While the works of Dr. Seuss’ hyperactive imagination have mesmerized minds worldwide, their transition to the big screen has had mixed results. Despite Jim Carrey’s amusing antics, 2000’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” never amounted to much as a whole, while 2003’s “The Cat in the Hat” was seriously flawed and critically maligned. Thankfully, the third time proves to be the charm as “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!” finally gets it right.
Combining just the right amount of wackiness, comedy and heart, the film manages to entertain on almost every level. At its center is the relationship between Horton the elephant (Jim Carrey) and the microscopic mayor of Who-ville (Steve Carell), who lives in a speck on a flower. While taking a swim, Horton hears a faint call coming from the speck, discovers the mayor and takes it upon himself to find a new home for the Whos and save them from destruction. However, there’s a slight problem – nobody in either of their respective communities believes the other exists.
Carrey and Carell, two of the funniest comedians alive, are perfectly cast in their roles and feed effortlessly off each other. Carrey is a natural fit on his first foray into animation, bottling up his typical zaniness to mold a loveable character. Meanwhile, Carell is experiencing something of a mid-Who crisis and is fun to watch scurry around trying to make sense of it all. The rest of the cast, including fantastic turns from Carol Burnett and an unrecognizable Will Arnett, also seem to fit their parts and work well together.
Turning a book that can be read in a matter of minutes into a 90-minute film is quite an ordeal. Obviously several elements have to be added and expanded upon; otherwise, it would be a very short movie. Having not read the book in many years, it was hard to distinguish between what was new and what wasn’t, but it all appeared to cohere with Dr. Seuss’ world. One thing that did stand out was how the writers chose to explore in greater depth the faith in the unseen element, which was an effective and relevant touch. The only noteworthy criticism was the ending, which was wrapped up a little too neatly and closed with a song and dance number, which is starting to get annoying.
With “Horton Hears a Who!,” Blue Sky Studios, the company behind the two “Ice Age” movies and “Robots,” has created one of the better non-Pixar animated films in recent memory. With inspired visuals, distinct characters and a cute story, it’s surprisingly well-done. In short, it’s a movie any person, no matter how big or how small, can enjoy.