DR. SEUSS’ HORTON HEARS A WHO! (2008)
Featuring the voices of Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, Carol Burnett, Will Arnett, Seth Rogen, Dan Fogler, Isla Fisher, Jonah Hill, Amy Poehler, Jamie Pressly and Charles Osgood.
Screenplay by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul.
Directed by Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino.
Distributed by 20th Century Fox. 88 minutes. Rated G.
Hollywood hasn’t been very nice to the memory of Theodor S. Geisel, a/k/a legendary children’s lit author Dr. Seuss (Seuss was Geisel’s middle name), in the nearly two decades since he passed away.
First there was the live action update of How the Grinch Stole Christmas with Jim Carrey mincing and prancing around as the miserable-but-misunderstood title character. It seemed impossible that Grinch‘s lows could be lowered, but the Mike Myers/Dakota Fanning take on The Cat in the Hat was — amazingly — even worse.
Right away, the makers of Horton Hears a Who! show they understand the surreal genius of Seuss in the fact that — unlike those two stinkers — they have made their film animated. Computer animation, granted, so it’s not perfect, but really Seuss’ fractured fairytales cry out for the lack of boundaries and gravity that only animation can really achieve.
The movie is trumpeted to be “From the creators of Ice Age” on the posters — but this is only accurate if you count the money men or the studio. On the talent side, this is dual-directors Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino first film and screenwriters Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul are best known for writing the recent Martin Lawrence/Raven Symone comedy College Road Trip.
Jim Carrey contributes the voice of Horton, an elephant who suddenly realizes a little speck which flies past him in the jungle is in actuality a teeny-tiny little world. Carrey tries to repent for his previous crimes against Seuss in Grinch — and he is only partially successful at it. Carrey works hard to be memorable, sometimes too hard, throwing out little Carrey voices and flourishes which are at odds with the solid, reliable character he is performing.
Other voice work is generally well-calibrated, though the shrillness of Carol Burnett’s kangaroo sabotages the not-exactly-subtle-anyway political commentary of a close-minded local leader.
Horton Hears a Who! feels a little overly padded, taking a very short book and stretching it to nearly 90 minutes just leaves too many unnecessary and occasionally baffling scenes. (What the heck is the deal with the climactic full-cast sing-a-long to REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling”?)
This padding just reinforces the most obvious truth: the perfect format for Dr. Seuss still remains the half-hour television special. If you doubt that, see the classic 60s TV version of Grinch — still the best Seuss adaptation ever.
That said, Horton Hears a Who! is — by far — the finest version of a Dr. Seuss book in recent history.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: March 15, 2008.