The Actress Behind The Cat. Who Plays The Mom in The Cat in the Hat?

Introducing The Cat in the Hat Film

In 2003, the Dr. Seuss classic children’s book The Cat in the Hat was adapted into a live-action family film by Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment. The beloved book, originally published in 1957, told the story of a tall anthropomorphic cat who shows up at the home of two children, Sally and her brother, while their mother is away. With his magic, mischievous hat, the Cat brings all kinds of mayhem and fun into the children’s dull rainy day. The book was an instant hit upon release and helped launch Dr. Seuss into massive popularity as a children’s author. Its wacky rhyming story and unique colorful illustrations have made it one of the most iconic and well-known children’s books of all time.

In the early 2000s, Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment decided to create a big-budget live-action film based on the book, hoping to translate its imaginative world and characters into a new form. They brought on director Bo Welch to helm the project. The film featured Mike Myers of Austin Powers fame as the voice of the titular Cat, and Spencer Breslin and Dakota Fanning as the children. Like the book, the story followed the Cat as he brought chaos and excitement into Sally and her brother’s lives on a rainy afternoon while their mother was away.

Casting the Role of Sally’s Mom

In Dr. Seuss’ original book The Cat in the Hat, the children’s mother is not given a name or much characterization. She is simply referred to as “Mom” and serves as an authority figure who scolds the children and kicks the Cat out of the house for the mess he created.

For the 2003 live-action film adaptation, the mother character needed to be expanded into a fuller role. The filmmakers cast established actress Kelly Preston as Joan Walden, the mother of Conrad and Sally. Preston was known at the time for roles in films like Jerry Maguire, Twins, and For Love of the Game.

According to The Cat in the Hat full cast and crew credits – IMDb, Preston went through an audition process along with many other actresses being considered for the part. Her proven talent and experience likely helped her land the role. The filmmakers felt Preston could bring the right mix of warmth and authority to the character.

Kelly Preston as Joan Walden

Kelly Preston was an acclaimed American actress known for her memorable roles in films like Jerry Maguire, Twins, and For Love of the Game. According to her IMDb profile (, Kelly got her start in acting in 1985 and went on to star in major Hollywood films over the next few decades. Some of her most notable previous roles before The Cat in the Hat included playing Tom Cruise’s love interest Avery Bishop in the hit 1996 film Jerry Maguire and starring alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1988 comedy Twins.

By the early 2000s, Kelly had established herself as a talented and charismatic actress adept at both comedic and dramatic roles. So when the live-action adaptation of the beloved Dr. Seuss book The Cat in the Hat went into production, Kelly was perfectly cast as Sally Walden’s mother Joan.

Kelly’s Performance as Sally’s Mom

Kelly Preston delivered a memorable performance as Joan Walden, the mother of Sally and Conrad in The Cat in the Hat. She brought warmth, exasperation, and humor to the role of the harried single mom trying to keep her household under control.

One of Preston’s standout scenes is when the Cat first arrives and pretends to be a babysitter named Mrs. Kwan. Joan is immediately suspicious of the Cat’s outrageous appearance and behavior. Preston’s skeptical facial expressions and sarcastic line delivery as she interrogates the Cat showcase her talent for physical comedy.

Another highlight is when Joan returns home to find the house in complete disarray. Preston gets to unleash her frustrated reactions, chasing the mischievous Cat around with a bat while scolding Conrad and Sally. She portrays Joan as an everyday mom pushed to her limits by the Cat’s antics.

Although Preston’s role was somewhat limited compared to the antics of Mike Myers as the Cat, she provided an essential straight woman and maternal presence amidst the zany humor. Her performance helped ground the story and is fondly remembered by fans of this Dr. Seuss adaptation.

The Film’s Reception and Legacy

The Cat in the Hat was met with poor reviews upon its release, with most criticism directed at Mike Myers’ portrayal of the titular character. On the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of just 9% based on 163 reviews and an average rating of 3.2/10. The site’s consensus states, “Filled with double entendres and potty humor, this Cat falls flat.”

Legendary film critic Roger Ebert gave the film one star out of four, calling it “all effects and stunts, noise and spectacle.” He criticized Myers’ performance as distracting and off-putting. Other reviews slammed the crude humor as unfaithful to Dr. Seuss’ classic children’s book.

The Cat in the Hat was considered a box office disappointment. It grossed $133.9 million worldwide against a budget of $109 million, with most of its earnings coming from the domestic market. While not an outright flop, it failed to earn back its production costs from the box office alone.

Despite the negative reviews, the film left a cultural imprint. Quotable lines like “Dirty hoe!” became pop culture punchlines, and Myers’ bizarre, over-the-top portrayal of The Cat cemented it as a notorious Hollywood adaptation. Though not fondly remembered, the film remains a point of conversation regarding films that stray too far from their source material.

Kelly Preston’s Later Career and Life

After starring as Sally’s mom in 2003’s The Cat in the Hat, Kelly Preston went on to appear in several more high-profile films over the next few years. Some of her most notable projects included Death Sentence (2007), Old Dogs (2009), and The Last Song (2010) (source).

Off-screen, Preston was an advocate for several causes. She actively supported breast cancer research after her own battle with the disease in 2010. Preston also championed childhood literacy and appeared in public service announcements for the non-profit organization Claes Nobel’s Cure Autism Now (source).

Tragically, Preston passed away in July 2020 at age 57 after a private two-year battle with breast cancer. She was survived by her husband John Travolta and their two children (source). Even after her death, Preston’s memorable performance as Sally’s loving mom in The Cat in the Hat remains a cherished part of her acting legacy.

Other Notable Cast Members

In addition to Kelly Preston in the role of Sally’s mom, The Cat in the Hat featured an all-star cast including Mike Myers as the titular character. As the famous cat who wreaks havoc in the children’s home, Myers brought his trademark comedic skills to the physically-demanding role (

The child actors Dakota Fanning and Spencer Breslin played the roles of Sally and Conrad, respectively. At just 9 years old, Fanning held her own against comedy veteran Myers, while 12-year-old Breslin brought lots of energy to the mischievous Conrad. In interviews, Preston spoke fondly of working with the talented young actors on set.

Other key cast members included Alec Baldwin as the children’s uptight next door neighbor Quinn, and Sean Hayes as the family’s babysitter Mrs. Kwan. The cast’s comedic timing and chemistry brought the classic Dr. Seuss story to life in the unique live-action adaptation.

The Mom Character’s Legacy

Kelly Preston’s performance as Sally’s mom, Joan Walden, in The Cat in the Hat left an indelible mark on audiences. As the harried, workaholic real estate agent mother, Preston perfectly embodied the film’s chaotic suburban household. Though a supporting role, Preston brought heart and humor to the part. Many feel her performance is one of the most memorable elements of the film.

Fans continue to reminisce about Preston’s scenes years later, especially the witty banter with Mike Myers’ Cat character while frantically trying to clean up the house before Sally’s mother returns. Moviegoers found Preston’s stressed out but caring mom relatable. Her charismatic presence resonated with parents and children alike. While the film received mixed reviews, Preston’s acting garnered praise. Her turn as Sally’s mom remains an enduring favorite among fans of the Dr. Seuss classic.

Other Film Versions of The Cat in the Hat

Before the 2003 live-action movie, Dr. Seuss’ iconic book was adapted into a half-hour animated TV special in 1971. Unlike the 2003 film, the animated special featured a very minor role for the mother character, who was unnamed and barely appeared on screen. The 2003 live-action portrayal of Sally’s mother Joan by Kelly Preston expanded the character significantly, giving her a prominent role and complex personality.

While the animated mother remains a nameless figure who quickly exits the scene, Kelly Preston’s Joan Walden plays a key part in the film’s plot as a rule-focused single mom who clashes with the chaotic Cat. Preston gave a memorable performance, portraying Joan as uptight and overbearing yet still sympathetic. This expanded role for Sally’s mom helped create a dramatic character dynamic between her and the Cat that became a core element of the 2003 adaptation’s humor and story.

So while early animated versions minimized the mother’s role, Kelly Preston’s performance as Joan Walden created a far more prominent film portrayal of the Cat in the Hat’s nemesis and Sally’s mom.

Kelly Preston’s Unforgettable Role

Kelly Preston delivered an unforgettable performance as Sally and Conrad’s mother, Joan Walden, in the 2003 live-action adaptation of The Cat in the Hat. As a workaholic real estate agent distracted by her job, Preston perfectly embodied the impatient, stressed-out mom who struggled to connect with her kids. Though jokey and lighthearted on the surface, Preston brought nuance and depth to the role, highlighting Joan’s regrets about her parental shortcomings.

With her charismatic screen presence, Preston made Joan both relatable and sympathetic. Even when Joan lashes out in frustration at the Cat’s antics, we understand her viewpoint as a mother at her wits’ end. This complexity added humanity to what could have been a one-dimensional character. Preston’s performance remains an integral part of the film’s lasting appeal.

Though a box office disappointment at the time, The Cat in the Hat endured as a family classic, introducing Dr. Seuss’s iconic character to a new generation. Preston’s turn as Sally’s exasperated but well-meaning mom is an essential part of the film’s legacy. Two decades later, Joan Walden remains Preston’s most iconic maternal role.

Reflecting on the film’s endurance, critics and fans cite Preston’s sensitive performance as a key reason for the movie’s ability to charm viewers upon rewatching. Though the live-action adaptation had its detractors, Preston’s empathetic and humorous portrayal of a mom in over her head earned widespread praise.

With her nuanced and lively performance, Kelly Preston secured her place in The Cat in the Hat lore, creating an unforgettable character that embodied the film’s spirit and helped cement its status as an offbeat family comedy classic.

Scroll to Top