February 2004 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Gary S. Dalkin
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings / February /

The Cat in the Hat  
Music composed by David Newman
  Original Songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman
  Available on Decca Records B0001610-02
Running Time: 49.02
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cat in the hat

It is simple, sweet, but definitely not serene. The score for the latest live-action corruption of Dr. Seuss' masterworks, The Cat in the Hat, is appropriately cartoonish and yet, given the film it accompanies, unexpectedly sophisticated. Yes, sophisticated. Composer David Newman combines the free-spirited style of his cousin Randy with the explorer spirit of brother Thomas - the best of both worlds - and although the result here is not as delightful as, for example, Galaxy Quest (1999), it does stand as an agreeable diversion.

Newman's 'Main Title - The Kids' starts us off, offering an eight-minute suite of the score's key melodies, virtually all of them bouncy and ideal for the ensuing 'mickey-mousing.' The youthful main theme receives the most variation, playing suburban-through-cosmopolitan through at least a half-dozen other incarnations. There are, however, only a few hints of the little flourishes that decorate later tracks.

Three songs frame the remainder of the album, starting with a cover of The Beatles' 'Getting Better' by rockers Smash Mouth. Mike Myers, in his role as the eponymous feline with headgear, performs two new vocals with comedic pizzazz: the mildly scatological 'Fun, Fun, Fun' by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman is an amusing centrepiece, and their fleeting 'Clean Up' finale provides the requisite witty ending.

Regarding the underscore, the bulk of it follows the tried & true slapstick route-obviously hitting the action, rarely slowing down, and integrating all sorts of musical styles and effects. An electronic 'voice' receives an introduction in the fourth track ('Two Things/Couch Jumping/Leaky Crate'); a bluesy saxophone appears, as does a kazoo. Our first leisurely moment does not appear until a charming piano solo at the beginning of track five ('Military Academy Seduction'), and that is short-lived. There is surfer music, classical, funk, etc., handled with almost as much panache as possible.

Mr. Newman could better incorporate such an eclectic mix by varying his own thematic, stylistic template more. The many clever elements reside on an unenthusiastic foundation, and with 49 minutes of this material the disc narrowly misses wearing out it welcome.

The album production is comparatively bland: credits, several movie stills, an advertisement for the behind-the-scenes movie guide, and no track times. But its brightly coloured booklet can double as a mini-poster... well, that's something else.

"Is it worth it? We want to know.
Is it worth it, the music for this show?"
I pause to consider what answer would be best
for him in a suit, or her in a dress.
"It is hardly mighty," says I, "but by no means a mess..."
The answer heard is a reserved yes.

Jeffrey Wheeler

*** 3

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