Wonderful Horton a family-friendly reminder
Wonderful Horton a family-friendly reminder
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

HORTON HEARS A WHO! OPENING MARCH 14

"On the fifteenth of May, in the jungle of Nool, in the heat of the day, in the cool of the pool. He was splashing&enjoying the jungle's great joys&When Horton the elephant heard a small noise."

And thus begins Dr. Seuss' classic tale of whimsy, wonder and perseverance Horton Hears a Who!, newly transformed into a beautifully animated family comedy featuring the voices of Jim Carrey and Steve Carell. The surprise here isn't that the film is a bona fide smash hit - that was a forgone conclusion after the first trailer hit theater screens. The shocker is that it is actually borderline great. In fact, for the first time in what may be forever (or at least since 1953's The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T), a Hollywood studio has actually gotten one of the author's signature creations, not just right, put pretty darn close to brilliant.

While that might be a bit of an overstatement, the fact I can even write the words knocks me more than a bit senseless. Recent Seuss adaptations like How the Grinch Stole Christmas (also starring Carrey) and the perfectly abominable The Cat and the Hat haven't exactly made the grade, and while audiences have embraced both Ice Age adventures (whose makers also had a hand in this) in huge numbers I can't really call myself a fan. So never in a million years did I think I would embrace this picture, the fact I did the type of cinematic gift which makes me thankful I get to do what I do for a living.

For those that really don't know (and shame - shame! - on your parents for not reading this book to you), the film follows a pleasantly jovial pachyderm named Horton (Carrey) living in the jungle of Nool who one day hears what he thinks is a cry for help coming from a speck slowly being carried on the wind. Even when all those around him call him a fool and tell him to get his head out of the clouds, the elephant refuses to be swayed, swearing to bring the speck to safety no matter what the cost.

Even though those in the jungle scoff, Horton is right; there is life on the speck. It's the town of Who-ville, and their Mayor (Carell) is on the verge of losing his mind at the thought his entire world's salvation is cradled within the leathery confines of his giant new friend's expansive trunk. But he shouldn't worry. With the jungle against him, Horton perseveres. After all, as he proudly proclaims to anyone who'll listen, "Even though you can't see them at all; a person's a person, no matter how small," and, to him at least, that makes them worth protecting

Okay, so things get a little chaotically hyperkinetic during the finale, almost as if the filmmakers felt viewers needed tons upon tons of activity in order to keep them interested. There is also an absolutely out-of-nowhere musical number that had me seriously scratching my head, placed inside the film almost as if the makers of Shrek stole onto the set and inserted it into the finished product right under everyone's nose.

But that's really it for complaints. The vocal work is sensational across the board, Carrey and Carell joined by other comedic heavyweights like Will Arnett, Seth Rogan, Isla Fisher, Amy Poehler and Carol Burnett (who is flat-out brilliant). More, there is a visual inventiveness to the animation that borders on Pixar's work, some of the movements and motions so fantastically fluid and inspired (yet still keeping the same textures and nuances of Seuss' original drawings) I almost couldn't believe my eyes.

There are some who will find the film to be a little anti-religious, some of the dialogue sounding like it could have been lifted straight out of the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial. Personally, I can't really see it. Like the book, Horton Hears a Who! is about believing in yourself and staying true to your convictions. It is about being the best you can be and not giving in to peer pressure. Most of all, it is about looking at the world through a prism larger than oneself, an idea that - in these uncertain times - sadly feels almost revolutionary.

Horton is an elephant, and elephants are faithful 100-percent. Too bad we human beings can't always say the same thing. Horton Hears a Who! is a wonderfully entertaining reminder that the world is a far larger place than just our front doorstep.