Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Horton Hears a Who! ***

Director: Jimmy Hayward, Steve Martino

After the maligned live action versions of two of his most beloved books, Hollywood finally turns to CGI in order to deliver Dr. Seuss' "Horton Hears a Who!"; a beautiful fable that has not lost any of its relevance and power.
Horton is an imaginative elephant living in the Jungle of Nool. One day a tiny dust speck flies past him while he's taking a bath. To his disbelief Horton hears a sound coming from it, catches it and carefully places it atop a clover.
Soon he discovers that he was right and in fact the dust speck holds the city of Whoville, led by Ned the Mayor who begins to communicate with Horton and agrees that the city needs to be put in a more stable place.
Horton decides to lead them to safety to the dismay of the entire jungle, including self appointed ruler Sour Kangaroo who does everything she can to stop Horton's insane ideas from spreading through the entire population.
The Mayor of Whoville is going through the same situation, since he must convince the skeptical city council that something wrong might happen to their town and that he's receiving his information from a giant elephant in the sky.
Dr. Seuss' books were usually made of a few dozen pages, which when taking into consideration the debatable rule that one page equals one minute of screen time, would deem his stories worthy of only short films.
In theory this may have been what made the live action adaptations so dreadful and what should make this one a failure as well.
It may have seemed as if the books and cinema would never be able to come together. While one is intimate and straight to the point, the other needed the spectacle to feel relevant.
But behold! The filmmakers behind this adaptation have made the first feature length Dr. Seuss' film that pays tribute to both mediums.
Horton's motto that "a person's a person, no matter how small" doesn't really need much time to be explained, which is why it's surprising that here it never exhausts its stay.
With painstakingly gorgeous animation work, every little element in the jungle seems to have popped to life from the book.
Despite the fact that Dr. Seuss' illustrations were usually monochromatic and very simple, in the CGI world created for this movie, all the objects and characters give us the idea that this full form was merely the next step.
The animals are filled with curious little details and Whoville could very well be dubbed as the city of whimsy. Like its source material, the film has the ability to make you smile without trying too hard.
Of course sometimes we get the obligatory pop culture references, like a networking site called Whospace, Al Gore jokes and the resemblance of the mayor's son Jojo, to Paul Dano's character in "Little Miss Sunshine", but even these small nuances can't hide the joy that lies behind a timeless story that aptly empowers audiences to question their surroundings.
Dr. Seuss had the ability to make his McCarthyan allegory a tale from which everybody could get something.
For some it might be an initial kick into wondering what is beyond this world, while for others it remains essentially a reminder to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Whatever conclusion you get to, the film speaks better for itself and with itself, for how often can you go to a theater and have an animated elephant evoke "A Man for All Seasons"?


Juank said...

A great movie, i enjoy it a lot...i never knew about Dr Zeuss till recently but what i can see as the cinema adaptations, he was really ahead in story tellings...

woodstock said...

i was intending to see this one. hope it remains during the next weekend.

Anonymous said...

I love horton hears a who, it's the best movie of all time