Horton Hears a Who

This review first appeared in The West Australian on March 25, 2008.


Horton Hears a Who is rated G, stars Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, Carol Burnett and was directed by Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino

I gave it 3 stars


More than 50 years since they were first published, the books of Dr Seuss are still enjoyed by children of all ages.


His whimsical rhymes and slightly surreal characters have long captivated the imagination but sadly the films of The Cat in The Hat and How the Grinch Stole Christmas left many critics and viewers disappointed.


Carefree elephant Horton is the latest Seuss character to make it to the big screen, this time courtesy of the team behind the Ice Age movies and minus comedians in garish prosthetics.


The computer generated animation, as one would expect, is colourful, lavish and detailed, as evidenced in one of the early scenes where a playful Horton sculpts his floppy ears into a bathing cap. He then has a swim and shower in what appears to be real as opposed to animated water.


The jungle environment is dazzling but the out of kilter, Eshcher-like world of Who- ville is the most magical, particularly the detailed fur of the tiny Whos.


While the look is enchanting, the story is a little less so. Like the original book, the plot is a fairly simple one about courage, loyalty and determination in the face of adversity as Horton speaks up for the little people and takes a stand against mob mentality.


There are some modern allusions and issues thrown in for padding as well as the occasional superfluous cinematic reference; it seems no children’s movie is complete these days without the odd line only adults will get.


Horton (Jim Carrey) hears a noise coming from a speck of dust and soon learns from the Mayor of Who-ville there is an entire microscopic community living on the speck.Unless Horton can put the speck (now resting on a clover flower) some place safe the residents of Who-ville could be wiped out.


Deciding that “a person’s a person, no matter how small”, Horton sets off to put the speck in a mountain cave.But Horton faces a major obstacle in his heroic quest, the sour kangaroo (Carol Burnett) who doesn’t believe anything she can’t see can possibly exist.


Kangaroo enlists Vlad the vulture to eliminate the speck, fearing the jungle children will be inspired by Horton to use their imaginations.The Mayor (Steve Carell) has a similarly hard time convincing the residents of Who-ville that their lives are in danger.


As the pompous town council remind him, nothing bad has ever happened there before, so why should it now?


Two of the film’s highlights are a sequence in which the characters revert to simple line drawings as found in the Dr Seuss books, and another more surreal one inspired by Japanese anime.


There’s a wealth of voice talent in the film (I particularly enjoyed gruff Seth Rogen as Horton’s mouse friend Morton) but the star power working behind the scenes will be lost on the little ones to whom this film is best suited.


In fact, my junior companions were more impressed by the inventive and growing cacophony from the tiny nameless Whos trying valiantly to make their tiny voices heard in Horton’s world.


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