I get no pleasure dumping on stuff made for public television with the aim of educating and entertaining impressionable kids in a healthy manner.
Let me ask you this: What do you think of when you imagine The Cat in the Hat? (I mean the character and the book, not the panned film.)
If you’ve read the 1957 Dr. Seuss book or its 1958 sequel (The Cat in the Hat Comes Back) recently, then you know the Cat to be a chaotic figure. One who toes the line between destruction and playful anarchy. A wrench in the gears of middle-century Leave it to Beaver blandness. He is not a simple animal friend, nor a moral leader, nor a quasi-imaginary companion. (He’s certainly not voiced by Martin Short.)
In short, this Cat in the Hat is not the Cat in the Hat I know.
I haven’t seen the show that this Christmas special comes from. I gather that it derives not from the seminal Seuss classics, but the line of non-fiction sporting the Cat in the Hat that followed (which is another noble pursuit that neutered the character).
This special floats along in a semi-insidious haze of neutrality. The kids, and by proxy the viewers, are learning a few facts about animals and getting character advice about keeping promises (with some “Christmas magic” jarringly sprinkled in), but it is not a film proper, or even a real “holiday special.” It is an educational public service with holiday trappings.
The paper-doll animation is ugly and ungainly (especially for anything not one of the five main characters), the narrative practically nonexistent, the tone toothless kiddie fodder. There’s not even that many facts to learn!
I love PBS and what it contributes to the world, especially for those starved of free meaningful content. I’m a monthly donor. So I give it an honorary salute without actually inflating the rating because I admire the mission. But don’t watch it unless you have toddlers in tow, especially not if you have any reverence for Dr. Seuss’ storytelling sensibilities.
Very Not Good (1/8)
Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.