Moving Pictures
Mar 18, 2008, 01:08PM

FILM REVIEW: Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!

Seth Rogen, Jim Carey, and others attempt to translate their real world success into computer animation. However a classic children's book gets lost in the process. From The Pitt News.

Horton hears a who poster.jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1

Take one part beloved children's author, two parts animated physical humor, add a dash of comedians on the rise and a whole lot of Jim Carrey, and what do you get?

The film, released in theaters this past weekend, delivers the way it's expected, pleasing hordes of the under-10 crowd with gads of cheap laughs, a few adults-will-get-this references thrown in and, thankfully, it manages not to sacrifice Theodor Geisel's original message.

And while it's not as delightfully fresh as its production-head big brother "Ice Age" was, it's delightful enough to merit more praise than other Seuss adaptations, proving that if you're going to insist on adapting Seuss, it comes best served in kiddie-cartoon form.

The movie doesn't stray far from the plot of the book, in which Horton hears noise coming from a speck on a flower and eventually finds out it's an entire world, Whoville, by communicating with its faithful mayor.

They each face challenges in their quest to return Whoville to a safe place: For Horton it's convincing his jungle boss that he's not making this up while keeping the speck, and thereby Whoville, from harm.

The Mayor - the only Who in Whoville who can hear Horton - must convince his councilmen and townspeople of the veritable danger they face while he struggles to connect with his son, JoJo.
The two worlds finally meet when Horton is caged by his jungle-mates and everyone in the town of Whoville must make noise to let the bigger world know they exist.

It's finally little JoJo, who says nothing for the better part of the film, who comes through and makes the difference, illustrating that each person counts, emphasized by the oft-repeated line of the story, "a person's a person, no matter how small."

It's a feel-good movie, especially for those who meet the age demographic in spirit, if not necessarily in years, and the film does well in adapting a book that takes less than 10 minutes to read into film length, even if that length is a just-barely-making-it 88 minutes.

Writers manage to flesh the story out just enough to fill space without overdrawing it or losing it, save for a "whaa??" REO Speedwagon sing-along at the end.

As far as voice talents in the flick go, it's surprisingly Will Arnett - or perhaps not, for those familiar with his work as the self-absorbed magician-wannabe Gob on "Arrested Development" - who delivers some of the most enjoyable moments in the film.

As Vlad, the Russian vulture assigned to eliminate the speck, Arnett throws his voice into a rough Eastern European accent, approximating English syntax as best he can, and he makes what could have been an authentically scary villain into a lovable, simply misguided one.

Carrey, on the other hand, is disappointing as the fanciful Horton, spreading the character too thinly over incongruous impersonations and voice-overs that become an old schtick 15 minutes into the film.

It's safe to assume producers tapped Carrey for the role based on his previous Seuss-related work in "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," but a less manic persona would have better suited the character.

Carrey isn't bad as Horton - he certainly gives the character a wholesome empathy - but his fast-talking, voice-stretching antics simply become too cumbersome for the part.

Given that the humor mainly comes from physical jokes (a stapler in the head, for example) and not his usual dry fare, Steve Carell manages to keep the Mayor quite Carell-esque, lengthening phrases in awkward moments and cracking his voice in just the right places.

And the producers did right by casting a fresh round of voices into the mix, including Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and Isla Fisher in minor supporting roles.

Visually, as is par for the course nowadays with computer-generated animation, the film looks spectacular.

The animation is clear, and animators satisfyingly keep the cartoonish qualities of Geisel's original work in the jungle characters and their surroundings. Whoville itself seems as if it was plucked right from the pages of the book.

With the relative failures of Dr. Seuss adaptations in the past, filmmakers this time seem to be smart enough to realize that the good doctor can't be improved upon - the best you can do is try not to muck it up.

They avoid this, and the end result is a fun, whimsical movie well within the spirit of Geisel's original work.


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