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The Cat In The Hat

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The Cat In The Hat

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The ongoing cinematic desecration of Dr. Seuss' legacy continues with The Cat In The Hat, a clattering abomination that makes it depressingly likely that an entire generation of reading-averse children will know The Cat In The Hat as that obnoxious character Mike Myers played in that horrible movie. Myers, of course, rose to superstardom by being funny on Saturday Night Live, as well as in Wayne's World and Austin Powers, but he's subsequently retained his stardom by cynically recycling his shtick to diminishing returns. True to form, Myers' chapeau-adorned Cat talks, for reasons known only to him, in the strident Noo Yawk tones of Myers' "Coffee Talk" character, and he leers, mugs, and spouts double entendres like a freakish feline Austin Powers. Like the similarly misbegotten Jim Carrey vehicle How The Grinch Stole Christmas, The Cat In The Hat aims to be both naughty and nice, but dead-ends at creepy and mawkish. The film preserves at least part of Dr. Seuss' text through Victor Brandt's narration, but the whimsical words seem at odds with the crass comedy onscreen: They seem to belong to a sweeter, more sincere movie altogether. The dire directorial debut of accomplished production designer Bo Welch, The Cat In The Hat co-stars precocious Dakota Fanning and Spencer Breslin as siblings whose real-estate-agent mother (Kelly Preston) leaves them in the care of clueless babysitter Amy Hill, whose round body is subsequently used and abused like Terry Kiser's slapstick corpse in Weekend At Bernie's. Sensing an impressionable, captive audience, Myers pops up out of nowhere and subjects the children to an endless stretch of shameless flailing and scatological humor. He's assisted in his mischief-making by Thing One and Thing Two, horrifying creatures on hand solely to make Myers seem less grotesque by comparison. His performance engenders a strange paradox: He's surrounded by enormous sets, flamboyant costumes, CGI effects, and wacky supporting characters, but he's also essentially alone, a shameless ham who treats the world as one giant receptacle for his rehashed antics. Not only is Myers the entire show here, but he's also his own most appreciative audience. His anthropomorphic protagonist has an obnoxious habit of laughing at himself, and it's a shrill, wheezing laugh of infinite self-love that grows increasingly insufferable as the film progresses.