First published in 1957, Dr Seuss' The Cat In The Hat has taught generations of children to read with its simple vocabulary and sing-song rhymes. Well, expect those happy memories to be trounced: this gaudy monstrosity of an adaptation is here to spray cat piss over a classic.
You could probably have said the same about The Grinch had it not been redeemed by Jim Carrey's powerhouse pyrotechnics. Unfortunately for Cat, the man behind the fuzzy make-up - - Mike Myers - - isn't in the same league. Where Carrey made a virtue of his mean, green makeover, the Austin Powers star looks constricted by his feline costume. And where Carrey's manic energy kept Ron Howard's 2000 caper afloat, this frenetic follow-up starts shipping water the moment its kerrr-azy headliner appears.
Myers' catsuit apparently had an in-built cooling system, but there's a sweaty desperation about his antics that's hard to miss. Quickly exhausting his repertoire of funny faces, it's not long before Myers is resorting to smutty humour and adult innuendo completely at odds with the source material. It's like being hit over the head with a rubber mallet for 80 minutes. And while the cat in the book comes across as exuberant, the moggy in the movie is a mean-spirited furball who'll have viewers reaching for a bucket of cold water.
Of course, it doesn't help that production-designer-turned-director Bo Welch has even less to work with than Howard did. Forced to pad out Seuss' anorexic storyline, Welch gives the kids' absent mum (represented in the book by a single female ankle) an entire backstory that includes an amorous neighbour (Alec Baldwin) and a hygiene-conscious boss (Sean Hayes). It's a measure of Myers' ineffectiveness that the movie gets its few laughs from this unappealing concoction, not its lead.
Still, there's one bright spot on this depressing canvas: the vibrant production design that turns the fictional locale of Anville into a dazzling fantasia of vivid colours. Looking like an Edward Scissorhands set given a day-glo makeover, it obviously required so much wit, inspiration and imagination that nothing was left over for anything else.