Movie Review: ‘Horton Hears a Who’

March 20, 2008, Epoch Times

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The animated adaptation of the Dr. Seuss classic, “Horton Hears a Who” stampeded into theaters on February 14th.  Beloved for generations, this endearing story of a kind-hearted elephant who is determined to protect a tiny society (Whoville) he finds on a speck of dust would, of course, translate flawlessly onto the big screen, right?  Well…

 

…Perhaps not flawlessly…

 

On the upside, the film imbues a sense of admiration of the original Dr. Seuss work.  Most of the elements of the classic storyline are there – and some are quite beautifully portrayed.  The scene in which Horton is desperately sifting through the great clover patch to find the speck, for example, is very well done; and the depiction of every last Who’s frantic effort to make noise to prove their existence feels as if the pages of the book have come to life.

 

The narration of the film in which we hear Dr. Seuss’ fanciful lyric is an essential element and nicely rendered by the soft-spoken Charles Osgood. More frequent narrative would have further enhanced the picture.

 

The film boasts an impressive cast, beginning with Jim Carrey as Horton; Steve Carell as the Mayor of Whoville; and Carol Burnett as the skeptical kangaroo, among others.  These personalities, however, seem to be more advantageous to the marketing of the film rather than the development of the characters they portray.  Unknowns may have been less distracting.

 

The most disappointing pieces of Horton Hears a Who are the non-Seuss extras that were obviously added in to make a book that can be read in ten minutes fill the length of a feature film.   There are a number of sub-plots going on in the midst of Horton’s adventure.  Some are woven in and make sense – like the relationship between the Mayor and his son.  Some are completely unnecessary, however.

 

What’s more, the character development of Horton incorporates a lot of clowning (a la Jim Carrey) that doesn’t seem to fit the compassionate personality portrayed in the book.  The general dialogue throughout the film integrates a lot of catch phrases and silliness that may cut up the kiddies but will lead their parents to roll their eyes. Additionally, there is a fantasy montage that looks like a kung-fu style Japanese animation cartoon that is completely out of place and should definitely have hit the cutting room floor.

 

Part of the beauty of Dr. Seuss’ book, “Horton Hears a Who,” is the simplicity of the story.  The filmmakers here have added in so many distracting elements that they’ve taken what could have been an excellent filmand made another decent movie that just isn’t as good as the book.

 

If you’ve got a rainy day and little ones to entertain – I recommend checking out Horton Hears a Who with expectations low.  If you don’t have the book on your shelf, whatever your age, let the release of this film be your reminder to pick it up.  It truly stands the test of time.

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