More than half a century after Dr. Seuss’ swell, well-known, and ubiquitous rascal reader Horton Hears a Who! first exclaimed the merits of a person being a person, “no matter how small,” to ankle-biters everywhere, Hollywood has finally tossed enough peanuts into the commercial trough (read: licensing rights) to lure an animated incarnation of the now life-size fella onto the big screen. Reuniting—half the way, anyway—from Bruce Almighty’s live-action work, comic men Jim Carrey and Steve Carell lend voices to the titular pachyderm and the Mayor of Whoville, respectively. As predictably and expectantly true to its source material as any adapted screenplay in the history of moving pictures, family-friendly results knowingly have the earnest mammoth trying to save the lives of the entire town of “Whoville” in the first feature-length animated version of a Seuss book.
Visually looking every bit like director Tim Burton scurried his signature askew comic-book looking human actors for a mischief of CGI-clicking mice, this animated Burton-less tale accomplishes the task of bringing a modicum of liveliness to the good Doc’s 1954 classic jungle-set story. No easy task—for starters—to consider given that the fable is a modest 72 pages; what may seem of ample size for a fantastically illustrated, narrative story geared toward youngsters would seem to have the trappings for a truncated movie script, were it to fall into untamed hands.
Pixar studios leading the herd, digital computer animation tends to be the nearest thing to a movie slam-dunk with its propensity for attracting Mom and Dad and 2.5 lads to the multiplex and the DVD retailer. Trying to keep pace, 20th Century Fox’s animation arm, Blue Sky Studios, spared no expense in bringing this simplistic $85,000,000, 86-minute tale of perseverance to market. Tots and tykes, parents and chaperons, will have to figure based on their own calculations if $988,372 a minute offers sufficient return on potential feel-good G-rated investment.
First with book, and now movie, the size of Horton’s heart doesn’t belie his gargantuan proportions. He’s a peaceful tusker. He wouldn’t hurt a flea, or, as it so happens, anything smaller. That includes the “Whos”—the infinitesimal townspeople that live on a single plant about to be destroyed by some of Mother Nature’s ravenous members. The catch is that no one can see the “Whos,” including Horton. But he, with his elephant-sized ears, can hear them—barely. It’s up to The Mayor of Whoville, married father of 96 daughters and one willfully mute, Goth-looking son named JoJo (Jesse McCartney), to convince all of Whoville that their entire existence is in danger and that Horton, that faceless, thunderous voice in the sky, is their only hope for survival. On the plus, difficult to admit as it is, issues of faith in the face of mortality are sometimes known for moviedom presentation with less caress—[harsh throat-clearing] 2007’s The Bucket List—than is done so here.
Nothing bodacious or beastly, towing the jungle vine, really, Horton will be a main attraction for the moppets, especially the unevenly mannered ones in need of a virtual nanny, buying Mom and Dad, or whomever else so earmarks, the diversionary babysitter respite the modern animated flick seems increasingly destined to service.