Cat Out to Steal Elf ’s Christmas

New Line Cinema got an early Christmas present when its Will Ferrell comedy Elf shot up to No. 1 at the box office last weekend. But can the North Pole survive another siege by Ted Geisel? We’ll see this weekend as Universal releases the EFX-heavy Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat in theaters across North America.

Based on Geisel’s classic children’s book of the same name, The Cat in the Hat stars Mike Meyers as the title character, a magical feline who unleashes the imaginations of two bored kids and wreaks havoc on their home. The tykes, played by precocious child stars Spencer Breslin and Dakota Fanning, then have to put things back in order and get the cat out of the house before Mom gets home.

The film’s digital-EFX work includes a CG fish, animated by Rhythm & Hues, who provides some stiff competition for Meyers in the laughs department. Also contributing to the digital wizardry is Edge FX, Stan Winston Digital, Soho vfx and CobaltFX.

The Universal Pictures, DreamWorks S.K.G., Imagine Ent. and Alphaville Films co-production is directed by Bo Welch and produced by Imagine topper Brian Grazer. In 2000, Imagine had a hit with another Dr. Seuss favorite, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Directed by Ron Howard and starring Jim Carrey, the live-action update opened to $55 million and went on earn more than $260 million.

Cat has been receiving mostly bad reviews (with critics oh so cleverly expressing disappointment in rhyme) but a built-in audience, an aggressive marketing campaign and Meyers’ appeal should ensure healthy opening-weekend box office. Publisher Random House is also benefiting from the efforts of the film’s marketing team. Hype surrounding the movie has sent the book back on The New York Times’ Best-Seller list.