“Horton Hears a Who!” and you should too
The message still resonates 54 years later: “A person’s a person no matter how small.” That Dr. Seuss was on to something all those years ago. Considering his books don’t merely stand the test of time but also serve as the backbone of blockbuster movies, some of which are better (2000’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”) than others (2003’s “The Cat in the Hat”), proves the timelessness of the author’s writing.
Blue Sky Studios (the “Ice Age” films), while still lurking in the financial shadows below behemoths Disney/Pixar and Dreamworks, proves more than up to the task in both animation and screenplay acumen. Its artists and storytellers have crafted a brisk film that is as visually stimulating as it is charmingly silly.
Rumor has it Seuss’ wife has decreed no more live-action versions of her late husband’s work, so this go-round the adaptation is all CGI. Pixar transfer and director Jimmy Hayward smartly applies his experience to satisfy both the action-craved little ones who ostensibly are the film’s target audience while giving adults plenty to laugh and maybe even cry about.
Voiced elastically by the never-given-enough-credit Jim Carrey, Horton is that faithful pachyderm whose acute hearing allows him to discover the inhabitants of Who-ville on a speck of clover. His fellow creatures in the Jungle of Nool think he’s gone a little pea-nuts, especially Kangaroo (Carol Burnett), who believes adamantly that if you can’t see something it doesn’t exist. She employs the villainous vulture Vlad (Will Arnett) to get rid of the speck, but Horton becomes even more determined to preserve the microscopic village after conversing with the desperate Mayor of Who-ville (a perfectly sardonic Steve Carrell).
Despite some culture references that don’t ring true, and one Seuss-like animation sequence that feels strangely hallucinogenic, “Horton Hears a Who!” stays true to the short story source material and the by-necessity embellishments don’t overstay their welcome. (Kangaroo seems a little too bitter and the Mayor’s son JoJo is turned into a silent Goth-boy but somehow it works.)
The pacing is fast but rarely feels frantic–a deceptively simple accomplishment in this genre.
The Good Doctor would approve on that you can bet, how much we’re not sure, perhaps one hundred percent.