I watched this movie with trepidation.
My therapist tells me I’m still suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from the film bastardization of Seuss’ beloved ‘Cat in the Hat’ by the usually funny Mike Myers. Related, nearly every children’s book-to-movie conversion of recent memory (up yours, ‘Spiderwick Chronicles’) features a hodgepodge of overdone CG, kids reading monotone lines intended for adults, and a directorial style that far surpassed by YouTube.
Thus and not surprisingly, it required a subtle nudge from Collider’s legendary ‘Frosty’ to have me take the plunge once more. Boy, am I glad he did.
Buoyed by an outstanding cast of voiceover talent (most notably Jim Carrey as Horton, Steve Carell as the Mayor of Who-ville, and Carol Burnett and the control freak kangaroo), ‘Horton Hears a Who’ is an animated gem, one very much parallel to the finest Pixar has to offer. A somewhat peculiar realization since ‘Horton’ never truly ranked as a top tier Seuss tale.
Still, Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino strike storybook pay dirt in a ridiculously clever tale about a kindhearted elephant whose combined notions of curiosity and worldview lead him to realize that a speck of dust floating by him really did speak to him…and is a world in itself to boot. This – to recall the book it is inspired from – unleashes a tireless quest led by a self- righteous kangaroo hell bent on ceasing Horton’s delusion and saving the children of the jungle from imagination-inspired corruption.
Despite the above’s perceived recipe for fun police eschewed preachiness, thankfully these fears are never realized for even an iota. Much like the brilliant cartoon version of ‘The Lorax’ from years past, ‘Horton’ avoid reducing itself to moral lessons or brain numbing, kiddie-friendly slapstick. (Hallelujah! – not a single soundtrack selling song in sight.)
Related and backed by Carrey and Carell’s passion for their performances, ‘Horton’ captures the spirit of Seuss via sketch cutaways, improv dialog (you’ll recognize Carry and Carell’s quips/delivery from their movies) and a art style that resides somewhere between full CG and pencil drawing. The end result is a constant smirk and comfort level for a movie that feels a lot shorter than the 86 minutes it advertises.
‘Horton’ contains two discs, one the full-length movie and special features, the second a self-explanatory, digital copy of the film capable of play on iPods and/or sister portable devices.
Audio Commentary by Directors Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino: Unlike most of these that quickly resort into boring people spouting boring dialog, this is a welcome addition to the disc. While this feature does suffer from its own fair share of boredom at times, the two directors intersperse yawn content with some very interesting observations on inspirations for scenes and deliberate attempts to marry the movie with Seuss flair. This is surprisingly watchable in spurts.
‘Ice Age’ short: ‘Surviving Sid’:
For ‘Ice Age’ fanatics, ‘Surviving Sid’ is an above average quick hit about the series’ favorite egalomaniac sloth bastardizing a camping trip for the forest’s kids. While it does have its moments and occasional clever puns, nothing special here. There’s also a trailer for ‘Ice Age 3’ on the disc.
Deleted Footage and Animation Screen Tests:
The former a mixed bag, the latter relatively useless. Deleted footage – most pretty damn funny – appears in 3 distinct groups depending on polish and completion status. Early stage designs are more eyesore than imagination. The near-finished items, however, are quite good. The Mayor of Who-ville is hilarious, deleted scenes or not.
Animation screen tests consist of simplistic, computer tests of main character movements. Ho-hum.
These consist of two distinct groups: those intended for kids, the others for mass audiences.
The kids ones are painfully atrocious, and reek of the preachy stupidity the movie thankfully avoided. Never let anyone’s child view this out of fear of development stunting.
The mass audience featurettes are good but not great. I’ve never been a fan of ‘making of’ snippets, simply because they’re almost always canned, boring, and reek of production team ‘I’m so cool’ sentiments. These aren’t very different, with the one exception ‘Meet Katie.’ Katie is the Bobba Fett of ‘Horton;’ only in the film for split seconds, but the coolest kid on the block nonetheless.
Another of the ‘I’m pretending to play a game by selecting items with my DVD remote.’ Yuck.
If you’re looking for that last minute holiday gift for either a discerning adult or kiddie, ‘Horton Hears a Who’ is a wonderful choice. Easily one of the most entertaining animated flicks of 2008.
FINAL GRADE: A- (Film), C (Special Features)