March 31, 2008

HORTON HEARS A WHO is the latest attempt to bring the classic works of Dr. Seuss to the big screen. Unlike the first attempts, this one actually succeeds very well. In fact, it’s the first one to actually get it right. For those of you not raised on the good Dr.’s works, here’s the story. Horton (voiced by Jim Carrey) is a lovable elephant who has exceptional hearing, thanks to oversized ears. One day (the 15th of May, to be exact), Horton happens to hear a small voice coming from a tiny speck of dust blowing past him on a breeze. Horton believes that someone is living on the speck. This does not sit well with his jungle neighbors. It does not sit especially well with a Sour Kangaroo (voiced by the legendary Carol Burnett), who cautions Horton to keep his discovery to himself.

Horton soon discovers that it isn’t just one someone living on that speck, but an entire town. Yes, readers, it’s the legendary Whoville. We learn that Whoville is a town that is completely convinced that everything is wonderful, and that the Mayor (Steve Carrell of THE OFFICE, and Carrey’s costar in BRUCE ALMIGHTY) has the responsibility to make sure that everything stays that way. When the Mayor discovers his whole world is nothing more than a speck on a clover, that’s when the trouble starts for both the Mayor and Horton. Horton has to find a safe place for the speck, and the Mayor has to convince everyone that life isn’t always perfect.

One thing that makes this movie work so well is the visual comedy. Every time Horton, or the elements, or the evil Vlad Vladikoff (Will Arnett) does something to the speck, no matter how small, the effects in Whoville are enormous. In one hilarious scene, the Mayor has to face a root canal while Horton tries to cross a very shaky bridge. It’s the worst nightmare of everyone who’s had a fear of the dentist chair come to life.

The animation is another big plus. The jungle is not only full of Seussian animals, but looks very realistic. The field of clovers in which Vlad Vladikoff eventually hides the speck is also breathtaking. As for Whoville, the Dr.’s trademark use of rounded corners, impossible walkways, and bizarre contraptions are all given a terrific three dimensional look.

Most importantly, the movie has HEART! The GRINCH tried to have heart, and almost succeeded, but it felt forced. THE CAT IN THE HAT had absolutely no heart at all. HORTON does have heart, and it’s absolutely in the right place. I won’t spoil the ending, again for those of you who have no background with the story at all, but it is a payoff well worth the struggle that Horton goes through. It also has very positive messages about creativity, open-mindedness, friendship, and, yes, even faith. And let’s face it, couldn’t we all use a little more of at least SOME of these things?

Since this is my first review, I suppose it would be a good idea to discuss my rating system. I like the star system the best, because it’s the one we all seem to be the most familiar with. So, if I give a movie 4 stars: ****, then it’s a must see. 3 stars: *** a few small issues, but still achieves what it sets out to do. 2 stars: ** enough flaws to make me doubt I’ll want to see it again soon. 1 star: * the movie could have been SO much better. No stars means that I want those two hours of my life back. HORTON definitely gets….****.


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