If one were to ask me what the worst movie I ever saw was, I'd probably still land on 'Garbage Pail Kids' as my definitive answer. But after watching 'The Cat in the Hat' for the first time, I'd have to say the former has some stiff competition. But don't take my word for it. Let's turn to the late Audrey Geisel (the former widow of Dr. Suess himself), who called for a halt on any live-action Dr. Suess movies because of it. While I have a soft spot for 'The Grinch' despite it not being the best movie, I must admit that this was definitely for the best.
It's interesting to think that originally, the role of the Cat was supposed to go to Tim Allen, but he couldn't make it work due to scheduling conflicts. The role then went to Mike Myers, fresh off 'Austin Powers 3', so the world still had a place for Myers in their hearts. But upon seeing this, everyone evidently saw it as the beginning of the end for the beloved Canadian actor. And for as much as I like the man's classic works like 'Wayne's World' and, again, 'Austin Powers,' I have to say it's hard not to agree when you realize that his range isn't that far-reaching and it can become sadly annoying after... well, not long at all.
Keeping in mind that this is a film adaptation of an otherwise short and simple kid's book, I was actually pretty accepting of the way things start, where we meet the mother of the house, Joan (Kelly Preston), who is preparing to host an office party at her house for the real estate company she works for. But her boss, Hank Humberfloob (Sean Hayes), warns that if things are as messy as they were the last time she hosted anything, she would lose her job. So, I get it. It's a far-reaching scenario for a kid's movie, showing us why the overall mess the Cat eventually causes will have consequences.
Meanwhile, we meet the kids from the story, the chaotic and messy Conrad (Spencer Breslin) and the neat and rule-abiding Sally (Dakota Fanning). Conrad is considered such a bad kid here that even Joan's neighbour/boyfriend, Quinn (Alec Baldwin), is anxious to get him shipped off to military school for a bit of well-deserved discipline. We don't necessarily like Quinn in this, but after Conrad mouths off to his mother pretty harshly, we can at least understand where he's coming from. Honestly, Conrad is kind of an ass.
To keep the kids from making the place a mess while Joan's away for a day, Joan hires a babysitter, Mrs. Kwan (Amy Hill), who ends up being the most useless babysitter ever since she is asleep through about 95% of the film, and is often used as an inanimate object throughout. At this point, the film isn't necessarily being good, but it's tolerable for what it is. Again, I understand the need for a bit more filler and substance. But we eventually get to the point of the rainy day with nothing to do, which is where the Cat (Myers) comes into play and just sends the film into a nosedive.
The Cat introduces himself and does his thing, attempting to show the kids how to have fun. Of course, this leads to the destruction of the house, especially with the introduction to the nightmare-inducing Thing One (Taylor Rice) and Thing Two (Brittany Oaks), who may or may not be more annoying than The Cat, depending on who's watching. Then the film just kind of goes off into its own world and over-complicates a pretty simple story about being careful who you let into your house. The Cat breaks in here instead of coming through the front door, so the lesson is null and void anyway.
It turns out that the crate Thing 1 and Thing 2 came from contains a portal to another world which, if let completely loose, will merge the Cat's world with ours and make the ultimate mess. It's all locked by a magic lock that ends up on the family dog's collar; the family dog runs outside, and the kids and the Cat have to chase it to get the lock to prevent catastrophe; it just unravels to all these points it really doesn't need to. This is especially bothersome when the moral of the original story has little to do with learning a lesson about being tidy, which the film seems to focus so heavily on.
According to various sources, the main lessons to be learned from the book are about letting strangers into the house, how to make the most of a rainy (or depressing) day, be careful what you wish for, and yes, to clean one's mess. Still, I feel like in the book, that takes a major back seat to other things as to put it simply, the Cat really just cleans up the mess he made after the kids (and the fish, also played by Sean Hayes, whom I haven't even brought up yet) get all pissed off at him for destroying the house.
I can credit this movie for a few things, like how it does the Suess-style opening logos and some of the set design once the crate bursts forth. But it's so full of obnoxious behaviour and jokes that aren't suited to a kid's movie (like the now infamous "dirty hoe" joke), and in turn, it doesn't know who it's for, be it kids or parents looking for nostalgia that they will not get here. It's full of too much extra that takes away from a classic book. Myers is just mugging and ad-libbing terribly the entire time, and the jokes fall completely flat. If you've ever wondered what it's like to watch a sugar rush on screen, this is probably it.