Twain said, “If man could be crossed with a cat, it would improve man but would deteriorate the cat.” There is a film that does just this. It takes a man—a well-known comedian at the apex of his career—and contractually obligates him to debase the good name of all cats near and far.
“The Cat in the Hat” (2003) is a death screech emitted from the convulsing corpse of a once great comedian’s now rancid career, a career that once bore us such gems as Austin Powers and Wayne’s World. So, why would anyone watch it, let alone write about it? Well, for the memes.
That is to say: in order to thrive in a postmodern, late capitalist hellscape of wage depression and hate speech echo chambers where language [i.e., truth] is rapidly disintegrating, one must learn to study and speak the graphic vernacular of memes, which is a morphological compression of the cultural dialectic as understood by its own terms of imperialist industry. Memes, in this sense, can serve as an appropriation of those products that were meant to keep the consumer in political apathy. We take ownership of such products and recreate them in our own image, one that reflects our values and our sense of humor—which is inherently political. Any film analysis aspiring to be of widespread value in the 21st century ought to discuss its content in these terms.
It’s no secret that Hollywood’s hivemind is concerned with toy sales more than ticket sales. Countless young artists find themselves underpaid, working on heartless trash peddled alongside Happy Meals and car commercials only to finally point at their name in the credits seven minutes after most everyone else has left the theater.
It’s easy to call “The Cat in the Hat” a bad film. In fact, it’s a brainless gesture. It’s easy. We live in an endlessly hateful culture. Negativity generates clicks. So, why watch or revisit it if you were one of those many unfortunate children burdened with this mess of Burtonesque nonsense nightmare fuel?
Because every reason this movie is bad is a reason to watch it.
It’s a soulless cash grab continuation of the formula that began and should have ended with Jim Carrey’s Grinch. It’s an unending absurdist romp through the mind of Mike Myers, who’s doing his worst Robin Williams impression. And it’s a disgusting blight upon humanity made with money that could have gone toward combating poverty instead of Alec Baldwin’s likely luxurious trailer.
This movie is nothing but bad, but we can use it for good.
We can take the excrement that was peddled to us before our brains were developed enough to make us competent critical thinkers and we can turn it into gold with memes. And we’re already doing it.
If you take time out of your stressful life and watch “The Cat in the Hat”, you will laugh at it. You might even have an existential crisis. Sure, it’s a bastardization of everything Theodor Seuss Geisel endeavored to do, but did you know it was photographed by the same cinematographer as Birdman, The Revenant, Gravity, Tree of Life, Children of Men, and The Birdcage? Did you know Seuss’s widow decided to no longer allow live action adaptations of her husband’s work because of this film? Did you know Randy Newman wrote original songs for this film but they were excluded from the final product because they were deemed inferior to his cousin’s score? Did you know the three writers all wrote for Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm? Did you know that one of those writers, Alec Berg, co-created HBO’s Barry? Did you know the sky had to be digitally replaced with those ridiculous colors because there was too much smog? Did you know this is the third Mike Myers’ film to feature a song performed by Smash Mouth? Did you know Myers was sued for backing out of a contract to make a film based on his Saturday Night Live sketch “Sprockets,” countersued, and came to a settlement where he had to star in this film instead? Did you know that after the failure of this film, Myers thought it was a good idea to go and make The Love Guru?
So much of this film is astounding in all the wrong ways. Yet, I’d be goddamned if it isn’t also a bizarre meta arthouse masterpiece. Try to make this movie. You can’t. Plenty of film students want to make the next Nolan or Tarantino derivative, cliché ridden, over indulgent, non clever visual cheeseburger. But bring me one who legitimately wants to make “The Cat in the Hat” and I will guarantee them a career.
Meme value is real value. One need only look at the meteoric rise of GME and AMC stock or Dogecoin for proof. So, please, if you can distance yourself enough from the gargantuan ennui of general existence these days to appreciate this trashfest and take ownership of it via the ethos of memedom, make it so.