Directed by: Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino
Premise: An adaptation of the Dr. Seuss book. Horton, (voice of Jim Carrey), an idealistic elephant, discovers the microscopic world of the Whos living on a spec floating on the wind. Horton takes it upon himself to place the Whos and their world in a safe place while being pursued by those who think he is a menace.
What Works: Horton Hears a Who! is an excellent adaptation. The world of Dr. Seuss fits with the computer animation used by the film, and it is the best translation of Dr. Seuss’ work to the screen. The story includes narration of the original children’s book but expands on the plot and uses it to full effect, adding a lot more humor and filling in the characters and the conflicts. Jim Carrey voices Horton and uses his talents for imitation and character creation to make the silly elephant a full-fledged character on par with Marlin, the parental clownfish from Finding Nemo. Steve Carell voices the mayor of Whoville, bringing his own talent for fast-talking, awkward characters and it plays well into the existential crisis that the mayor finds himself in. The story manages to make the danger to the Whos very real and concrete and this pays off in the climax, which manages to be gripping while consistent with the tone of the rest of the picture. This film also successfully taps into the satirical subtext of Seuss’ work, elevating it in ways that will be thought provoking for adult audiences as well as for children, and remains true to the original text.
What Doesn’t: A few moments betray the film’s tone with Carrey trying to do some the same kind of pop culture humor that Robin Williams provided in Aladdin. It doesn’t quite fit here, but these moments are few and far between.
Bottom Line: Horton Hears a Who! is the best feature length adaptation of a Dr. Seuss book and one of the best animated films of the past few years. It’s a great example of what animated features can achieve when they indulge their source material and commit to characters and story.
Episode: #187 (April 27, 2008)