Listen closely to Horton Hears a Who! You might be surprised by what you hear. Without reading too deep into this animated adaptation of a Dr. Seuss' classic, one will find strong messages of tolerance and warnings of fear. Horton encourages citizens to question their leaders as it broaches topics of faith and responsibility. It gleefully deflates intolerant religious zealots who eagerly squash what they don't understand. But preachy it isn't; its slogan alone enthralls. "A person's a person, no matter how small."
Theodore Geisel, under the pseudonym Dr. Seuss, often buried messages in his prose and Horton slips many of them just below the surface of this exquisite animated adventure. Faith in the presence of an unseen being dominates most of the story about a curious elephant (Jim Carrey
) who believes he hears voices emerging from a speck on the surface of a flower. In fact, the minuscule speck contains the entirety of Whoville, and Horton promises the village's skittish mayor (Steve Carell
) that he'll find the community a safe location to rest. Article continues below
For those unwilling to participate in multiplex psychology, Horton also works as an entertaining visual treat. Co-directors Jimmy Hayward
and Steve Martino
bring years of animation experience to the project. The former climbed the ranks at Pixar by contributing to both Toy Story films, Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo. The latter met his partner on Blue Sky Studio's intricate Robots, and that film's influence is evident whenever Horton navigates the corridors of the beautifully overblown Whoville.
You could spend weeks admiring the details in the film's natural landscapes, from the lush tropics of Horton's jungle home to the mayor's cramped living quarters; he and his wife (Amy Poehler
) juggle 96 daughters and one depressed son, JoJo (Jesse McCartney). The movie tests its creative limits with Whoville, and Carell is up to the vocal challenge. Scenes in the Who's fictional Pleasantville benefit the most from Seuss' offbeat imagination. Hayward and Martino pay great respect to the late author with the effort they bring to Whoville.
Then there's Horton himself, who isn't so humorous. Too much of Carrey's trademark mugging emerges from behind the massive elephant's animated fašade. Unwarranted John F. Kennedy impersonations are ancient. A samurai sidebar that uses Japanese anime to turn Horton into a rampaging hero sounds clever on paper but isn't on screen. To be fair, Carrey's manic Horton riffs are only half as obnoxious as the comedian's live-action Grinch, which was 100-percent intolerable. Improvements, when evident, deserve to be noted.