told, not unlike Conrad, only with much more energy and largely unconstrained by the laws of physics (they can, and do, run on walls and ceilings as easily as floors). The Things arrive in a large, red crate which we are told is actually a gateway to the dimension from which the Cat and the Things originate. When Conrad tries to peek into the crate, the Cat makes it very clear that he can't, as opening the crate will cause, in his words, "the mother of all messes". This is the Cat's one rule. Sound like an invitation for trouble? It sure is. It doesn't take Conrad long to pick the lock, which is animate and shaped like a crab. as soon as it is unlocked, the lock fastens itself to the dog's collar and the dog runs away. since this is the only lock that can keep the crate closed, the kids and the Cat set off to find the dog. things get a little more complex when the dog is captured by their neighbor, Larry Quinn, who just happens to be dating the mother. The reason this is a problem is that Larry isn't the nice guy he seems at first to be. He is scheming to get Joan to send Conrad, who hates him, to the Colonial Wilhelm Academy for Troubled Youth, a place he describes as being "just like summer camp with brutal forced marches and soul-crushing discipline". With Conrad out of the way, Larry thinks he will be able to marry Joan.

Though some people will undoubtedly complain that the story has peen changed from its original form, the script writers seem to have done a pretty good job. The pieces that have been added flesh-out the original story into something with background and substance, but not in such a way that the magical mood Dr. Seuss created is destroyed. It has just been expanded on. As the Cat's dimension leaks into Sally and Conrad's, the set becomes progressively more like what we expect to see from Dr, Seuss, in spite of the seeming normality at the outset. They have also added some material which makes the film more adult-friendly. Some younger viewers might not quite get some of this as much as adults do, but there isn't enough of it to make it into something the kids won't like and none of it is inappropriate for the kids. It just makes the movie more fun for the adults in the audience, which is a good idea since they're the ones who are likely buying the tickets. And of course, everything works out in the end: Sally learns to be a bit less of a control freak and how to have a little fun; Conrad learns that the rules must sometimes be obeyed and he must take responsibility for his actions; Joan rejects the idea of military school for her son and comes to realize how great her kids really are; and Larry Quinn falls into the Cat's dimension and ends up rejected by Joan and covered in sticky purple goo not unlike the disastrous cupcakes from the beginning of the movie. All in all, it's a cute movie, and quite entertaining, even for those who aren't kids any more.

So why not, if you're in the mood for some fun,
see The Cat in the Hat, with Thing2 and Thing 1?

Film Critic: Bronwynn Erskine