Horton Hears a Who!
Jim Carrey and Steve Carell together again! Not that either of the Bruce Almighty stars appear in the flesh. Just as well really. Carrey plays Horton, a big, goofy, unassuming elephant - a role that might stretch even this rubber-faced star to breaking point.
Carell supplies the voice for the Mayor of Whoville, a character who's nervous, pompous and quite likeable all at the same time. He's in for a shock though. The pachyderm's disembodied voice regrets to inform him that the Who's world is a mere speck floating through the jungle.
Sudden shifts in climate tend to bear out Horton's warning - not that the Mayor relishes breaking the news to his fellow citizens, a complacent bunch who only want to have fun. And when he reveals the source for his scoop he's reduced to a laughing stock.
Things aren't much better for Horton. It's a jungle out there! Kangaroo (voiced by Carol Burnett) takes offence when the elephant insists on treating a speck with respect. It's an affront to her authority - and worse, the natural order of things.
Actually the Kangaroo's motivation seems a bit shaky if you stop to think about it, despite the conviction that Burnett pours into the part.
While we're about it, where did this speck come from and how come it's only now suffering environmental upheaval? And how is it that the mayor can hear Horton but no one else does? And when the speck comes to rest in a field of clover, why isn't Whoville perfectly safe - better off, surely, than back in Horton's trunk?
These pedantries probably won't spoil your enjoyment of a bright, breezy entertainment. It's true that the screenwriters have padded out the Dr Seuss picture book without bolstering the foundations of a sketchy storyline, but most of their hour's worth of extra material is amusing enough, whether it's the Mayor trying to keep up with his 96 daughters or Horton doing his best to evade Vlad the Vulture (Will Arnett), a hitman oddly reminiscent of Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises who Kangaroo commissions to destroy the speck.
Carrey was certainly the best reason to watch How The Grinch Stole Christmas. He's in a more mellow mood here (all things being relative), noodling whimsically when he gets the space: "I love the smell of bananas in the morning," he says, after surviving a yellow fusillade from a group of meddlesome monkeys.
Unsurprisingly, Seuss - whose own illustrations suggest a kindergarten Salvador Dali - works a lot better in animation than in live action (no need to remind you of The Cat in the Hat, I'm sure). The look here has the bright glossy sheen of digital animation, but the drawing is in the softer traditional style. Directors Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino throw in a few nods and winks to other styles too, including an anime parody.
It's all very clean and dynamic, so easy on the eye you might overlook the weighty moral and philosophical questions we're dealing with here - faith, integrity, and the value of all living things: "a person's a person no matter how small".
There's a moral any kid can love - and here's a movie that should satisfy the whole family.
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