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DVD Review: ‘Horton Hears A Who!’
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Horton Hears A Who!
Single-Disc Edition
Directed by Jimmy Hayward & Steve Martino
Starring Jim Carrey, Steve Carrell, Carol Burnett, Seth Rogen, Will Arnett, Jonah Hill, Isla Fisher
Fox Home Entertainment
Release Date: December 9, 2008

Out of all of the original Dr. Seuss books and cartoons to be adapted to movie form, Horton Hears A Who! is the first to go all CG, differentiating itself from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and The Cat in the Hat.

The movie follows Horton (Jim Carrey), a friendly and innocent elephant teacher who thinks that he hears a noise from a small speck on top of a small flower and comes to believe that this small speck holds a world of tiny people, to which most of the other animals think he’s absolutely nuts. In time, he finds a way to communicate with the Mayor of this tiny world (Steve Carrell), known as of Whoville. The Mayer tells Horton that his continuous movement is messing up the little world’s climate and will eventually destroy everything. This sets Horton off on a journey to find the perfect spot to safely put them while trying to avoid an extremely tyrannical soccer mom kangaroo (Carol Burnett), her hired vulture (Will Arnett), and a grab bag of other speedbumps along the way.

While Horton Hears A Who! — like most of its kind — won’t stand anywhere near the simply unparalleled genius that the people at Pixar consistently produce, it still finds a way to stand on its own as a pretty entertaining little movie. Not that getting yourself past the shadow of the aforementioned genius isn’t impressive on its own, but distinguishing yourself is pretty important because, unlike previously assumed, not every animated movie is automatically good. The moment you see Whoville, this one begins to distinguish itself, and I must say it could just be the best Dr. Seuss world put on film. The Grinch was decent, but Horton has a Whoville that’s wild and wacky and looks as if it poured from the brain of the Suess himself.

The movie is fairly simple and would mostly fit under the “cute” description that families enjoy together. There’s a lot of good laughs and subtle amusements to keep you entertained and the run time is pretty short if you’re seeking mild amusement or to entertain the kiddies. If you’re seeking depth of characters, you may not find that here as the previously mentioned run time doesn’t allow for much character development, but you come to like them or hate them enough to fit the film’s purpose.

One thing I did enjoy in regard to the characters was the voice acting. You know Jim Carrey and Steve Carrell are in it, but no one’s performance shouts “HEY, it’s ME! Listen!” — everyone does a good job being the character and not themselves.

An interesting thing that I noticed is that there are some subtle-but-noticeable religious undertones going on here (if you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist!), however, they do a good job to mask it. They certainly do a better job than The Chronicles of Narnia did, though it’s still right there to see if you look. I guess it might just be hard to avoid when your entire story hinges on a “greater than thou” foundation. While this isn’t too distracting, some may pick up on it and be turned off.

There was one other negative for me was the very end, right after the main storyline comes to a close. There’s no spoilers or anything, so no worries, but seriously, the entire cast breaks out in a random rendition of “Can’t Fight This Feeling” by REO Speedwagon. When this occurred I seriously just stared in awe. The movie had just had its fairly inspirational ending and then this happened and I was scared to move. It was just so insanely unfitting to the moment that my brain shut down. If you need an example of what this moment was like, think back to Hot Fuzz when they’re watching the performance of Romeo & Juliet and those actors broke out in random song. Very similar to that it was.

Aside from those things, I enjoyed Horton Hears A Who! for the most part. It is very much a kids/family movie and you won’t likely be throwing it on at a party with friends, but I warn you, don’t underestimate it. If you give it a fair chance, you might just find yourself smiling.

This DVD comes with a handful of bonus features. Typically, the bonus materials for an animated movie are really interesting to watch because the director, creators, and animators really give you a look at their creation and the theories behind what they’ve done. Horton‘s features are more of the same of this and do not disappoint. We get to see the all-star voice cast in the studio recording their parts, as well as the animators working with accompanying physical actors who act out the parts to give reference for each character’s movements. There’s also director commentary, deleted scenes, test animations, and featurettes on specific characters, along with ones about bringing the world of Dr. Seuss to the screen. For the kids, there’s feature about real-life elephants as well as a simple DVD memory game.

2 Comments »

  1. I’ve actually put this movie on at a party and everyone enjoyed it. You also failed to mention that there are plenty of little nods to other Suess works in the movie, like Truffula trees, the bird from the other Horton cartoon, etc.

    Comment by facepalm — January 6, 2009 @ 1:01 pm

  2. While I agree that the film is quite well done overall, it does have some glaring problems with regard to preconceived opinions—namely, prejudices to which I do not want my children exposed.

    For example, one unfortunate denizen of Nool is Vlad, the Vulture. Vlad is obviously named for Vlad Dracul, more commonly known as Dracula in folklore. Played by actor Will Arnett, Vlad’s character is made suitable for children’s audiences by blending both scary and funny elements of the traditional myth. Arnett accomplishes this by mimicking the voice inflections of the Transylvanian vampire with the Yiddish-like maunderings of a curmudgeonly zayde (grandfather). By the end of the film, this tension creates an uncomfortable stereotype for which Arnett should know better.

    The story also has a disturbingly homophobic moment in the ancestor’s hall, where the mayor shows his son the only “not so great” family member: an effeminate man wearing a tutu. This brief dig was entirely unnecessary; however, it seems when Hollywood (or the society at large) needs an easy target for the “butt” of a joke, it goes for the only minority that it feels it can still openly—and comfortably—denigrate.

    Furthermore, any father with ninety-six daughters should be able to find one female child among that number, who could suitably inherit the position as mayor of Whoville, rather than his only son—especially, considering that said son does not want the position.

    Comment by Max — January 14, 2009 @ 7:29 pm

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