The original Seuss story is a wonderful--albeit simple
--children's tale about two bored kids left alone in their house on a cold wet day. They're visited by a six-foot-tall talking adventure-seeking feline who's looking for a little fun (OK maybe a lot of fun). Against the warnings of the children's seriously repressed pet goldfish the Cat (with the help of a couple of troll doll look-a-likes called Thing One and Thing Two) turns the house upside down then puts it all right-side-up again before the kids' mother gets home. The question for Hollywood is how to turn a story like this one that's left an indelible impression on millions of readers young and old since 1957 into a major motion picture? While the film thankfully keeps to this original's plot talking fish and all it obviously tries to flesh things out adding some new characters and tacking on a few life lessons. The kids now have very distinct personalities: Wild older brother Conrad (Spencer Breslin) plays fast and loose with the rules while sister Sally (Dakota Fanning) an uptight control freak has driven all her friends away with her rigidity. Their mother Joan (Kelly Preston) works at the town's real estate office run by the anal retentive Mr. Humberfloob (Sean Hayes) and she's dating the guy next door Quinn (Alec Baldwin) a superficial scumbag who wants to send Conrad to military school. On the particular cold wet day in question Joan leaves instructions not to mess up the house since she's having an important business meet-and-greet there later that night. When the Cat (Mike Myers) arrives he quickly assures Sally and Conrad they can have all the fun they want and nothing bad will happen. Ignoring vocal opposition from the Fish (voiced by Hayes) the Cat quickly puts into motion a series of events that will a) prove his point b) destroy the house and c) teach the kids a sugary-sweet but valuable lesson about being responsible while living life to the fullest.
Just as Jim Carrey immortalized the Grinch Mike Myers seems born to play the Cat in the oversized red-and-white striped hat--he has the sly slightly sarcastic wholly anarchistic thing down cold. Myers' impersonations of a redneck Cat mechanic (with requisite visible butt crack) an infomercial Cat host and a zany British Cat chef are outrageous as are the hilarious little asides he spouts although they'll probably go over kids' heads: "Well sure [the Fish] can talk but is he really saying anything? No not really." But even though Myers has some fun moments he just isn't the Barney type and when he turns on the come-on-kids-let's-have-fun charm and adopts a dopey laugh he seems uncomfortable. As for the kids Fanning and Breslin (Disney's The Kid) do a fine job reacting to the wackiness the Cat surrounds them with although Fanning basically plays the same uptight character she created in the recent Uptown Girls. Of the supporting players Baldwin has the most fun as the villainous Quinn a bad-guy role that while a little superfluous gives Baldwin plenty of opportunities to chew the scenery. Hayes is also good in his dual role; he stamps Humberfloob indelibly on our brains then kicks butt as the voice of the beleaguered Fish.
It must have been a no-brainer for producer Brian Grazer to do another Dr. Seuss adaptation after all the fun magic and profits the 2000 hit How the Grinch Stole Christmas generated. With Cat in the Hat however he didn't collaborate with his usual directing partner the Grinch's Ron Howard. Instead Grazer took a chance on first-time director Bo Welch who previously served as production designer on Tim Burton's Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands and has three Oscar nods to his credit for production design on other films. Welch certainly takes his quirky cue from Burton when it comes to the look of Cat in the Hat especially Sally and Conrad's suburban Southern California neighborhood with its lilac frames and blue roofs. The gadgets are cool too from the Cat's Super Luxurious Omnidirectional Whatchamajigger or S.L.O.W vehicle to the Dynamic Industrial Renovating Tractormajigger or D.I.R.T. mobile for cleaning up the house. When we enter the Cat's bizarre world though the film's Seussian look starts to have problems possibly because there's nothing of this place in the original book. Hidden within the feline's magical crate the Cat's world can produce "the mother of all messes " and in keeping with that purpose there's some effort at making it look like a fragmented Cubist painting. But it's more plastic than Picasso and in the end it's about as interesting as a Universal Theme Park ride (a fact the movie actually mentions).
Actor Ian McKellen, who plays Gandalf the Grey in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, said the title for the second film will not be changed despite an online petition urging the director to rename it. Fans apparently wanted the film, titled The Two Towers, renamed after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center last year. But McKellen wrote in his online journal at www.mckellen.com, "The notion that the title should be changed in respect to New York City's sensibilities has rightly been resisted." The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, which stars McKellen, Elijah Wood, Christopher Lee and Sean Astin, will be released in the United States on Dec. 18.
Grammy-winning R&B singer R. Kelly pleaded not guilty to 21 counts of child pornography during a brief hearing Wednesday at the Circuit Court of Cook County, Ill. Kelly was arrested in Florida on June 5 in connection with a videotape he allegedly made with an underage girl and remains free on bond pending an Aug. 7 hearing, Reuters reports. If convicted, the 35-year-old singer could face up to 15 years in prison.
Penelope Spheeris will direct a film based on Sex Pistol frontman Johnny Rotten's autobiography Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Rotten, whose real name is John Lydon, will be active as the film's creative consultant and will oversee the development of the film and the script.
Warner Bros. is planning a feature film based on Jeff Foxworthy and Bill Engvall's Blue Collar Comedy Tour, which has grossed more than $12 million and produced a best-selling live album. According to Variety, the as-yet-untitled movie will be directed by C.B. Harding, who helmed last season's MTV reality series The Osbournes.
Dubbed one of the richest deals in history, filmmaker Ivan Reitman's production company, The Montecito Picture Company, has acquired The Ugly Americans from three former Seinfeld scribes for an astonishing $3 million, Variety reports. The script, written by Alec Berg, David Mandel and Jeff Schaffer, caused fever-pitch bidding among studios, including Universal, DreamWorks, Warner Bros., New Line Cinema and Revolution.
Dennis Quaid is in talks to star in 20th Century Fox's big-budget feature The Day After Tomorrow, a high-concept film about the disastrous effects of global warming, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Budgeted somewhere upward of $100 million, the film will be directed by Roland Emmerich, who helmed The Patriot, Godzilla and Independence Day.
New Line Cinema's family-friendly drama Secondhand Lions is scheduled to begin shooting in late September in Texas, Variety reports. Oscar winners Robert Duvall and Michael Caine will star as eccentric great-uncles taking care of Haley Joel Osment one summer. The studio is aiming for a late 2003 or early 2004 release.
The Sci Fi Channel is jumping on the reality-TV bandwagon this fall by introducing a new weekly primetime half-hour show titled Scare Tactics. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the show, billed as a sci-fi version of Candid Camera, will be hosted by former Charmed star Shannen Doherty.