Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Archive: 'Horton Hears A Who!'

Movie Review
Horton Hears a Who! (2008)

Hollywood has done its fair share of botching certain Dr. Seuss classics. With 2000's "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and 2003's "The Cat in the Hat," a lot was done wrong. Thankfully, though, there's a sense of renewed hope for the revival of Dr. Seuss's magic with "Horton Hears a Who!," a rich and lively adaptation that puts the other two to shame. Maybe the trick was going the animation route, but whatever it is, something has clicked. The makers of "Ice Age" and "Robots" have kept true to the Seuss vision; they are loving and attentive while adding their own contemporary flourishes without ever being too over-the-top. Like the original 1954 children's book and all of Dr. Seuss' work, this big screen translation provides that signature combination of the eccentric and the ethical without sacrificing anything along the way.

One day in the Jungle of Nool, Horton the elephant (Jim Carrey) hears the tiniest noise come from a speck that just happens to be floating along. It just so happens to be the voices of the residents of Whoville, which is an entire universe that exists in that minuscule speck. Horton miraculously gathers the attention of the Mayor of Whoville (Steve Carell) and soon realizes that the entire fate of the Whos is in his hands. And so, running around with a clover flower upon which the speck is perched, Horton becomes determined to find a safe place for all of the inhabitants of Whoville to reside within their world of a speck. Along the way, though, Horton encounters some resistance including the vile Kangaroo (Carol Burnett) who rules the jungle and holds strong to her belief that "if you can't see or hear it, it's not there."

The Mayor of Whoville has a tough time convincing people that there's a huge elephant in the sky talking to him. Even his wife (Amy Poehler) is skeptical, and he also has 96 daughters to worry about and his one son JoJo (Jesse McCartney) who doesn't talk until a surprisingly crucial point. But the Mayor has no reason to worry as Horton is as determined as can be, claiming that "a person's a person, no matter how small." Even when the snooty Kangaro sends an evil vulture named Vlad (Will Arnett) after Horton, he refuses to give up sticking to his motto that "an elephant is faithful 100 percent!" Horton is accompanied by a hyper-active little rodent named Morton (Seth Rogen), along with a whole flock of bouncy, stretchy, and colorful characters that could only be so brightly conveyed through animation. Along with the animals, an entirely vibrant environment is created with a gorgeous and fittingly goofy visual style that comes from veteran Pixar animator Jimmy Hayward.

"Horton Hears a Who!" is absolute frivalous fun that children will love for its cute characters, and even adults won't be checking the time. The entire experience is exuberantly wacky and pure enjoyment that's erratic and charismatic. There are certainly some random lines and scenes that will catch you off guard, including two bizarre homages to 2-D animation including one that looks exactly like Dr. Seuss' illustrations and another that pokes fun at Japanese animation. There are only seldom pop culture references, and they are tastefully placed, especially a bash on Myspace (cleverly renamed "Whospace"). It's during the end scene, though, where all of Whoville makes a whole ton of noise to announce "We are here!" loud enough to escape their city limits, that the movie truly hits a high note.

The voice acting consists of A-list comedians Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, Carol Burnett, and Seth Rogen, and they all carry a ball of energy with their performances. You wouldn't place Jim Carrey as a bumbling and imaginative elephant, but he fits the part wondrously. Steve Carell is also fittingly frantic and frazzled as the Mayor, and both he and Carrey bring their own comic flair to their characters while holding endearingly true and faithful to the good doctor's original intent. And then the whole adventure ends with a jubilant musical number rightfully between Carrey's Horton and Carell's Mayor singing proudly of triumph and friendship. It's fantastic.

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