While the basic plot of the live-action adaptation of The Cat in the Hat rotates around that of the book, the film filled out its 82 minutes by adding new subplots and characters quite different from those of the original story, similar to How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Reviews were critically negative criticizing the film's mature content, and was nominated for eight Razzie Awards.
When single mother Joan Walden is called back to work, she hires a babysitter to watch her kids, Conrad and Sally. Conrad, a twelve-year-old boy, is constantly doing the exact opposite of what he is supposed to do and causing trouble, and Sally, Conrad's eight-year-old little sister, tries to stop his trouble making and is rather bossy and perfect. Their next door neighbor, Larry Quinn dreams of marrying Joan and sending Conrad away to a military school to straighten up his behavior. When Joan leaves, their baby-sitter, Mrs. Kwan, falls asleep. Not long after, it starts to rain outside and the children get bored. They then hear thud somewhere in the house, and as the children go investigate, the Cat in the Hat appears. Once the cat introduces what he is there to do the Fish starts talking, arguing about him being here. The Cat convinces Conrad and Sally to sign a contract which will allow them to have all the fun they want, and will stop anything bad happening. When they make cupcakes out of everything in the kitchen, the cupcakes explode causing a large, purple gooey mess. The Cat tries to clean up the mess with Joan's dress, much to the horror of Conrad and Sally. The Cat then brings in a large red crate, opens it, and releases Thing 1 and Thing 2. Conrad is eager to open the crate again, but the Cat explains that the crate is a transport to his own world, and warns him not to open it; he then locks the crate. As Thing 1 and Thing 2 proceed to wreck the house, Conrad goes against the Cat's rules and sneakily opens the crate. The lock ends up on the collar of his dog, Nevins. Thing 1 and Thing 2 then throw Nevins out the window. Sally fusses over the state of the house, but The Cat warns them that they have more important things to worry about: if they do not put the lock back on the crate, they will be in the middle of "the mother of all messes". The trio puts the babysitter on the crate to buy some time, and chase after Nevins. They end up at the birthday party Sally wasn't invited to; Cat disguises himself as a pinata at the birthday party, kids hit him with plastic bats, and then a bigger kid with a big wooden bat orders them to move out of his way. Conrad predicts that it can't end well and Cat frantically raises a white flag but the boy stands behind him and slams the bat directly into Cat's right groin. The Cat screams for 10 seconds, then he goes into a mental state imagining himself as a woman swinging on a swing while wearing a milk maid outfit. It cuts back to him screaming with his eyes widened and he howls and whoops. Meanwhile, Larry is revealed to be a rude, disgusting, unemployed slob who is too lazy to work for a living, and the only reason he wishes to marry Joan is for her money. He sees Nevins running through the street and seizes the opportunity to try to frame Conrad for being unable to take care of Nevins, just as the TV he is watching is being repossessed by a trio of repo men. Larry grabs Nevins and heads for Joan's office. Conrad, Sally, and the Cat catch up to Larry with a vehicle called the Super Luxurious Omnidirectional Whatchamajigger (SLOW)which ends up being destroyed in a crash as they get there. The trio then trick Larry into handing over Nevins and the crab lock by making him sign a petition with a large, over-sized pen that requires two hands. Having lost Nevins, Larry goes to Joan, and tells her about her children's behaviour. Remembering that the Things always do the opposite of what they are told, Conrad is able to get them to help them get home, and slow down Joan and Larry, by telling them not to do either. While The Things distract Joan and Larry, the trio get back home, unaware that the babysitter has fallen off the crate to answer a phone call from Joan and that all terror is breaking loose as the crate erupts. An obsessed Larry decides to run to the house and tells Joan to meet him there. When Larry catches the kids at the doorway and takes them to the house, the Cat reappears. Larry stumbles backwards while sneezing (due to being allergic to cats), only to fall from a high cliff into the Cat's world. The kids are surprised at what has become of the house, being the "mother of all messes", just as the Cat had warned before. They finally find the crate after passing through the Cat's world. They successfully close it, and the house returns to normal, but then suddenly collapses. The kids berate the Cat for not fixing things, despite the fact that he was not responsible for the mess. He admits that he planned the entire day, so the kids order him to leave. Dismayed, he states that he thought they wanted to have fun, and Conrad tells him that he doesn't know when enough is enough. The Cat then leaves, and Conrad resolves to take the blame for the day's events. Sally decides to share the blame with him, since it was as much her fault as Conrad's, and admits that he is a good brother. Much to their surprise, The Cat comes back with Thing 1 and Thing 2 and a cleaning machine called the Dynamic Industrial Renovating Tractormajigger (DIRT). He explains that, when Conrad opened the crate, the contract was rendered null and void, thus explaining why bad things happened contrary to prior agreement. However, he then explains that it would be reinstated if Sally and Conrad learned from their mistakes. They clean up the mess, and the house is clean and put back together, much to the relief of the kids, who then thank the Cat for everything. The Cat and the Things then leave the house, just in time for Joan to come home. Mrs. Kwan wakes up and tells Joan that the children were "angels" - she doesn't know anything about what happened because she was sound asleep the whole time. But then Larry barges in, covered from head to toe in purple slime and starts telling Joan about the mess and the Cat's world. Not believing Larry (as the house has already been cleaned), Joan declines his proposal of marriage and instead sends him away, much to Larry's sadness and horror and Conrad and Sally's delight. The party goes as scheduled; Joan carries a tray of purple cupcakes, and Sally tells her, "You can make cupcakes out of anything." The film ends with a shot of the Cat and the Things walking away on the street in the sunset.
- Mike Myers as The Cat
- Kelly Preston as Miss Joan Walden
- Alec Baldwin as Lawrence "Larry" Quinn
- Spencer Breslin as Conrad Walden
- Dakota Fanning as Sally Walden
- Sean Hayes as Mr. Hank Humberfloob / Voice of The Fish
- Amy Hill as Mrs. Kwan
- Curtis Persons as Thing One
- Forrest Quilliams as Thing Two
- Dan Castellaneta as the voices of Thing One and Two
- Steven Anthony Lawrence as Schweitzer
- Paris Hilton as Female Club-Goer
- Frank Welker as the voice of Nevins the Dog
- Candace Brown as Secretary
- Victor Brandt as Narrator
- Daran Norris as Announcer
Tim Allen was originally planned to play the role of the cat, but dropped out at the last minute, since Allen was filming for The Santa Clause 2. Coincidentally, Spencer Breslin appeared in both The Cat in the Hat and The Santa Clause 2.
The Cat in the Hat received overwhelmingly negative reviews, getting a 12% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an average grade of D+ from critics in the interpretation of Yahoo's film website.
A characteristic evaluation was that of Ty Burr, writing in the Boston Globe: "The big-screen Cat represents everything corrupt, bloated, and wrong with mainstream Hollywood movies." A number of critics also said that the MPAA should have given the film a stricter rating than "PG", due to the mature themes and multiple double entendres.Template:Citation needed
The film only managed to recoup $101 million of its $109 million budget domestically at the box office; however an additional $32 million from foreign countries brought the films total box office revenue to $133 million.
The Cat in the Hat was nominated for eight Razzie Awards, including Worst Picture, Worst Actor (Mike Myers), Worst Supporting Actor (Alec Baldwin), Worst Supporting Actress (Kelly Preston), Worst Director, Worst Screenplay and Worst Screen Couple (Myers and either Thing One or Thing Two), winning one for Worst Excuse for an Actual Movie (All Concept/No Content). As a result of frequent mature themes, the widow of Theodor "Dr. Seuss" Geisel (who holds the rights to his work) declared that there are to be no more live-action movies based on the works of Dr. Seuss, arguing that the film has clearly deviated from her late husband's family-friendly work.
- Although David Newman composed the film's score, the trailer credited Marc Shaiman by mistake.