Jewish World Review Dec. 10, 2003 / 15 Kislev, 5764
Despite the worst reviews I have ever read, THE CAT IN THE HAT managed
to become a smash hit this winter.
My response is mixed. On the one hand, I am always grateful when people
gleefully ignore what critics say is good for them. On the other hand,
the movie's relationship with its source material (by the beloved,
revered, and soon-to-be-sainted Dr. Seuss) does seem tenuous at best,
downright insulting at worst.
I admit to being a major Dr. Seuss fan. But then, who isn't? Aside from
the makers of the movie, that is.
These days we have to expect that our childhood icons are going to be
mutated for the enjoyment of our offspring, who don't read anyway. But
what's the point? Couldn't the powers that be just generate their own
disruptive figure - THE MONKEY IN SHOES, say, or THE GORILLA WITH A GUN-
rather than violate the integrity of cats, grinches, and Hortons?
I recall an excellent adaptation of HORTON HATCHES THE EGG, by Dr.
Seuss' WWII buddy, Chuck Jones. It only lasted five minutes or so, which
was exactly as long as it should be. How on earth do you extend a slim
volume into a bloated motion picture? Well, you shouldn't is the answer.
But since the studios stopped making cartoons and featurettes (unless
they're to promote a movie), the feature length motion picture is all
As you may guess, I am not a fan of the free market place. I still can't
see what's so damn free about it. Free to whom? Not to me, who would
prefer on the silver screen a more or less exact representation of CAT
IN THE HAT, thank you. I'd even be willing to pay for it. Oh wait, I
don't have any money…. I forgot.
I read that the studio heads were scared about the reception of CAT IN
THE HAT, not from the critics, but from children indulging in text
messaging on cell phones. It's word of mouth at the speed of light.
Somebody can punch in, "Man this movie bites," and before you know it,
CAT IN THE HAT action figures are gathering dust in Delaware warehouse.
But the studio heads forget, as all powers that be forget, NOT EVERYBODY
HAS A DARN CELL PHONE. Five year olds especially, for whom this movie is
supposedly targeted, not only do not have a cell phone, they can't even
So the next time you come up with a lame adaptation of a beloved
children's classic, go ahead and put a quasi-movie star in cat drag and
have him mouth his lines in a lazy imitation of Bert Lahr in WIZARD OF
OZ. Nobody's going to know. Nobody's going to care. Just me. And I
stopped going to the movies in 2001. Pay me five thousand dollars and
I'll tell you why.
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JWR contributor Ian Shoales is the author of, among others, Not Wet Yet: An Anthology of Commentary. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2003, Ian Shoales