Delightfully, Take 'Horton' to Heart

Horton ponders how to save an entire community that rests on a speck of dust in "Dr. Seuss' Horton Hear a Who!"
Horton ponders how to save an entire community that rests on a speck of dust in "Dr. Seuss' Horton Hear a Who!" (Blue Sky Studios)

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Friday, March 14, 2008

"Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!" reaches us as powerfully as the plaintive little voice that, one wonderfully inventive Dr. Seusslike day, catches the enormous ear of Horton the Elephant.

A computer-animated feature that strikes an amiable balance between honoring the text and the dictates of contemporary animation, the film is as good as one could hope for in this era of post-literate impatience. Of course, it would be wonderful to have a movie that returns to the old days when animation genuflected to literature. Remember Walt Disney's wonderful "Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree," in which Pooh hopped from page to page? But if the verbal has to play second fiddle to the visual, well, "Horton Hears a Who!" does it well. And it does honor the book's flavor and spirit with a bright, funny treatment. Voice performers Jim Carrey (as Horton) and Steve Carell (the Mayor) play their roles just right, without making the movie about them.

Back in the day, the book lent itself to all kinds of interpretation and controversy. In the McCarthy era in which the book was written, people saw pointed commentary in its depiction of the fascistic qualities in the people of Who-ville (who refuse to believe there is a world beyond the mini speck of dust on which they live), and Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) made clear his displeasure over the antiabortion movement's canny politicization of the book's best-known phrase, "A person's a person no matter how small." In a subtle but effective way, the movie sounds a central message: We shouldn't be tone deaf to other people's realities. All in all, it's a sweet, guileless experience for young viewers and even their adult chaperons.

-- Desson Thomson

Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! G, 88 minutes Contains nothing objectionable except one mild profanity. Area theaters. Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! G, 88 minutes Contains nothing objectionable except one mild profanity. Area theaters.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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