Review by KC Carlson
I knew I was in trouble when I fell asleep 10 minutes into Horton Hears a Who and awoke, extremely disoriented, to a faux anime section. Dr. Seuss anime? I do not like them, Sam I am!!
Horton Hears a Who, one of the classic children’s tales of Dr. Seuss, has become a lot less classic in this latest animated version from 20th Century Fox. Granted, it’s stunning to look at, thanks to the fantastic CG animation by Blue Sky Studios (Ice Age), but the expanded story with all its pop culture references, booty dancing, and out-of-character mugging by Jim Carrey as Horton distracts — and frankly, cheapens — the original message of the original.
Part of the problem is taking the shortest of short stories and expanding it into a 90-minute feature, a fool’s errand at best. It does make plenty of room to show more characters, and more characters means more merchandising. But the story suffers by too many nonessential sequences and just plain taking too long to get from point A to point B. And Horton spouting references to Apocalypse Now and doing imitations of Henry Kissinger … really? Yeah, kids love war movies and war mongers!
It’s not all bad. The movie suddenly comes to life when building to the climax of the people of Whoville all coming together so that they could be heard by the horde of nay-sayers about to dip Horton into boiling oil. Here we get the double whammy of Charles Osgood’s warm and wonderful narration from the original rhyming text combined with the masterful sound and musical combination of the town of Whoville heroically banding together to save their hero. Great music by John Powell and an excellent visual feast, based on Seuss’ original imaginative designs… And then it all takes a big left turn as the entire cast sings REO Speedwagon’s (REO Speedwagon? Really?) Can’t Fight This Feeling. Oh, dear.
One other cool thing: Carol Burnett’s voice acting of the Sour Kangaroo wipes the floor with some of the other “hot” actors just relying on their best “funny” voice.
I’ll sure be glad when some of these animation folks finally stop copying Shrek and start doing some original stories — or at least stop trashing the classics. I’d like a little less Hollywood “product” and a little more moviemaking “heart” in my cartoons, please.
The single-disc version of Horton includes a commentary by directors Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino and a new Ice Age short. The two-disc special edition includes a digital copy for downloading and a bunch of extra features that I can’t really talk about because Fox did not send us that edition. Sorry!
(A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the studio.)