2008-04-04 / Columnists

MovieScope

'Horton Hears A Who!' - Sen-Seuss-Ational
Review By Robert Snyder

Legendary author Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) had a secret agenda.

He sometimes snuck his populist political views into his flamboyantly silly children's stories. It was not until late in his life that he went full-blown anti-war with "The Butter Battle Book." There, the excuse for a massive arms build-up between two countries was a disagreement about which side of bread should be buttered. It harkened back to Jonathan Swift's "Gullivers Travels," in which Lilliputians warred over what end to crack open when eating an egg.

"Horton Hears a Who!" is the best of three feature films made of Dr. Seuss' work and, like "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," it stars Jim Carrey. Except in "Horton," the comic actor merely lends his voice and his over-the-top antic attitude, not his live-action self. This is fine, because "Horton" shines as a computer-generated animation production, spectacularly bringing Dr. Seuss's wacky world into three-dimensional existence, without the stiff fakery of make-up and costumes in human reality.

The Seuss social, political message is preserved in the story, which has the loveable pachyderm, Horton (Carrey), unknowingly promoting Einstein's applied theory of relativity and inner space, while facing Nazi-like conformity and mob revenge. It happens because

Horton's huge elephant ears detect the sounds of a microscopic civilization emanating from a speck of dust sailing by on a clover flower. Realizing that the community of Who-Ville is at the point of extinction, Horton manages to communicate with its minuscule mayor (Steve Carell), who shares the elephant's problem, but in reverse: The Mayor can't convince his people that a giant world exists in the stratosphere, while Horton seems insane talking to a speck of dust. Jungle civic authority figure, Kangaroo (Carol Burnett) declares, "If you can't see it, hear it or feel it, it doesn't exist." She then enlists Russian-accented buzzard Vlad (Will Arnett) to destroy the speck. Failing that, she rallies a mob of beasts to imprison Horton and boil the speck. The final sequence reaches a crescendo of excitement and suspense as the Mayor and Horton struggle to make the Whos collectively plead loud enough to create a rumble in the jungle.

Directed by Jimmy Hayward ("Toy Story," "Monsters, Inc.") and Steve Martino from a Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio adaptation, "Horton Hears a Who!" is guaranteed fun for the little ones, who may even get the message about relativity and open mindedness. Of course, kids' minds are open to anything cute and cuddly. It's parents who are the problem.

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