Monday, March 17, 2008

HORTON HEARS A WHO! - by far the best of the recent Dr Seuss adaptations

Even though you can't see them at all, A person's a person, no matter how small.
Like many of you, I grew up reading Dr Seuss, so his books are a cherished part of my childhood.* That's why it hurt so much when Jim Carrey and Mike Myers' live action versions of his books were less CAT IN THE HAT than Smelly Cat. But prejudice aside, I am pleased to report that HORTON HEARS A WHO! is a giant step forward. First off, the minute you see the animation you realise how intrinsically right it is to forgo actors dressed in prosthetics. Dr Seuss should feel whimsical and magical rather than forced and deliberate. And no matter how good Carrey and Myers are as comedians, they never managed to make all that make-up seem, well, natural. Directors Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino also make the right choice in keeping a lot of Dr Seuss' famous rhyming couplets in a voice-over narration from Charles Osgood. I particularly liked their little conceit of having Horton day-dream in Seuss' trademark 2-D style!

But back to basics. For those who don't know, you're in for a treat! Horton is a large, happy-go-lucky elephant who stumbles upon a delicate little speck sitting on a flower. He hears a little voice and makes contact with the tiny little Mayor of Who-ville, who lives in a miniature world upon that very speck. Horton and the Mayor realise that unless Horton can put the speck in a safe place, Who-ville will be destroyed by all the commotion. But first, Horton and the Mayor have to gather the courage to hold on to their belief in each other's existence; and to fight for the right to br heard, no matter how big or how small they are.

The directors handle the animation beautifully and the voice-cast also do a superb job. Steve Carell is charming as the Mayor and Jim Carrey is absolutely hillarious in a slightly more modulated performance than he typically gives. The script-writers manage to keep to a minimum the post-modern in-jokes that cover modern animation like poisonous pustules. And the defiantly pop-culture reference they do include - having Horton imagine himself as a manga hero - is absolutely brilliant. My only slight criticism is that the material is too thin for the run-time. Frankly, they could've trimmed the film down to 70 minutes and we would have all gone home as happy as after 85 minutes but without having mainlined as much glucose from the tofee popcorn.

HORTON HEARS A WHO is on release in the USA, Argentina, Chile, Germany, Russia, Singapore, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Estonia, Iceland, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Spain, Belgium and the UK. It opens next week in Egypt, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Australia, Hong Kong and Croatia. It opens on March 27th in Croatia. It opens in April in France, the Czech Republic, Greece, Israel, Italy and Turkey. It opens in May in South Korea and in Japan in July.

*I even went to the same college as Dr Seuss, although I must confess that by the age of 16, the fact that John Le Carre was an old boy was far more impressive to me.


  1. I agree, that anime sequence was great, but I have a rather different point of view.

    Due to the way he wrote his novels for us from non english speaking countries yhe short tales from Dr Seuss are almost unknown.

    And adding insult to injury we must stand the dubbed versions thusly being denied the work of Carrey and Carrel

  2. Thanks for your comments, Jiff. It's great to get your perspective. Certainly, one of the best things about the movie was Carrell and Carey's performances, so if you don't get those the tone of the review would be much altered.

  3. Gotta say I loved this movie. It was as quirky as it way loveable! That is all!

  4. Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who is classic, i forgot how much that guy packed into such simple storylines... they didn't add much to the original story either except for the usual Jim-Carryisms.