I know what you’re thinking: another desecrated classic. We all remember how Universal shit on Dr. Seuss with The Grinch. It wasn’t pretty – it was loud, obnoxious, and devoid of anything resembling heart. So why did I even watch Horton Hears a Who? Well, first of all, it was free: an Academy screener. So that helped.
Second of all, we (I wasn’t alone) started watching The Tale of Desperaux (not to be confused with Despero, a Justice League supervillain), and within exactly 6 minutes of enduring the film, we had to turn it off. It didn’t help that the first five minutes were elaborate, fanciful credits touting big name actor after big name actor after C-list actor after big name actor.
You always know an animated movie is going to be terrible when they market it with what celebrities they got to phone their voices in for four hours versus the wonderful story they’ve crafted. That’s when the warning bell goes off in your head: “NO! TURN IT OFF! IT’S NARRATED BY SIGOURNEY WEAVER! DUSTIN HOFFMAN SHARES THE BIG SCREEN WITH TONY HALE!” And so we did.
Still in the mood for an animated film, we popped in Horton. And…it wasn’t bad? “Hey, the music started out fun, and the art design was stunning. It made me feel incredibly nostalgic for Dr. Seuss in general, and watching it all come alive on-screen was pretty fantastic. It felt like what I imagine it would feel like if I went back in time and showed someone from the past “one of them fancy movin’-picture devices” for the first time.
The animators and designers clearly spent a lot of time with the source material, and every now and then the visual style stopped looking like CG and more like this bizarre claymation-live prop hybrid. There are some neat 2D-sequences, one of which was so funny in its own right that I kind of wanted the rest of the movie to go on in that style. Did I mention the movie’s funny? It’s actually funny. Sure, not every joke hits…but it’s mostly pretty good!
The voice-acting was a who’s who of alt. comedy these days, from Steve Carrell to Seth Rogen to Will Arnett to Amy Poehler. I could’ve done without Jonah Hill, but luckily he was mostly absent from the film. Jim Carrey plays Horton, and instead of taking a huge poop on the role, he makes it his Genie from Aladdin. He does zany voices, breaks into song, and is a pretty elastic elephant (his ears are…very expressive). Sure, sometimes it gets annoying, but overall he plays it well.
Steve Carell’s Mayor character on the Whoville end of things is actually a lot of fun, and a nice addition to the story where Seuss gave us only a small glimpse. I was surprised that a lot of the film was as laugh-out-loud funny as it was, and that the alt. comedy didn’t clash too badly with the Dr. Seuss.
Really, the only criticism I have are the few pop culture references that made it into the film. It’s just jarring and unnecessary, ultimately dating the film in the long run. The musical number at the end is pretty terrible, too, with the third act rushing to the end credits as if some angry exec just yelled: “Cut this movie in half! Make it go faster! Kids can’t stay awake longer than 80 minutes! Get me pictures of Spider-Man!”
It’s definitely a solid 8/10, which is leagues above the shit/10 that the previous Seussian outing got. Rec-o-mmended!