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So much for Dr. Seuss

Frenetic 'Cat' bears little resemblance to beloved book.

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There's really only one question you need to answer about the new "Cat in the Hat" movie. D'ya like Mike Myers, laddie? Because that's what this film is about: his schtick as seen in the "Austin Powers" and "Wayne's World" flicks.

It's only passingly about the chaotic but lovable character created by Dr. Seuss. See Mike-as-Cat pick up a framed picture of a woman and flip it open like a centerfold while his tail pops up in a signature "schwing!" An outraged little boy says, "That's my mom!" (so much for the dirty jokes going over the kids' heads). Hear his jokes about dirty (tennis) balls, dirty (garden) hoes and, well, you get the picture.

The producers and the star have given plenty of TV interviews talking about how important the book was to them and how they wanted to hold on to the spirit of Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss).

Updating the spirit is admirable, but all they've done here is co-opt the concept, using a 21st century story about a bawdy cat who's shilling merchandise. In advance of the film, a blizzard of stuff has hit stores, including cleaning products, Pop-Tarts, and "A Cat in the Hat" that isn't even by Seuss (it's a novelized version of the screenplay). In the film, the Cat helps Universal sell tickets - not just to the latest vulgarization of a children's classic but to the sister theme parks as well. After the Cat explodes the house, and the whole group zips from one floor to the next on a log-flume-style ride, the boy yells, "This is just like an amusement park!" Myers whips out three Universal Studios tickets and says, "You mean, kids, like Universal Studios?" He winks and adds, "Ka-ching!"

It's a sort of soullessly cheerful cynicism that is about as far from Seuss as one can imagine. "We knew we had to please Mike's constituency," says director Bo Welch, "and there is an expectation from them for all kinds of pop references which we have to satisfy." As for the jokes about tennis balls, Mr. Welch says he also felt an obligation to produce laughs. "You can debate the merits of the line, but when you put it in front of an audience and they laugh, that's hard to deny."

No doubt Myers's fans will find something to like, but others may find themselves quoting the good doctor: "All we could do was to/ Sit! Sit! Sit! Sit!/ And we did not like it./ Not one little bit."

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