Thursday, December 19, 2013

Arguably The Best Of The Dr. Seuss Movies: Horton Hears A Who!

The Good: Wonderful themes, Good voice acting, Character stuggle
The Bad: Somewhat predictable, Moments of forced humor
The Basics: Horton Hears A Who! might well be the most underrated of the Dr. Seuss film adaptations as a story of an elephant struggling to save a microscopic world, despite social pressure against him.

There are very few Dr. Seuss books that I actually remember. It has been such a long time since I was a child and was read the stories, so whenever I have seen one of the films based upon the works of Dr. Seuss, I have been able to do a very pure review of the movie for what it is, without the comparative analysis to how the movies stack up against the books. In the case of Horton Hears A Who!, I have no memories of the book and I was very surprised when my wife excitedly bought the movie on Blu-Ray when it was dirt cheap on Black Friday.

For me, the surprise was how mature Horton Hears A Who! was when the movie commits to its more adult themes. Horton Hears A Who! is essentially a piece that argues a liberal perspective and contrasts reality and faith. The result is a movie that is occasionally geared to children that educates them on both the value of life, the importance of imagination, and the power of one person to stand up to the hive mind for a principle that is right (as opposed to going along with the crowd).

Horton is an elephant living in the jungle who is imaginative, clever, and very active in the jungle community. While Horton mentors the children in the jungle, the community is actually controlled by the fearsome and socially repressive Kangaroo. While taking a bath one day, a speck finds its way to Horton and he hears the voice of the Mayor Of Whoville coming from it. Putting the speck on a flower, Horton listens to the Mayor – who has more than ninety daughters and a single, asocial son (named JoJo). Looking around the jungle, Horton realizes that there is nowhere truly safe for the tiny world of Whoville, so he commits to saving the people living on the speck.

In Whoville, the Mayor works to convince the town council that the Whocentennial should be postponed until the town is safe, though no one believes they are all living on a speck and he is being spoken to by a giant elephant. While Horton makes a journey to a mountain, where he believes the speck will be safe, he tells the children about the Speck and Whoville and the children begin to emulate Horton, carrying around flowers which they claim have speck worlds of their own. Kangaroo is outraged by the influence Horton has and she hires the vulture, Vlad, to destroy Horton’s flower and the speck. As Horton tries to save Whoville, the Mayor works to protect his people despite being utterly powerless.

Horton Hears A Who! features two protagonists who are combated largely by social pressure. Even Horton’s allies push for Horton to give up the flower and the speck – to which Horton declares he made a promise and he has to protect the people of Whoville because “people are people, no matter how small.” The Mayor is terrified about being ostracized when Horton advises him to get the people underground and he has to tell everyone that they are living on a speck and he has been talking with a giant elephant.

Horton Hears A Who! is rich in allegory and metaphor and the messages of the film are smart and worthwhile. The writing team uses the source material to create one of the most compelling films to advocate for imagination and social rebellion to come along in years. Both Horton and the Mayor are characters with deep convictions. Horton is loyal and determined in addition to being imaginative. The Mayor might spend most of the movie hampered by fear of social ramifications to his standing up to reveal the truth of their existence, but when he makes an impassioned case based on reason and science, he does so with great courage (albeit rather problematic plot twists at the same time).

The adversaries in Horton Hears A Who! are largely monolithic. The leader of the town council of Whoville and Kangaroo are solely interested in power and control. Kangaroo uses children as an excuse to be repressive and mean to Horton and in that way the film adequately exposes the way fear is used to manipulate people (perfect for a Bush Era movie!).

The voice acting in Horton Hears A Who! is homogenously wonderful. Carol Burnett is appropriately snooty as Kangaroo and Jim Carrey gives an impressive performance filled with (alternately) energy and determination. Steve Carell is funny as the Mayor, though he is not given much in the way to do where his character could ever have credibly been a mayor had he not essentially inherited the role.

The animation in Horton Hears A Who! looks incredible even on the small screen. Because the flower is so essential to the plot, the fact that on a decent HDTV, one may see every hair of pollen on the flowers is absolutely incredible. Horton Hears A Who! has a fantastic sense of physics which contrasts the heavy and realistic themes in the movie. Even better, the sense of movement is very manic in the Jungle and comparatively much more still in most of the Whoville sequences, which helps to clearly differentiate the two worlds in the movie.

Ultimately, Horton Hears A Who! is fun, funny, and smart enough to entertain children and adults alike!

For other works works with Jim Carrey, please check out my reviews of:
Kick-Ass 2
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Nantucket Film Festival’s Comedy Roundtable
A Christmas Carol
I Love You Phillip Morris
Yes Man
Fun With Dick And Jane
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
How The Grinch Stole Christmas
The Truman Show
Batman Forever


For other movie reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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