Written by El Puerquito Magnifico
Horton Hears a Who! is the third feature film based on a Dr. Seuss book to hit the big screen and the second to feature Jim Carrey in the title role. Excellent CGI animation, celebrity voices, and a timeless tale combine to create a modern classic that will entertain children and adults alike.
Horton is a caring and loyal elephant who has managed to maintain his childlike innocence and imagination despite growing up. These qualities have allowed him to become a great teacher and friend to the children in the jungle and end up sending him on the greatest adventure of his lifetime. Upon discovering that a microscopic civilization called Whoville exists on a speck of dust which has settled on a nearby clover, Horton aspires to find a new home for the denizens of this tiny city, safe from the many dangers of the jungle. Standing in his way is Sour Kangaroo, a skeptical busybody whose only goal in life seems to be to keep everyone else from having any fun. She makes the rules in the jungle and feels that Horton’s nonconformist attitude and creativity threaten the order that she has strived so hard to enforce. But Horton is committed to the very end. His mantra is repeated many times throughout the movie: “I meant what I said and I said what I meant, and an elephant’s faithful 100%.” Undoubtedly, these are words to live by.
There are a lot of high jinks and trouble along the way as Horton communicates with Ned McDodd, the addled Mayor of Whoville and the only one in the city who is aware of Horton’s existence. Ned comes from a long line of mayors and hopes that one day he will be ranked among the greats, despite being blocked at every turn by the Chairman of the City Council, who thinks him nothing more than a buffoon. The citizens of Whoville eventually gain confidence in Ned, as does his son JoJo, who can’t understand his father’s desire for him to follow in his footsteps as Mayor. Meanwhile, Sour Kangaroo is doing a good job of whipping the jungle inhabitants into a frenzy over what she believes to be Horton’s imaginary city on a speck. As the story progresses, her wish to maintain order turns into a maniacal desire to crush Horton’s spirit. I won’t tell you how it ends, but as you might expect, everyone learns a lesson from Horton.
For my money, this movie was more than just a whimsical romp or the latest animated kids flick. It was an incredibly heartwarming and hilarious story that managed to be completely modern while staying true to the spirit of Dr. Seuss’ book. The messages of loyalty and honor as well as the idea that “A person’s a person, no matter how small” are universal themes that can be understood by people of all ages from all walks of life. There are lessons to be learned in this movie that no child can afford to be without. Beyond that, I thought it was quite funny and as a fan of Dr. Seuss, I was not at all disappointed with this interpretation of his work.
I’m not usually a big fan of celebrity voices in animated features. For one thing, kids usually don’t know and more often don’t really care who they are. For another thing, there are plenty of voice actors out there who have studied and trained to perform in cartoons. Giving the job to a big-time actor deprives someone else who is probably more deserving of gainful employment. However, I have to admit that I enjoyed every performance in this film. Sure, you can tell that Mayor McDodd is Steve Carell and Sour Kangaroo is obviously Carol Burnett, but it doesn’t overwhelm the movie. Despite his very familiar voice, I never heard Jim Carrey as Horton; I simply saw Horton.
The animation is awesome as well. Blue Sky Studios once again give Pixar a run for their money with astonishing CGI animation. Even if I hadn’t liked the movie as much as I did, I couldn’t help but marvel at… everything. The characters, the settings, the leaves on the trees just looked fantastic. The only real drawback to the movie is a more personal one. While there are a few pop-culture references strewn throughout the film, they just sort of blend in and don’t seem out of place or feel like they’ll be dated and irrelevant in a few years. The addition of REO Speedwagon’s “I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore”, on the other hand, felt like it was shoehorned in as something for the adults in the theater to enjoy. The rest of the film immersed me in the very unique world of Dr. Seuss and the addition of that song completely pulled me out of it, nearly ruining the movie. It just didn’t fit. Again, that might just be me. If you aren’t the type to be bothered by such things, pay no mind to the last few sentences.
The DVD has tons of special features detailing the themes of the film and the methods through which it was brought to the big screen. If you have any questions about how anything was done, they ought to be answered by the time you finish with all the extras. There’s also director commentary, deleted scenes, a sneak peek at Ice Age 3 and an all-new Ice Age short titled “Surviving Sid.”