Horton Hears a Who! (2008)
Horton Hears a Who! (2008)

Genre: Fairy Tale Running Time: 1 hr. 26 min.

Release Date: March 14th, 2008 MPAA Rating: G

Director: Jimmy Hayward, Steve Martino Actors: Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, Carol Burnett, Will Arnett, Seth Rogen, Dan Fogler, Isla Fisher, Jonah Hill, Amy Poehler, Jaime Pressly, Niecy Nash

 


 

“H

orton Hears a Who!” is no longer the lovably simple story of an elephant that unmasks the atrocity of discrimination. Instead, as a feature-length computer animated film, it has become “Jim Carrey Hears a Steve Carell.” While the big name stars might draw the crowds, the audience will inevitably be preoccupied trying to figure out which recognizable actor voiced which animal, minimizing the focus on the extended storyline. The film does manage an excellent job of filling out the running time with side stories and untapped details of Whoville, further utilizing virtually flawless animation and faithful character designs to supplement (or perhaps overshadow) those accomplishments.

Horton the elephant (Jim Carrey) hears a tiny cry for help, emanating from a speck floating in the air above the water in the stream where he bathes. Coming to its rescue, he places it on a clover in the hopes of delivering it to safety in a hollow on a secluded hill. But a sour kangaroo (voiced by Carol Burnett) overhears Horton speaking to the speck, and immediately assumes he is hazardously crazy.

For the safety of the jungle children, the kangaroo demands that Horton abandon his potentially corruptive silliness. But he refuses, since he wholeheartedly believes that microscopic people exist on the tiny speck. And sure enough, they do, led by the mayor (Steve Carell), who has 96 kids, a wife, and a pet fish. The land of Whoville resides on the miniscule dot, and it is similarly populated by unbelievers. Just as Horton must withstand attack and torture at the hands of the doubting kangaroo, the mayor of Whoville must prove to his people that their world really does rest on an elephant’s trunk.

“The jungle is no place to act like a wild animal,” warns the sour kangaroo to her son, who famously resides in her pouch. The jungle is, however, the perfect environment for some of Dr. Seuss’ most memorable characters to come to wonderful 3-D life. From Horton to Morton (which wasn’t in the original) to the mayor of Whoville (who replaces Dr. Who-vee from the 1970 TV version), the iconic designs by Seuss are reinvented in colorful computer models that squash, stretch, bounce, and roll in amazingly realistic ways. The imaginative visuals in “Horton Hears a Who!” are easily its greatest accomplishment, making the film particularly worth watching for those familiar with the wispy sketches that accompanied the timeless children’s book (and who isn’t?).

Expectedly, Jim Carrey has never sounded more like Jim Carrey, which means that the pudgy elephant seems animated around the voice talent of the wild comedian instead of around a fresh design or a nod to the classic short. With spontaneous highs and lows in speech, impressions, and one-liner-jokes, Horton as an individual entity takes a backseat to the overpowering image of the notoriously over-the-top Carrey. Steve Carell is at times a little more subdued, but he too possesses an unmistakable voice that often aids in mentally replacing the furry face of the Whoville mayor with that of his own. Though “Horton Hears a Who!” will certainly be entertaining for its youthful target audience, and serves as a fine visual translation to three dimensions for one of Seuss’ most renowned stories, the use of such impressionable voice actors makes this film feel curiously far away from the Dr. Seuss many will have grown up with.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10