The Cat In The Hat

Regular readers of my columns on this site know I have a problem with today’s profit at all costs mentality at the various studios. Long time readers even know that part of the reason I moved to New York City was to be able to have a wide variety of moviegoing choices. I can go to the Angelika or Cinema Village or Film Forum or The Paris or The Quad or The Screening Room and catch a wide selection of foreign and independent movies I might not have seen even in Los Angeles as well as a constant wealth of revival screenings. Film Forum, for example, is starting a six week Kurosawa/Mifune retrospect this weekend. Friends are driving in from all over the Northeast to catch titles like Stray Dog, High and Low and The Bad Sleep Well in addition to the expected Throne Of Blood, Rashomon and Seven Samurai.

Meanwhile, back in Hollywood, Universal and Imagine are trying to squeeze every drop of milk out of their Dr. Seuss cow by preparing The Cat In The Hat for production this September. I didn’t see The Grinch in 2000 because the thought of it made me sick to my stomach. The 1960s aminated version by Chuck Jones worked great for many reasons, including its brevity. While some additional scenes were added in, the crux of the story was kept the same as the book, perhaps because Ted Geisel himself produced the show with Chuck Jones. After seeing the first preview for The Grinch, I knew it was going to be all eye candy and over-the-top Jim Carrey. Judging from the critical reaction from the friends whose opinions I trust, the film was something best left unwatched.

We all know the story of “The Cat In The Hat.” A brother and a sister (in the movie called Conrad and Sally, to be played by Spenser Breslin and Dakota Fanning, respectively) are suffering through their worst day ever, when the magical Cat in the Hat (Mike Myers, in loads of makeup) barges in and turns their lives upside down. It’s short, it’s sweet and you can read it in twenty minutes. So how are the producers going to stretch this story out to feature lengthr Add an assortment of new characters and situations, of course. Now, I’m just going to give you the character descriptions as they have been given to me, and let you decide for yourselves if the producers have the best of intentions for this project…

Thing One and Thing Two: Male and female, they are strange beings who burst out of the Cat’s magical crate. Gibberishspeaking, child-like, mop-topped creatures, they proceed to play pranks and do elaborate acrobatic tricks. Muttering rapidly and unintelligibly to each other, they wreak havoc everywhere. (Casting notes specify gymnasts and acrobatic types who are 4′ 2″ and under with extensive gymnastic and acrobatic experience should be submitted.)

Tony and Andy: 10 to 12 years old. Conrad’s buddies. Mischievous boys are always happy to help Conrad with his latest daredevilish prank.

Denise: 7 to 8 years old. This little girl was once Sally’s best friend, until the two fell out because of Sally’s bossy ways. Denise throws a big party in honor of her birthday, but pointedly does not invite Sally, who is hurt when she learns of Denise’s big bash. Later, however, when a reformed and much sweeter Sally sincerely asks Denise and their other friends for help, Denise is perfectly willing to let bygones be bygones

Drill Instructor: 30 to 50 years old. This shouting and intimidating Marine drill instructor appears in Conrad’s recurring nightmare.

Caterer: In his or her 30s. This caterer is rushing around preparing for Mom’s big bash.

Ms. McPherson: 50 to 80 years old. A neighborhood eccentric, this crazy cat lady is feeding her host of cats when the Cat whizzes through with an unorthodox suggestion.

Dumb Schweitzer Kid: 12 years old. The frequent butt of Conrad’s jokes, this chubby and dim-witted neighborhood boy attends Denise’s birthday party. He mistakes the Cat for a pinata, and gives him some man-sized whacks.

Sushi Chef: 20 to 50 years old. Asian. Male. Rattled when the Fish reprimands him for his line of work, this chef at a sushi bar chases the Fish with fire in his eye and a cleaver in his hand.

Ballet Instructor: 20 to 30 years old. Female. This rapt ballet instructor watches Thing 1 and Thing 2’s acrobatic antics – never realizing that they’re not actual kids.

Raver 1 and Raver 2: 18 to 22 years old. One male and one female. Attendees at a rave. The mellow, obviously drug-addled Raver #1 misunderstands Lorsch’s query. Shocked at being assaulted by Lorsch, Raver #2 remarks “Dude, you must chill!”

Female Customer: 30 to 40 years old. At a sushi bar, she spots the Fish and decides that he looks very tasty

 

Now, I could be very wrong about all this. Maybe I’m too much of a Seuss purist, not wanting to see outsiders muck up Seuss’s vision in anticipation of what kids might like next Christmas season. And it doesn’t thrill me that Bo Welch, while proving to be a great production designer on films like Beetlejuice and Batman Returns, is making his feature directing debut on this, a $90M production. Perhaps I’ll be proven wrong and they’ll make a classic family film for the ages.

But I doubt it.

If you feel you are rightly suitable for one of these roles, please feel free to have your agent contact either the production company or the casting directors.

 

The Scorecard
Director: Bo Welch
Producer: Brian Grazer
Writers: Alec Berg, David Mandel and Jeff Schaffer
Casting Directors: Juel Bestrop, Jeanne McCarthy
Distributor: Universal

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