Bark review: the cat in the hat comes back

Posted by on Jun 17, 2016 in Blog | No Comments

This post was originally published at Bark on June 17, 2011


this cat *is* in fact as harmless as he looks, despite what sally says.

whether with books or movies, sequels are tricky business.  sometimes you can take advantage of a reader’s/viewer’s already established interest in the fictional world and just focus on elevating the awesomeness.  and sometimes you get the godfather iii.  i’ve never actually seen the third godfather movie, but i hear it’s pretty terrible.  like, soul-crushingly so.  personally, i like it when sequels take a turn for the darker—vader chopping off his luke’s hand and revealing his parental tie to him while han’s frozen in a carbonite block processing his former best friend’s betrayal being a perfect example.

so after the empire struck back, forgive me if i came to this book expecting the cat in the hat to get a little sweet revenge on those good-for-nothing goody two shoes, sally & her stupid narrator brother.  i mean, that little boy is such a flat and ultimately uninteresting character, he’s just begging to be fucked with, isn’t he?  and sally?  she starts off this book bitching about the last time the cat in the hat came around, conveniently forgetting that the cat cleaned up after himself—every last bit.  and we readers were left to assume mom was never the wiser.  so wtf, kids?  lighten up a bit.  you’re children, for christ’s sake.  though you’d hardly know it to read about them, constantly obsessing over their responsibilities as they do & sitting listlessly inside when it rains, apparently incapable of using their imagination or pulling out a deck of cards.

so, in this sequel from dr. seuss, when sally and the narrator get all bent out of shape over the ceaselessly/completely transferable stain (first in the bath tub, then on mom’s dress, then on the wall, etc.), i’m doubly disappointed.  the kids are still pissing & moaning about a non-problem (that stain can obviously be moved somewhere non-threatening—e.g., all that snow the reader is conveniently set up with at the story’s start), and the cat’s having fun, but not doing any real damage.  and i want those kids to get burned this time.

by the time the stain’s made it’s 5th jump (now on dad’s bed), that tension has pretty much played itself out—a fact seuss must have been aware of, given that he fell back on the old sitcom trick of introducing a cute young face: enter the “little cat a” character.  but rather than be disappointed, i’m intrigued by the possibilities.  maybe little cat a will finally get around to something real, maybe something irreversibly broken.  maybe he’s the character that brings drugs into the mix.  maybe he chops someone’s arm off.  or starts trying to get sally knocked up.  there was a promise delivered but unfulfilled in the first book with thing one & thing two.  they were too easily contained with a simple butterfly net.  little cat a would be serious trouble.  and when little cat a gave us little cat b who gave us little cat c, well, i’m thinking there’s gonna be a goddamn army of tiny cats in hats soon, and there’ll be no stopping them.

but what do these wily cats in hats do?  they fucking clean.  that’s what they do.  and pick up the gag where it left off, moving the stain from the bed to the broom to the tv to milk (wtf?) to a pan to a fan and finally out to the snow.  don’t get me wrong—i easily fell into the “dream” of this world and i appreciate seuss’ facility with language.  he’s obviously got talent.  but this shit needed to be workshopped.  or at least his editor needed to stand up in the wake of the cat in the hat‘s massive success and say “seuss, baby, you’re blowing your artistic credibility on an easy sequel obviously aimed at cashing in commercially.”

anyway, after little cats c, b, and a get the stain out of the house, what do those little brat kids do?  you know what they do.  they bitch about dirty snow.  what a comfortable, conflict-free, and boring life they must lead to get worked up about goddamn dirty snow.  and here’s where you can tell seuss is phoning it in.  rather than use what george saunders calls an “escalating escalation” story structure—which worked so well in the original book—seuss just spins in place by bringing in the even littler cats d, e, f, and g.  and that’s when i’d close the book if i didn’t have to write this damn review.  but i pressed onward, for your benefit, dear bark readers.

and you know what happened next?!?  yes.  yes, you do.  little cats a, b, c, d, e, f, and g had a shitload of fun with pop guns and in the process spread the stain out over the snow even more.  which seuss rather obviously then followed with the introduction of even tinier little cats h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, and v.  why not go all the way to z, seuss?  huh?  we all fucking know it’s coming by now.  and sure enough, little cats w, x, and y then make an appearance to deliver little cat z, who is “too small to see.”

little cat z unleashes the foreseeable/magical/unexplained “voom” and also thus the unsatisfying ending in which a massive stain which ostensibly could have taken over the world just flatly disappears.  exit cat in the hat (and all his little cats).  that’s literally how it ends.  no indication of whether the children have finally learned a lesson, or loosened up, or significantly changed (or not changed) in any way.  with all that snow i expected something interesting to be done with it, but there’s not even an allusion to “the dead” to be found here.  we just get the damn hatted cat leaving.  to which i say, good riddance, sir.  good riddance.  come back again when you’ve at least got a heavy metaphor for me to chew on.

Leave a Reply