I have always loved Dr. Seuss, but most of his books do not translate very well to the big screen. The reason? I mean, his books are short and it is hard to extend it to an hour and a half. It is not a coincidence that one of the best adaptations of all time was the original animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas! from 1966, which was 26 minutes. However, Horton Hears a Who escapes much of these problems, in part with two strong voice performances from Jim Carrey and Steve Carell.
Horton the Elephant (Jim Carrey) is enjoying a carefree existence until one day when a speck of dust floats by and Horton hears voices upon it. He realizes that the voices meant that there was a little person living on the speck of dust. In truth, there was an entire city on the speck… the city of Who-ville, led by the Mayor (Steve Carell).
Because no one else had ears strong enough to hear the Whos, Horton was scorned and believed to be a negative influence on the kids of the jungle. Kangaroo (Carol Burnett) led the charge against Horton, doing everything in her power to get the speck, which had landed on a clover, away from the elephant.
Meanwhile in Who-ville, the Mayor was having the same difficulty getting anyone to believe him that their city was in danger and that Horton was real and in the sky.
This performance from Jim Carrey feels like his Robin Williams/Genie from Aladdin performance. I have a feeling that they let Carrey be free with what he wanted to do as there was a feel of improvisation to much of the dialogue used by Horton. Steve Carell has a great opposing performance and really works well with Carrey. They fit together here well and they are the real reason this works. Carol Burnett provides a strong villainous voice as the antagonist too.
There are a few times when the animation of the movie, which is fine, if not remarkable, switches to look more like the drawing from the actual Dr. Seuss books, which is a clever use of the structure. I would have liked to have seen more of this style than what we got.
There are parts to the story that do not feel fully integrated into the movie. For example, the Mayor’s son, JoJo (Jess McCartney) plays a major role in the finale, but his story was a side note for much of the film. It took a seismic shift to make him more important and I am not sure his third act heroism was necessarily earned.
But overall, the part that did not work quite as well are few and the charm of the rest of the film outstretched the issues. This was one of the most successful feature length Dr. Seuss adaptations and, watching it on Disney + makes it a perfect film for the DailyView today on a busy day.