"HORTON HEARS A WHO"
by Kevin Carr
|| MOVIE: **** (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)
Jim Carrey as HORTON
Steve Carell as WHOVILLE MAYOR
Carol Burnett as KANGAROO
Will Arnett as VLAD
Seth Rogan as MORTON
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Jimmy Hayward & Steve Martino
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It’s a bit of a shame that “Horton Hears a Who” came out in 2008. Not only was this a great year for movies, but it was a fantastic year for CGI films. Sure, you’ve had some less-than-stellar animated films like “Igor.” However, 2008 was also the year that gave us “WALL-E” and “Kung Fu Panda.”
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When “Horton Hears a Who” came out in March, it was a bit hit, and it was a fantastic film... easily the best animated film of the year up to that point. However, when the Pixar/Dreamworks juggernaut came through in the summer (and even later in the year with “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa”), “Horton” seemed to get lost in the shuffle.
Fortunately, the film has found some life again on DVD, and just in time for Christmas shopping.
The film tells the story of Horton (Jim Carrey) a gentle and kind elephant whose massive ears pick up the sound of a tiny world living on a spec of dust. He starts to communicate with the Mayor (Steve Carell) of the Whos that live on the spec. Horton is determined to find a safe and permanent home for the tiny Whos. However, the no-nonsense Kangaroo (Carol Burnett) is upset, thinking he is just dealing with imaginary friends.
Overall, Hollywood hasn’t been very kind to Dr. Seuss. Sure, the original television special of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” was fantastic, but that was more than 40 years ago, and it was spearheaded by the late, great Chuck Jones. Recent live-action adaptations have been quite dreadful. This time of year, we’re subjected to multiple showings of Ron Howard’s version of the Grinch (also starring Jim Carrey), and that Mike Myers “Cat in the Hat” film a few years back was easily one of the worst of that year.
Considering Carrey’s involvement in “The Grinch,” I was a bit nervous about this “Horton Hears a Who.” However, when I finally saw it in the theaters, I thought it was easily the best feature film adaptation of a Dr. Seuss story ever made. In the world of animation, Carrey wasn’t too over-the-top, and the kind and gentle nature of the story really made things click.
The animation is brilliant, capturing the Seuss essence in design and flavor. The world that is created is striking and fantastic. It really made me feel like I was inhabiting a Dr. Seuss world.
Recently, I had a chance to see the old Warner Bros. cartoon adaptation of “Horton Hears a Who,” which was nice. But this CGI version has really improved upon the character, design and story.
The DVD comes in multiple versions – full screen versus widescreen, as well as a single-disc and a two-disc version. I’ve only had a chance to review the single-disc widescreen version, but even then it’s definitely a worthy product.
The single disc comes with an “Ice Age” inspired short film called “Surviving Sid,” which successfully gets me interested in the new “Ice Age” film coming out next year. There’s also a directors commentary, deleted footage with explanations, early animation tests, trailers and a create-your-own animation feature for DVD-ROM.
Additional featurettes include a spotlight on elephants, a somewhat preachy environmental message about our own speck, the message of “A Person Is a Person,” a look at Jim Carrey and his process, the character development, how Horton was animated, bringing Dr. Seuss to the screen and a look at the bizarre yet scene-stealing character of Katie.
While most CGI films are better than your average movie, films like “Horton Hears a Who” helped start the year off right for one of the best years in animated history.