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).
For bringing in 35 million viewers for its season finale and being television's most popular show, Friends and NBC claimed the prize of top network for the 2001-02 television season. CBS finished a solid second, with its show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the second most-watched show on the air, while ABC and Fox followed in third and fourth place, respectively.
Jerry Lewis returned home Tuesday after staying overnight at a hospital, where doctors made a routine check on a device that Lewis had surgically implanted April 8. The device, called Synergy Neurostimulation System, has helped eased chronic back pain Lewis has been suffering from years of pratfalls. He told the Las Vegas Sun that it has left him pain free for the first time in 30 years.
Actress Jenny McCarthy gave birth to a boy, Evan Joseph Asher, on Saturday. The baby weighed 7 pounds, 13 ounces and is the first child for McCarthy and her husband, director John Asher.
Wasting no time since announcing his departure from Saturday Night Live, funny guy Will Ferrell is set to star in a new film, Action Newsman. He'll play an egotistic local news anchorman threatened by an ambitious female newscaster who, unlike his character, has mastered journalism.
Annette Bening will star in a remake of the Disney film Freaky Friday. The story is about how a mother and her rebellious tomboy daughter, secretly wishing for each other's lives, switch bodies for a day. The original 1976 film starred Barbara Harris as the mother and a young Jodie Foster as the daughter.
In the Biz
Yet another thing the strange Michael Jackson is obsessed with: Sky News reported the Gloved One announced in Cannes that he'll be producing and starring in the film Wolfed, playing a werewolf. He's been fascinated with werewolves since seeing John Landis' 1981 film An American Werewolf in London and got to play one when Landis directed Jackson's music video to the hit song "Thriller."
Director Woody Allen filed a lawsuit last May against his former producer Jean Doumanian, claiming she cheated him out of $14 million in profits, and now Doumanian's lawyer says Allen has overstated what he is owed. According to The Associated Press, Doumanian's lawyer, Lee A. Armstrong, claimed he received a document from Allen's lawyer asking for only $2 million. Allen's camp denies the mix-up, saying Armstrong's "characterization of the document was completely false and uninformed."
Sony Pictures has picked up the rights to yet another Marvel comic-book hero: Ghost Rider. This superhero, named Johnny Blaze, makes a pact with the devil to save someone he loves, but the deal goes awry (as deals with the devil tend to do). Blaze, now embodied with superhuman powers, transforms into a ghost rider to try to reclaim his life, love and soul.
Quickly becoming a powerhouse producer in Hollywood, the multitalented Ice Cube has signed up to produce the comedy feature Race under his CubeVision banner. The film is a fish-out-of-water story about a black cab driver who gets involved in a stock-car race. Ice Cube will not be starring in this particular venture.
Looks like the rash of TV nostalgia shows will finally be tapering off after the May sweeps. According to AP, several TV executives have admitted that they may have overdone it with the clip-filled specials on such shows as The Cosby Show, M.A.S.H., The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Laverne and Shirley. Think so?
Pop-punk band Blink-182 will be making a guest appearance on the 300th episode of The Simpsons this fall. The show has Bart moving out of the Simpson house and into his own apartment, where the band and pro skater Tony Hawk are his neighbors. The episode will air next season.
You can't kill the Dead, man. That's right, the surviving members of The Grateful Dead will be jamming for the first time since lead singer Jerry Garcia died in 1995 of a heart attack, according to the AP. They will perform a two-day concert in East Troy, Wis., Aug. 3-4.
Variety reports producer Jerry Bruckheimer (Black Hawk Down) will be receiving the Albert R. Broccoli Award of Excellence at this year's Cinema Expo in June. Past recipients included producers Saul Zaentz, Brian Grazer and Claude Berri.