In 1957 Dr. Seuss published “The Cat in the Hat,” a whimsical story of feline misrule written in infectious four-beat anapestic lines, that forever changed the way American children learn to read. The book’s rambunctious main character and its giddy, slightly disconcerting treatment of mischief in the absence of maternal supervision have proven remarkably durable as generations of children have grown to adulthood with its antic rhymes firmly lodged in their heads.
And now Hollywood, perhaps inevitably, has gone and messed it up. Under the supervision of Brian Grazer, who was responsible for the monstrous “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” three years ago, and with the permission of Audrey Geisel, the author’s widow and the custodian of his posthumous reputation, the first-time director Bo Welch has put together a vulgar, uninspired lump of poisoned eye candy that Universal has the temerity to call “Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat.”