See what I do for you people? I suffer, so that you might live. Ever catch a family member sniffing your underwear? I haven’t either, but I suspect it feels something like how I felt leaving the theatre. Filthy, inappropriate, violated, and over all, uncomprehending of the appeal. It’s not like I didn’t know what I was getting into when I went in; I’d seen the grating previews with the wildly un-Seuss-like humor, squat Mike Myers cat, and flat jokes. They wouldn’t use the worst bits in the preview, would they? Well, for the editors, I suspect it was like trying to decide which vegetables in the crisper were the least slimy. Nothing worked, it was embarrassing to watch. My most positive and tolerant companion (would you believe I found two to go?) laughed twice. Run, Dakota Fanning, run!
I loved The Grinch (also Seuss, also Imagine Entertainment and also produced by Brian Grazer) – and I caught some flack for that, accused of being hypnotized by the production design (and this was back before I worshipped Jim Carrey). Well, this seals it: the Grinch rocks and the Prat in the Crap stinks. The comparisons are inevitable; same beloved author, same whimiscal imagery to draw from, same production company… Sad to say, I can’t even lay all the blame on Mike Myers (unless the terrifying and inappropriate bits were all his, and he defied cooler heads advising him to do differently – not unlike what I suspect happened with Goldmember.) but I am happy to, since he had the power to make it less…grating.
If you’ve seen the preview (and if you have seen any electronic media in the past six months, how could you not), you have seen a surprisingly large chunk of the film – much more so than you can even imagine. But did you know Alec Baldwin is in it? Although his character is misused and poorly defined, Alec can bring a twinkle into any scene he’s in, as can Sean Hayes (in dual roles as Mom’s Boss and the voice of the fish). But their twinkles cannot save us from the malevolent, abritrary, improper, and unpleasant Cat. In a film marketed to children, should we talk about “laying off the sauce,” especially when it cannot be “re-interpreted” as say, laying off the Hershey’s chocolate sauce – when it’s merely an admonition to a 10 year old to quit drinking booze? Where did that come from? And it’s not like the adults would find it funny, it’s just – disjointed.
Yes, the real Cat is an agent of chaos and disorder and fun (if you do it right), but this Cat is a mugging, selfish bastard who has no joy in his wackiness. His randomness is not funny, it’s just…wrong, it’s malevolent, it’s adult in creepy ways. The digressions (again, like the character of Goldmember) seemingly were designed only to annoy. The self-indulgence is painful to watch. And the Bert Lahr/Brooklyn thing is not Bugs Bunny sassy but Kawfee Tawk Lady hateful. Oh and he’s a Seuss icon who *can’t rhyme.* He wants the “pull an anvil out of my pants” absurdity of the Warner Brothers cartoons but instead it’s a painful prop-comic-who-opens-for-Gallagher wince-fest.
The kids seem utterly terrorized and unhappy at every turn, and yet invisible paws shape their mouths into dialogue like “this is awesome!” They are reacting as they should, in frustration, horror, fury, disgust, and yet somehow at the horribly unsatisfying end, they get Stockholm Syndrome and love the Cat. I know I don’t do spoilers, but believe me, nothing could spoil this movie.
The genuinely fantastic production design crew (led by Aex McDowell who also designed Fight Club and Minority Report) does a brilliant job making a cartoon world. Painfully, when the house goes all flooey thanks to some kind of time space twisty dealio that comes from the Things’ boxes (I don’t know, you see it in the preview), what happens is the kids and Cat move through it like a ride, not interacting with anything, not *using* the house’s deformity in any kind of plot way, just la la la looking at it and then – and this was my muttered joke one second before it was on screen – PLUGGING THE (inevitable) UNIVERSAL STUDIOS RIDE. What a waste of the talents of the art department, but let’s give them a hand! (And that perfectly fab purple sticky stuff was cool too.) Inexcusably, director Bo Welch is a long-time production designer and art director, so he should have known to use the marvelous creations his crew developed.
Now, the rash of product cross marketing with the Cat has been embarrassing at most: Citibank, AMC, Burger King, Jif, Pespi, Smuckers, Hershey’s, Kellogg’s, Kraft, and, for the kids, Febreze, Dawn, Swiffer, Mr. Clean, Cascade, RayOVac, and the US Postal Service (Thanks, KD!). Oh yeah and if you see a car not made by Ford in this movie, let me know. It’s disgusting and depraved, and now I can’t even look upon the original without its being tainted by this abomination. Argh!
MPAA Rating PG
Release date 11/26/03
Time in minutes 82
Director Bo Welch
Studio Universal & Dreamworks