Entries Comments

Horton Hears A Who Is A Who’s-Who of Animated Classics

Horton Hears A Who!
Directed by Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino
Written by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul from the book by Dr. Seuss
Fox, 2008

Fox has been an off-and-on player in the 3-D animation game. They have Ice Age 1 & 2 (and as this film promises with its attached trailer, a third next year) and their lone foray away from Ice Age, Robots. None of these were really all that spectacular. They kind of filled a niche when Pixar and Dreamworks weren’t hitting multiplexes. In Fox’s case, it’s always been March.

The Dr. Seuss big-screen collection has been a mixed bag so far, with the live-action The Grinch and Cat in the Hat having many Seuss followers rolling in early graves. Perhaps no writer in the history of literature is more guarded by fans than Seuss, perhaps because he’s usually the first guy you grow acquainted with in the world of books.

When I first saw the trailer for Horton Hears A Who! I thought it would be your basic Fox cash-in, with some occasional yuks from funnymen Jim Carrey and Steve Carell. I’m glad to report that the originality and fun of the Seuss book remains intact here.

Horton (Carrey) is a pachyderm who is the jungle’s best friend. He goes around teaching other creatures the ways of life, even though he’s woefully misinformed on most of the things he says. So it should come as no surprise that when his big ears pick up a scream from a tiny speck floating in the air, ending up resting on a small clover, no one believes him.

That collective group of voices come from the bustling community of Whoville, who live in a utopia led by their mayor (Carell). They live with no concern that anything could ever happen to their seemingly big world, but the Mayor is beginning to have doubts. Things are beginning to change ever so slightly, but no one but him notices, and the real power of the town, a council of old traditionalists, will hear no of his ideas, especially with a big Centennial bash coming up. Therefore, he and Horton share something in common. No one wants to believe them. Through some sort of horn technology, Horton and the Mayor begin to converse and discuss what must be done. A plan to take the speck high on a mountain where it will go unmolested is hatched.

Horton is under attack by a kangaroo (Carol Burnett), who doesn’t want free-thinkers in the jungle, who only wants to study things you can actually see, hear, and feel readily. She hires a vulture named Vlad (Will Arnett) to destroy Horton’s speck. So Horton has to find a way to make people believe a world truly does exist on that little clover.

Imaginative and funny, Horton Hears A Who! is exactly as cartoons should be. Neither Jim Carrey nor Steve Carell go overboard, and I think it benefits the film in the end, although I don’t think I would have minded it anyway. There are a lot of other good names here: Burnett, Arnett, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Isla Fisher, Amy Poehler, and plenty more. Ultimately the story is so timeless and refreshing. You don’t see this kind of narrative often, really not at all. The idea that a world could exist on a speck opens up the possibility that, hey, we could be living on a speck for all we know.

Plus, it gives you some good subtext about the dangers of shunning science: I like the idea of the “abandoned observatory” in the film. It’s an idea that says so much by saying very little. In this way, Horton Hears A Who! is a richer experience than most cartoons you will ever see. This movie actually reaches fairly close to the heights of Pixar, which I hold in higher esteem than any other studio right now. This is a gem.

Write a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.