The deal with all the hullabaloo
Horton Hears a Who, a classic Dr. Seuss book, tells the story of Horton the Elephant in the Jungle of Nool. In the story, Horton finds a small speck of dust floating in the air and hears voices on it. The other jungle animals think Horton is crazy, and the book goes on to describe Horton’s journey to save Whoville, the tiny town that exists on the speck.
This story, full of moral lessons and fun rhymes, has been made into a movie. Unlike other Seuss-inspired movies, Horton Hears a Who uses CGI animation to bring the characters to life. With an all-star voice cast including Jim Carrey (Horton), Steve Carell (Mayor of Whoville), and Carol Burnett (Kangaroo), the movie’s appeal goes beyond the elementary school-aged kids that would read Dr. Seuss’s books and draws in adult audiences as well.
The movie stays close to the original story, but the characters’ lines are different from what was actually written in the book. They don’t, however, detract from the sense that this movie comes directly from the book, unlike the live action version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which significantly changed the plot and dialogue.
Horton, who is portrayed as a non-confrontational and generally cheerful elephant, moves gracefully through the Jungle of Nool. When he finds the speck, he puts it on a pink clover and carries it around with him, protecting it from water and predators. In a particularly humorous scene, Horton converses with the Mayor of Whoville, trying to convince him that Whoville is on a small speck of dust. To prove his point, Horton covers the clover with his ears, thus turning off the light in Whoville. While this occurs, the citizens of Whoville take off and put on sunglasses repeatedly as Horton continues to cover and uncover the clover.
The movie switches back and forth between Whoville and the Jungle of Nool, giving both worlds their due. In Whoville, we learn that the Mayor is married and has 96 daughters and one son, named Jojo. We are also told that being the mayor is a hereditary condition, and that someday Jojo must follow in his father’s footsteps. Jojo, however, is shown to be far less cheerful than the other Whos, and he dresses in grey stripes with a black emo haircut. Jojo is an interesting character because of these characteristics, making him opposite of the usual Whos.
In the portions of the movie portraying Whoville, the filmmakers took significant liberties in elaborating upon the story, as the original story contains very little detail of what happens in Whoville, and Jojo is just a little boy, not the Mayor’s son. Some of the details about Whoville match details found in Seussical, the Broadway musical based on several Dr. Seuss stories.
The Kangaroo, who is the stuffy self-appointed leader of the Jungle of Nool, decides to put an end to the speck since she thinks Horton’s insanity is infecting the children he teaches. She hires an assassin, a vulture named Vlad Vlad-i-koff (Will Arnett), to destroy the clover and the speck. Vlad gets tricked into doing the work for free, and he chases Horton until he grabs the clover. Rather than eating the clover as he said he would, Vlad drops it in a huge field of clovers, assuming that Horton will never find it.
Horton, of course, finds the clover, much to the Kangaroo’s dismay. She orders him tied and caged, and tells the Wickersham Brothers (a family of monkeys) to boil the speck in Beezlenut oil. The residents of Whoville make enough noise to be heard, proving that they do exist, and the speck is saved, just like in the book.
At certain parts of the movie, the animation switches from CGI to other forms of animation, creating an interesting effect. In one scene, Horton pictures the inhabitants of the speck as drawings that look very much like those found in Dr. Seuss’s books. Another instance arises when Horton imagines using an anime-style fight to get the speck to safety.
The movie was put together well, providing entertainment for all ages, and is definitely worth seeing, even for rhyme-ophobes: Most of the dialogue doesn’t rhyme, and Seuss’s original rhymes are primarily used for the movie’s occasional voice-over narration.