Who goes there?

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews - DON­ALD CLARKE

HOR­TON HEARS A WHO! Di­rected by Jimmy Hay­ward, Steve Martino. Voices of Jim Car­rey, Steve Carell, Carol Bur­nett, Dan Fogler, Dane Cook, Will Ar­nett, Isela Fisher G cert, gen re­lease, 88 min

EVEN A cur­sory con­sid­er­a­tion of the philo­soph­i­cal sub­texts and po­lit­i­cal un­der­cur­rents of Hor­ton Hears a Who! could well send think­ing Dr Seuss en­thu­si­asts right off their green eggs and ham.

As read­ers of the late doc­tor’s time­less book may re­call, the plot con­cerns an ele­phant – or a Seussian vari­a­tion on that crea­ture – who ap­pears to hear voices em­a­nat­ing from a speck of dust on a spher­i­cal plant. It tran­spires that this stray crumb houses a mi­cro­scopic city. Those in Whoville who claim to hear Hor­ton be­come the tar­get of snig­gers, while the op­ti­mistic ele­phant is treated as a rav­ing lu­natic by pinch-mouthed scolds led by a name­less fe­male kan­ga­roo.

Fol­low­ing the catas­tro­phes that were The Grinch and The Cat in The Hat, Hol­ly­wood has, for the first time in decades, de­liv­ered a Seuss adap­ta­tion you might ac­tu­ally cross the road to see. Made by the same team that con­cocted the gen­er­ally hope­less Ice Age films, the pic­ture fea­tures glossy, rigid com­puter an­i­ma­tion that, though true to the books’ sur­real bril­liance, is not nearly as warm as that in Chuck Jones’s lovely 1970 ver­sion of Hor­ton.

That quib­ble noted, the pic­ture must be ad­judged a suc­cess. The writ­ers have fleshed out the story with some slyly sub­ver­sive jokes, and the voice­work – Jim Car­rey speaks for Hor­ton while Steve Carell does the mayor of Whoville – is prop­erly idio­syn­cratic with­out stoop­ing to oral grand­stand­ing.

Most im­por­tantly, the story’s head-spin­ning med­i­ta­tions on the state of na­ture, hu­man­ity and, well, Ev­ery­thing Else re­main se­curely in place.

When the book was pub­lished in 1954, some read­ers de­tected an anti-McCarthyite ten­dency in the de­pic­tion of the in­tran­si­gent kan­ga­roo. More re­cently, Seuss’s es­tate felt com­pelled to send pro-life groups an­gry let­ters com­plain­ing about mis­use of the text’s key phrase “a per­son’s a per­son, no mat­ter how small”. Viewed in 2007, the kan­ga­roo’s bald claim that “if you can’t hear it or see it, it doesn’t ex­ist” lends the smug mar­su­pial a flavour of Richard Dawkins.

We could also men­tion the way the cen­tral premise nods to­wards the Many Worlds In­ter­pre­ta­tion of quan­tum me­chan­ics, but, for fear of per­ma­nent in­duc­tion into pseuds’ cor­ner, we will, per­haps, dis­cretely edge that the­ory aside and note that this Hor­ton is the best fam­ily film of the sea­son.

An ear in the life: Hor­ton Hears a Who!

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.