Alternate Title: Horton Hears a Who!
Directors: Jimmy Hayward & Steve Martino
“I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful one hundred percent,” so goes the famous quote from Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hatches the Egg that seems to be even more poignant when scripted for actor Jim Carrey as he lends his vocal talents to bring children’s literature’s best loved elephant to life in Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! From the same studio who created the family films Ice Age and Robots, Blue Sky Studios of 20th Century Fox, directors Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino craft not only the best adaptation of Dr. Seuss brought to screen thus far but also the best family film of 2008 as of this review.
For years, I’ve been wondering if I was simply growing too impatient with animated features, having found myself bored by critical smashes such as the overly long Pixar hits The Incredibles and Cars and struggling to stay awake during films such as Curious George and Bee Movie and although there’s been a few notable exceptions (Surf’s Up, Over the Hedge), I’ve found myself steering clear of animation. However, it wasn’t until I saw Horton Hears a Who that I fell back in love with the concept of bright, magical animated family films that manage to blend positive messages with high flying entertainment and quality humor that gave at least this viewer the same kind of amazing theatrical experience that I had while seeing Finding Nemo or the Toy Story films years earlier.
While on one hand, the film, like several animated works filled with A list stars for better or worse (which take jobs away from voice-over actors), has a boast worthy roster that comprise a comedic dream team in the form of not only Carrey but also Steve Carell, the legendary Carol Burnett, Seth Rogen, Will Arnett, Amy Poehler and Isla Fisher, I found myself forgetting the magnitude of the stars after only a few lines by each were uttered as admirably they began to ham less and instead preferably stick with telling the terrific tale.
For those who, like myself, barely remember the book, I’ll bring you up to speed—moments into the film we meet our unlikely elephant hero Horton who hears a noise coming from a tiny speck on a clover flower, only to discover that he’s listening to residents of the tiny universe Whoville or more accurately, the mayor of Whoville (Steve Carell). Eventually concluding that “a person’s a person, no matter how small,” Horton tries to save Whoville by bringing the flower to a place where it will be protected from outside forces such as the disbelieving kangaroo (Carol Burnett) who feels Horton is becoming a dangerous agitator that must be stopped and hires the Russian vulture Vlad (Will Arnett) to do just that.
Touching, beautifully animated, fast-paced (refreshingly just 88 minutes) and undeniably heroic, Horton Hears a Who is the type of film that will entertain adults just as much, if not more than children as I found myself laughing frequently throughout by the increasingly wild situations and characterizations by the cast.
Note: The book, which was published in 1954 sent some readers and journalists looking at Seuss’ work as a political allegory and in a fascinating sidebar “Who are the Whos?” by Entertainment Weekly’s Adam Markovitz (3/21/08, p42) chronicles three takes on the work, including the two likeliest which saw it as first a look at postwar Japan (which Seuss has admitted) and secondly as yet another 1950’s artistic offering that echoed the political climate of America during the devastating McCarthy hearings.
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