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).
As the Sundance Film Festival rounds out its first week Wednesday, many stars were on hand to promote their films at the famed indie festival, co-founded by director/actor Robert Redford.
The fabulous 21-year-old Christina Ricci was there hawking her new film Pumpkin (a big buzz at the festival) and talked about independent films being less "indulgent" in 2002 than in previous years (sure). Others in attendance included Jennifer Aniston, promoting her film The Good Girl, with hubby Brad Pitt along for the ride; and Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, hyping their film Stolen Summer, which was made by Pete Jones, the $1 million winner of the Project Greenlight contest co-sponsored by the dynamic duo.
Robin Williams, supporting his film One Hour Photo, couldn't pass up the opportunity to provide a little zany comedy for the Sundance crowd as he ran up on stage to perform, pointing out a woman's llama coat and calling it "Genghis Kahn's road kill." The festival ends this Saturday with an awards ceremony.
When the ninth season wraps in May, Fox has decided to end its serial on paranormal investigation and close shop on the Emmy-winning The X-Files. What? No more alien abductions? The series will end its primetime life with a special two-part episode penned by creator Chris Carter.
Outspoken lesbian Ellen DeGeneres has admitted that she would like to have children someday, in an online interview on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation Web site. Good for her. Still, she acknowledges the fact "the kid is going to have a hard time at school" by having a lesbian mother.
In related news, TV's Enterprise star Scott Bakula, along with other famous Star Trek captains, including Patrick Stewart and Kate Mulgrew, bemoaned the lack of gay characters in the Star Trek series, to MetroSource magazine. Stewart said, "Given what growth and advancement has been made in the past 20 years even in the most rigid male bastions...one would have thought that Star Trek would be the ideal environment [for a gay character]." Data finally gets a boyfriend!
Hot off the critical success of his veddy British film Gosford Park, director Robert Altman is looking at his next project, Voltage, a comedy about corporate America based on Robert Grossbach's novel A Shortage of Engineers. He's already compiling an ensemble cast with Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Liv Tyler, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Tony Shalhoub and Bob Balaban.
A plaque to be given to actor James Earl Jones at a Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. celebration on Martin Luther King Jr. day had one teeny-weeny typo on it: it read, "Thank you James Earl Ray for keeping the dream alive." Of course, we all know James Earl Ray was the man who shot and killed King in 1968. Oops. The manufacturers of the plaque, Merit Industries, have said the mix-up was an "honest error." Hey, guys, don't upset Darth Vader or the NAACP.
HBO executives announced some of their programming plans Wednesday at the Television Critics Assn., including placement a 13-episode order for the new police drama The Wire, from the creator of the successful HBO miniseries The Corner, due for a summer or fall launch. HBO has also picked up the comedy series The Mind of the Married Man for another season.
Barbra Streisand feels a need to get closer to one of our country's founding fathers, George Washington (oh, don't we all). At a Sotheby's auction, Babs outbid the Mount Vernon Ladies Association to buy an oil painting of our first president to hang in her Malibu home.
Pop singer Dido has had her nomination for best-newcomer from the Official U.K. Charts Company taken away Wednesday, mainly because she's not all that "new." The 30-year-old had actually been nominated for best female artist the previous year. Those goofy British.
Actor Brad Renfro, 19, is in trouble again. He was arrested and charged Monday with public intoxication and driving without a license in Knoxville, Tenn. after being stopped for a traffic violation. Last year Renfro was sentenced to two year's probation for trying to steal a yacht in Florida.
The Boss gets his own musical. That's right, the songs of rocker Bruce Springsteen have been fashioned into a musical called Drive All Night, with Springsteen's blessing. A first reading will take place in March after a three-week rehearsal.
The myths and legends of Native American folklore will be made into a $30 million-plus miniseries for ABC. The four-hour epic will center around a 100-year-old Native American grandfather telling his 17-year-old grandson about such myths as the story of a rain god who falls in love with a mortal woman and an outcast child who tries to tame a water beast. The targeted air date is November 2003.
Fashion designer extraordinaire Giorgio Armani, creator of some of the world's most lavish clothes, says he is tired of luxury. "Luxury disgusts me," he told an Italian newspaper Thursday. "I want to pay homage to the workers, to the dignity of workers..." Does this mean Armani is giving up the private jet?
Publicist Lizzie Grubman, who injured 16 people by backing her SUV into a crowd of people outside a Hamptons nightclub last year, has been hit with another lawsuit related to that incident. Grubman's vehicle hit the outside structure of the establishment and pieces of the wall fell and injured Dabney Mercer, who brought the suit.
By Noah Davis & Kit Bowen
Bandits looks at what happens when two escaped cons decide to go on a bank-robbing spree to finance a getaway to Mexico-and run into a woman who changes both of their lives. Our trusted reporters look at how the film rates as a heist movie and how well the three main actors-Billy Bob Thornton, Bruce Willis and Cate Blanchett-got along.
Hollywood.com: Is Bandits more a comedy than a movie about a crime spree?
Kit Bowen: I thought it was certainly much more a comedy. It reminded me a lot of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. But it's also a really great character study, which I found to be the most surprising element. I was expecting more action.
Noah Davis: Kit's right. It's more of a comedy. And it's Barry Levinson's style of comedy--exemplified in his first and still best movie, Diner--derived from stand-up and improv. It's loose-limbed, off-the-cuff, and dependent on the personalities of the actors and their ability to riff on whatever comes up in conversation. That's not to say it's unplanned, but that it's constructed so well as to make it look entirely spontaneous. Bandits is very funny, and the crime spree story line comes second.
Hollywood.com: And speaking of characters, with three dominating personalities--Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton and Cate Blanchett--whose movie is this really? Or are they able to share the spotlight?
Davis: There's no doubt this is Billy Bob's show. Bruce Willis has a charming role as a vulnerable middle-aged wise-ass--probably not too much of a stretch acting-wise--and Blanchett is adequately nutty as the housewife-cum-accomplice. But Billy Bob's neurotic, hypochondriac, yet intelligent Terry always gets the last funny word. Billy Bob delivers my favorite line in the movie: "Kate is an iceberg waiting for the 'Titanic.'''
Bowen: Yeah, that was a good line. Although I live to disagree with my colleague, I'd have to say the same thing. Thornton is wonderfully neurotic in this and is the one who goes through the most changes. However, as a collective three, the actors worked enormously well with one another. I'm thinking there might be a sequel.
Hollywood.com: And movies of this nature--crime sprees, bank robberies--which one is your favorite?
Bowen: Well, I absolutely loved Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid precisely for the same reason I liked Bandits. It's about underdogs, in a way, committing crimes, but doing it with a sense of humor and not for evil. And how I love to watch how the characters deal with each other.
Davis: I tend to go more for the glamorous side of heist movies, rather than the zany comedies. My favorite is The Thomas Crown Affair remake with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo. Very classy, very debonair, and incredibly fun to watch.
Bowen: Ah, but Noah, the original Thomas Crown Affair with Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway was so much better. Silly boy.
Hollywood.com: It's clear that Barry Levinson is a major talent in Hollywood. What makes the films he's directed so well-done and so popular?
Davis: Levinson isn't perfect. He has peddled his share of slick, sentimental junk (The Natural, Toys,). Still good movies, of course, but he's beloved for his scrappy wit and the wry sense of human oddness that distinguish works like Bandits, Diner, Tin Men and the early episodes of the NBC series Homicide. Levinson also knows when to release the directorial reigns and allow his actors to take over the scene, providing us with some great, real pieces of dialogue.
Bowen: I'm not a huge fan of Levinson's movies, especially his classics like Diner and Tin Men. I characterize those films more as "guy flicks" than anything else. I know I'm in the minority here, and I'm sure Noah will have a field day with my comments. However, I do feel Levinson has a way with his actors and allows dialogue to flow naturally. My favorites of his might have to be Rain Man and Wag the Dog. And now Bandits.
Davis:Kit's right. I could have a field day with her comments. Diner, though dominated by a male cast, isn't a "guy flick" any more than Sex and the City is a "chick flick," um, television show. If there's witty banter and an honest portrayal of relationship, it should be interesting to everyone, and that's ultimately what Levinson's movies give us.