- The Washington Times - Friday, March 14, 2008

Animated films these days like to pack in so much star power that viewers practically see constellations forming in the darkened theater, and “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!” is no exception. It features vocal performances by stars Steve Carell, Jim Carrey, Carol Burnett, Will Arnett and Seth Rogen among many others.

We may be going out on a limb here, but hiring all these funny folks wasn’t necessary. Though their performances are fine, the real star of this show is Dr. Seuss’ timeless, touching story of friendship without bounds — a story that has captivated audiences since its publication in 1954.

Wisely, directors Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino and screenwriters Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio didn’t change the original plot much in translating it for the screen. Horton the elephant (voiced by a toned-down Mr. Carrey) still sees a tiny speck floating by and still swears he can hear minuscule critters on it crying for help. He believes it’s his duty to protect these denizens, even if he can’t see them, because “a person’s a person, no matter how small.”

In fact, there is a village on the speck. It’s called Who-ville, and its residents are unaware that there is a world outside of their own — that is, until the mayor (Mr. Carell) hears a mysterious, faceless voice (Horton’s) speaking to him through a series of pipes, telling him that his community is in great danger.

Horton and the mayor decide that the elephant (who is “faithful 100 percent”) must find the speck/Who-ville a safe home where threats such as winds, water and the malicious, disbelieving creatures in Horton’s jungle are nonexistent. Doing so will be a challenge, however; Horton will have to convince his fellow forest dwellers that there are beings so small they can’t be seen, and the mayor must convince the stubborn residents of Who-ville that there are beings so large they can’t be seen.

Dr. Seuss’ original rhyming verses (narrated by Charles Osgood) are stitched throughout the film, sewing together patches of novel dialogue and action that, thankfully, steer clear of the potty humor, obnoxious pop-culture references and trite singalongs that plague other animated flicks.

Similarly, the brilliant computer-generated animation (courtesy of Blue Sky Studios, makers of the “Ice Age” series) ushers Dr. Seuss’ two-dimensional doodles into a new era without sacrificing any of their charm. In fact, the film features some of the most beautiful visuals this reviewer has seen in the animated world. (The clover-field scene is especially dazzling.)

“Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!” is a welcome update on a true classic of children’s literature. Here’s hoping it doesn’t become a substitute for the source material but rather is a supplement, a refresher or an entree into the world of Dr. Seuss’ magical books.

***1/2

TITLE: “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!”

RATING: G (Some minor peril and creepy characters)

CREDITS: Directed by Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino. Written by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio. Based on the book by Dr. Seuss.

RUNNING TIME: 86 minutes

WEB SITE: www.hortonmovie.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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