Slick trick Dr Seuss slammed

19th March 2004 at 00:00
Coming soon to a classroom near you: the all-star madcap, Hollywood experience that one critic described as similar to "being run over by a garbage truck that backs up and dumps its load on top of you".

The film version of The Cat in the Hat, the 1957 Dr Seuss rhyming picture book for children, has been condemned in terms that leave no room for ambiguity.

During its US run, the New York Times called the film "a gruelling, chaotic stew of forced whimsy". In case its garbage-truck analogy was insufficiently explicit, online magazine Slate called it "one of the most repulsive kiddie movies ever".

Now Universal Pictures, the film's distributor, has decided to send 23,000 promotional CD-Roms, containing educational games and teaching material based on the film, to primary schools across Britain.

The $90 million (pound;50m) film, with Austin Powers star Mike Myers in the title role, tells the story of two children whose lives are interrupted by the sudden appearance of a cat in a hat, which wreaks havoc on their home.

The CD-Rom emphasises the educational value of the tale. It includes a series of rhyming and vocabulary activities, inviting children to compose their own sentences using Dr Seuss's idiosyncratic language.

Julie Green, who compiled the resource for Film Education, the media-studies organisation, said: "Dr Seuss was interested in developing word-play. So we're using this multisensory experience to help children's understanding of the written word."

Along with the educational material, the CD-Roms also include a promotional element, including film clips, trailers and behind-the-scenes information, designed to encourage pupils to see the film when it is released in Britain on April 2.

Anne Fairhall, of the National Association for the Teaching of English, said: "The motives look suspicious. It seems an exploitative promotional exercise."

Shirley Skinner, head of Whitehall primary, in Waltham Forest, north-east London, is equally resentful of attempts to use her school as a source of cheap advertising. "These people use schools as an easy way of accessing children en masse," she said.

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