Saturday, 26 September 2020
Horton Hears a Who!
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Tuesday, 18 March 2008 13:40


ThumbnailHorton Hears a Who! takes the classic children’s book and turns it on it’s giant, flapping ears. That’s not necessarily a good thing when the source material has sprung from the unparalleled imagination of Dr. Seuss. The original message of acceptance is still in tact, but the 88-minute animated film has been pumped so full of filler that it probably outweighs the enormous pachyderm Horton himself.

The film begins well enough in a lush tropical Suessian landscape where our enormous hero romps and plays without a care. His world couldn’t be better until one day he is bathing in the river and hears a mysterious noise. A small cry emanates from a tiny little speck floating in the air above him! Captivated, he rescues the speck from its windblown spiral and examines it carefully. What if there are tiny little people on that speck being tumbled about through the air and waiting to be saved? Well, Horton’s imagination isn’t so far off, except it isn’t just a few little people but an entire tiny world of creatures called Who’s.

The proud Mayor of Whoville previously had no idea that his planet could be little bigger than a speck in the grand scheme of things. But once he starts conversing with a giant invisible elephant in the sky through a rusty drainpipe, his mind begins to change! Realizing that Horton is the Who’s only hope (try saying that five times fast), he has to work with the elephant until a safe place can be found for the speck that is his planet. Both Horton and the mayor have to convince their friends to believe them before the tiny planet is destroyed.

There are some really good messages that resonate in the film as well as the book. Strong themes of acceptance, trust and standing up for your beliefs ring true and make it a great movie to discuss with kids. Especially in an age where it seems you’re only as valuable as your video game system. Thumbnail

Though Seuss fans may range from big to small, overall this movie is most appealing to children. Parts of the film are amped up to appeal to grownups but these parts feel forced or just plain silly. Too much departure from the source takes away much of the charm and the movie is at it’s best when it keeps it simple, big, bold and colorful the way Seuss was intended. Added elements, such as an entire sequence in which Horton imagines he is a ninja complete with anime-style animation, might provide a chuckle but detract from Suess’ timeless charm.

The “Who’s-Who” of comedic actors that provide character voices is another way filmmakers try to appease the parental crowd. Jim Carrey is 70% charming, 30% distracting as the voice of our title hero. His gentle speaking voice was a good choice, but only when he isn’t given free reign to get crazy. Steve Carrell is great as the Mayor, but many of his scenes are on the dull side. The timeless Carroll Burnett is a perfect kangaroo villainess, mixing just the right tones of mother and malice.

Despite a few missteps, Horton Hears a Who! is considerably better than other Seuss adaptations. The frantic and somehow disturbing live action telling of The Cat in the Hat left audiences cold, as did How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Jim Carrey had to emote through several layers of makeup and silicon to make that character come to life, but Horton requires a far gentler and more subtle performance.

Overall, I think kids will like the colorful characters of the film but might be a little bored. I could say the same for adults. This would have been a brilliant short film, maybe as a double feature along with another Suess tale. As a full length feature it has charm but falls a little flat. I give it 6 out of 10 stars.