Horton Hears a Who! is number three of Dr. Seuss books brought to the big screen by Hollywood looking for a new avenue to draw cash from. This movie is slightly different from The Cat in the Hat and How the Grinch Stole Christmas though. Whereas those two films were really just vehicles for their manic stars to showcase their talents in (Mike Myers as the Cat and Jim Carrey as the Grinch), Horton puts the Seuss message to the forefront.
That message is, “Everyone, no matter how small, has a voice that deserves to be heard and a right to an existence”. Or perhaps in this political landscape it is, “No matter how big and powerful you are (U.S.A. Republicans), you need to be mindful of the little, seemingly insignificant guy”. Whatever it is (you can accept mine or come up with your own), Horton (voiced by Jim Carrey), a goofy elephant, finds himself stuck in the middle of it. “Why”, you might ask, “would an elephant find himself entangled in a situation like this?” It’s because of his ears. They’re so big, he manages to hear a tiny screech from a speck on a the head of flower. Responsible for that holler is the mayor of Whoville (voiced by Steve Carell). He’s a Who, who happens to be the only Who concerned about the strange occurrences happening around town (caused by the random movement of the speck). He’s convinced his only course of action is to protect the Whoville citizens by postponing the upcoming Who-Centennial until Horton places their speck into a safe location.
But both of them are having a hard time getting their assigned roles accomplished. The Whos don’t grasp the idea that they’re not the center of the universe or the concept of bad news. The mayor basically finds himself ostracized by his family and the community as he makes his case. Horton, on the other hand, is catching heat from the self-proclaimed law enforcer of the Jungle of Nool, Kangaroo (voiced by Carol Burnett). She believes imagination is the first step into lawlessness, so she sets out to stop him at all costs. This means bringing in help from the two “crime families” of the jungle – the Wickersham monkeys and Vlad the vulture (voiced by Will Arnett) – in an effort to reestablish her absolute order.
And so the story pings back and forth between Horton and the mayor as they try, up until the very end, to convince those around them that they are indeed telling the truth. It’s mostly cute and funny – Carrey and Carell both bring a refreshing dimension to their characters without overdoing it. I’d also suspect, Dr. Seuss would be proud to see his bright, vivid visions of Nool and Whoville recreated on the big screen. My only caveat is the similarities to the current political climate of the world. Sure, the argument can be made that Horton Hears a Who! follows the original Dr. Seuss story (with a few embellishments of course) and kids won’t be able to connect the dots without some help, but nonetheless, I don’t like it when these kinds of overtones are attached to a movie meant for children.
That being said though, kids will absolutely love Horton Hears a Who!. It’s colorful, silly and has talking animals – all mainstays to a successful family flick. And even though I’m not sold on movies preaching to my children (or anyone else’s), it does have a good message of tolerance. Could it be better? Absolutely. But at the time of this review it is the best full length adaptation from the whacked out imagination of Theodor Seuss Geisel.