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3/15/08

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I didn't think too much of the trailer for Horton Hears A Who, it didn't make it look like a particularly good film. And I abhor the uber-celebrity casting for these animated films, it usually ends up being more distracting than anything, as I always imagine these stars behind the mic, instead of getting involved in their characters. I honestly haven't been that impressed with the latest crop of computer-animated films outside of Pixar's work and the inspired Surf's Up; the magic has worn off, and most of them have become as bland as any standard Hollywood production. But it had been a few months since anything kid friendly had been released, and we wanted to take our son to see something, and this was the only thing that fit the bill.


Like every American kid I grew up on Dr. Suess books, I love everything about them and still do; they are my favorite thing to read to my son. Sadly we haven't had a good Dr. Suess film adaptation, since the original animated Christmas classic, How the Grinch Who Stole Christmas; the two live action adaptations, The Grinch and The Cat and the Hat both landed somewhere between slightly bearable and putrid. So I didn't have great expectations for Horton Hears A Who, but as soon as the first scene started to roll, they started to rise. The film gorgeously creates the great adventure of a drop of dew rolling and falling through the entire jungle of Nool, before it knocks loose a tiny speck, that is in fact the world of Whoville.


The speck is sent floating by Horton, a happy, go-lucky elephant, who is swimming in a nearby stream. With his huge ears, Horton is able to hear the quiet screams of the Who's as their tiny world goes floating by; he manages to save them, just before they're dunked in the water. Jim Carrey is really wonderful as Horton, I thought he might get to crazy with the role, but the filmmakers keep him mostly reigned in and in character. Steve Carrell is also good as the Mayor of Whoville, who Horton communicates with, and promises to save their world by placing their speck on a protected flower at the top of the tallest mountain in Nool. Carol Burnett plays Kangaroo, a cranky WASP of woman, who doesn't like Horton's large heart and imagination influencing the jungle's children. Unable to keep her prejudices to herself, she sicks a nasty Vulture on Horton; and then to really make sure he doesn't complete his quest, organizes a huge rally of animals, by playing with their fears.


I was really surprised by how caught up in it all that I got. The way they present this children's story, translates so well to so many aspects of our real life issues, that it took it to a whole new level. I guess the anti-abortionists have grabbed on to Horton's saying "A person 's a person, no matter how small they are."; which fits for their purposes, but I took it to mean, that a person is a person, no matter the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, their religion, whether they have disabilities or not; meaning that no one should be discriminated against, no matter what, and that's a wonderful message to convey to kids, and it's done in a very entertaining way.


The film is beautifully animated, the opening scene as they fly through the jungle is so luscious that it looks more real than real; all the characters are very nicely created and done in a true Suess style. The narrator reading lines directly from the book, is a very nice touch. They don't ham up the story with all kinds of pop-culture references, keeping it timeless. I felt there was only one small misstep in the entire film; when the characters all break into song for a few minutes, but it was brief, mostly the film stays very classic. If every Dr. Suess book could be as faithfully adapted as Horton Hears A Who, I'd tell Hollywood to bring on as many as they can make. Unfortunately I don't think that's realistic. - Grade: B+


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