By Fred Topel | Image property of 20th Century Fox
Horton Hears a Who!
Dr. Seuss has had a rough time in Hollywood. The Grinch did really well but it's a pretty bizarre mess, aesthetically speaking. The Cat in the Hat did all right but nobody seemed to like it. Perhaps Dr. Seuss belongs in animation because not only is Horton Hears a Who the best Dr. Seuss movie yet, but it's the best family film since The Incredibles.
Horton Hears a Who! Review
It's a pretty metaphysical concept. There's a world that only one character can hear and everything he does affects that world, but he can't get anybody else to believe him because they don't hear it, so does the world really exist to them and oh my God that's profound. The thing is, it's literally happening in the story, so it's metaphysically literal, or literally metaphysical.
The animation is simply beautiful. The characters are adorable, from the jungle creatures to the Whos themselves, not like those freaky live-action Whos. Horton's expressive ears are a delight and his friends will make great plush toys. Touches of 2D are cool when they are incorporated.
The narration totally captures Dr. Seuss. Even new stuff they must have added feels like Dr. Seuss rhymes. That makes the 80 minute plot feel organic to the source material, not just some high concept construct.
It's funny for adults, but not in the double entendre way. There are a few pop culture nods but it's mainly the depth of the story and the cleverness of the visual gags. The animated slapstick pratfalls are hilarious, and Jim Carrey still sells it with his voice. He'd probably act exactly the same way if he were a talking elephant.
There is actual suspense in the comedy. You really aren't sure how they're going to survive certain situations. The calamities are humorous but the stakes are real and build expertly.