Long before Wall-E, Kung-Fu Panda and Madagascar 2 conquered the box office, there was Horton Hears a Who, the first big animated film of 2008. Based on a Dr. Seuss book, Horton Hears a Who is perhaps the truest Seuss adaptation in recent memory, and the first delivered in the format that best suits the faux doctor's style: CG animation.
Horton Hears a Who, about an elephant who finds a speck that is inhabited with a tiny species whose very existence is threatened by destruction, is an enjoyable family film starring Jim Carrey (who also played the title character in the pretty-good-but-not-amazing The Grinch) and Steve Carell. Carrey voices Horton, a good-natured, bumbling creature who goes from one adventure to the next to save the newfound friends he can hear but can't see, and Carell does the eccentric Mayor of Whoville.
The voice acting is great, and while I generally don't think that big name actors are always the greatest choice for animated films, Carrey and Carell's presence certainly helps. Carrey, as expected, delivers, making Horton one of the most likable on-screen characters in recent memory. Carell is less detectable in terms of style, but is also excellent.
Beyond that, Horton Hears a Who is perhaps the closest thing to old-school Disney than we've seen in years (note: the movie is not a Disney flick), as it's visually creative, lighthearted and full of adventure, yet doesn't seem to be trying too hard. Wall-E is a masterpiece and Kung Fu Panda is hilarious, but Horton Hears a Who is just a good old adventure comedy full of animals, strange little creatures named Whos and a whole lot of creativity. It's a refreshing change of pace from the beyond-children storylines of Pixar (not that I'm knocking the-company-that-can-do-no-wrong-except-for-Cars) and the modern-reference jokes of DreamWorks.
Unfortunately for Horton Hears a Who, this has been a great year for animated films, and given its early release date and smaller box office revenues, it will most likely be forgotten come award time. Nevertheless, it is a quality film that parents should consider renting or buying immediately.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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