Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who! (2008)

Directed by Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino. Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, Carol Burnett, Will Arnett, Isla Fisher, Amy Poehler, Seth Rogen, Charles Osgood. 20th Century Fox / Blue Sky.

Decent Films Ratings

Overall
Recommendability
?A-
Artistic/
Entertainment Value
?
Moral/Spiritual
Value (+4/-4)
? +2
Age
Appropriateness
?Kids & Up

External Ratings

MPAA ?G USCCB ?NA

Content advisory: Some mild rudeness and mild animated menace.

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Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who! (DVD & Blu-ray)

From a National Catholic Register review

By Steven D. Greydanus

In the wide world of Seuss, from the white Sneech-beach sands
Out to sleepy Far Foodle, and throughout the lands
Of the Yooks and the Zooks, no hero is braver
Than Horton, egg-hatcher and Who life-saver.

No one’s heart’s bigger, even Thidwick the Moose
And even the Lorax took less abuse.
One book can’t contain Horton’s dogged heroics!
His stoical pluck shows up all other stoics!

He wants every voice to be clearly heard
And he sticks up for those who can’t yet say a word.
Even those unhatched and forsook by their mothers
Or too small to see and denied by most others.

But the last time Who-ville came to the screen
Seuss-ian magic was not to be seen.
Jim Carrey’s Grinch was nothing to relish
And Mike Myer’s Hat Cat was no more Geisel-ish.

Could La-La Land ever give Horton his due?
A pro-life pachyderm who’s trusty and true?
And with Jim Carrey back! As Horton’s own voice!
The Grinch! Could there be a peculiarer choice?

But… what’s this? From Blue Sky? Creators of Manny
The Mammoth, Ice Age’s pachyderm nanny?
The makers of Robots? Could they get it right?
Could they pull off Horton? You know, they just might…

And they have! Their Horton’s playful and kind
Responsible, long-suffering, stout in a bind.
And, as if atoning, even Jim Carrey…
He’s not at all grinchy! He’s Horton-y! Very!

Steve Carell makes a great Mayor of Who
And Carol Burnett is the sour kangaroo.
And narrator Charles Osgood goes to town
And he has anapestic tetrameter down.

And it comes without latex! Without ribald joshing!
Without key-party games or rave-party moshing!
And it gets even better! I’m pleased to relate
That Horton’s the very best Blue Sky to date.

This isn’t the first time this tale’s been retold
And it’s grown in the telling, like fables of old.
The Chuck Jones short, written by Seuss, broke the news
That the big world beyond was unknown to the Whos.

Then in Seussical, little twerp Jo-jo made good
As the Mayor’s son, soulful but misunderstood.
They take here and there from each form of the fable
But Blue Sky’s own strengths bring a lot to the table.

All their films shine with slapstick and wit
And Rube Goldberg flair that makes Seuss a good fit.
Their stories and characters don’t always jell
But with something to work with, their work is quite swell.

They know how to use Horton’s ears and his nose
And they’ve got good ideas about all his woes.
Turns out Horton mentors the young jungle critters
And that gives that kangaroo bully the jitters.

Finding life on a speck, too tiny to see
Prompts Horton to wonder if our world might be
Just a speck in some much larger world beyond ours —
But the kangaroo sees a fool talking to flowers.

(There’s one slip, the kangaroo’s passing snipe
About how she “pouch-schools” to avoid Horton’s type.
That’s backwards for sure. That officious old grouch
Has N.E.A. written all over her pouch.)

An empirical sort, she’s no patience to spare
For what others think when she’s sure nothing’s there.
But the last straw is when the tykes start going on
About their own flowers, and the “worlds” thereupon.

Meanwhile, in Who-ville, life’s full of song.
Everyone’s cheerful and nothing goes wrong.
There are 96 girls in the Mayor’s happy brood
But Jo-jo, the boy, seems rather subdued.

With hair in his eyes and a sad little frown
He’s the first sulky kid ever born in that town.
But the Mayor, meanwhile, has got his own trouble:
Only he knows or cares what’s outside the Who-bubble.

The kidding is gentle, touched with affection
And no mean-spiritedness or rejection.
Like Horton, the film doesn’t hold any grudges.
In the end, no one’s judged and nobody judges.

But the message that comes through the clearest of all
Is: A person’s a person, no matter how small.
And it should be, it should be, it SHOULD be that way!
Horton’s own faithfulness carries the day!

Tags: Blue Sky, Dr. Seuss, Reviews in Verse (Written), Animation, Comedy, Family, Reviews In Verse

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Mail: Re: Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who!

Thank you for your great review! I was less than eager to see Horton Hears a Who (having been forced to sit through the abomination that was the live-action Grinch movie a few years back), but Julie at Happy Catholic linked to your review and I was intrigued. I just came back from seeing the movie with a friend. I am still laughing! My hope in the future of children’s movies has been restored (well, actually, Pixar did that, but still…).

What a relief to be able to see an animated film that was funny without being sneering or sardonic! And Whoville was just a delight, especially at the end with all the Whos shouting! Anyway, thanks for the great review, I hope more people read it and see the film!

Thanks for writing. I’m glad to hear you found my review helpful. It’s always nice to hear from people who saw the same film you did!

It was The Grinch that started me writing reviews in verse. I felt that film deserved to be skewered, if not in Dr. Seuss's actual voice, at least in a reasonable facsimile thereof. Having gone on to write two additional critiques in verse for The Cat in the Hat and Scooby-Doo, it was a pleasure, as well as a challenge, to tackle a positive review in that style.

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Mail: Re: Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who!

I am disappointed with Horton’s portrayal of homeschooling. (They added a lot that wasn’t in the book.) The main “evil” character is the kangaroo — a narrow-minded, controlling homeschooling mom who wants to destroy Horton and his new found friends because of it’s threat to the way things are in their jungle society.

Horton is a teacher of jungle kids — fun and silly. The kangaroo’s son asks sadly from her pouch “Mom, why can’t I play with the other kids?” and she explains to the other moms that she “Pouch-schools” and is portrayed as a narrow-minded, cold, controlling fanatic who is constantly telling her son to “go to his room” as she shoves his head down into her pouch and tells him continually that whatever is happening doesn’t concern him. It is very clear that her motives throughout the film were not done out of love for her child, but out of a desperate need to control ideas and keep the authority/tradition of her world from being threatened.

It seems to me you may be missing the forest for the tree.

To begin with, there is no “portrayal of homeschooling” in Horton. What there is, is one (1) throwaway gag alluding to homeschooling — a sour line, as I noted in my review.

The kangaroo is narrow-minded and controlling. That’s straight out of the book (though of course they did add a lot, necessarily, since the book takes about ten minutes tops to read aloud, and that’s doing different voices and stuff).

The film’s kangaroo is also, let it be noted, an empiricist skeptic who repeatedly declares that nothing you can’t see, hear or touch is real, and is equally dismissive of the notion of larger worlds of cosmic mystery and wonder, with incomprehensible beings far greater than we, as she is of the notion of persons too tiny to be seen whose dignity and lives must nevertheless be respected. And Horton’s openness to both drives her crazy.

Who does that look like a parody of? Conservative Christian homeschooling parents? As a father of five homeschooled kids, I can’t say I ever felt it was my ox being gored here, except for that one line. No, the kangaroo looks much more like an angry secularist, hostile to mystery, inconvenient moral duties and forms of insight outside the scope of her reductive epistomology — and determined to stamp out competing worldviews by any means necessary.

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