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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"HORTON HEARS A WHO"

Itís kind of weird to think that Hollywood has cranked out two live action movies based on the works of Dr. Seuss. Animation would clearly seem to be the more appropriate fit for the manís imaginative and uniquely illustrated stories. Ron Howardís version of The Grinch seemed good the first time, but didnít hold up well on a repeat viewing for me, and the Mike Myers-starring Cat in the Hat was offensively bad. So thank goodness that Blue Sky Animation Studios (the company responsible for the Ice Age pictures and Robots) is behind the big screen version of Horton Hears a Who.

Jim Carrey provides the voice of Horton the elephant, who hears noise coming from a tiny speck that floats past his ear. He suspects that there may be some kind of life form on that speck, and in fact he is right. The microscopic town of Whoville is located in there. Steve Carell plays the Mayor of Whoville, who hears Hortonís attempts to communicate back. It becomes obvious that the speck could float anywhere, including somewhere dangerous. Panicked about impending doom, the Mayor convinces Horton to find a safe place to put the speck, where it will be free from danger.

The elephant chooses a sunflower high atop a hill, but getting there is more difficult than it looks. When a kangaroo named, uh, Kangaroo (Carol Burnett) gets wind of his situation, she freaks. Kangaroo thinks itís absurd to believe that anyone (or anything) could be living on a speck so small. She also fears what will happen to order if others start to believe Hortonís story. To this end, she enlists the help of a vulture called Vlad (Will Arnett) to foil Hortonís plan. Meanwhile, inside the speck, the Mayor tries to calm the Whoville residents as chaos reigns, due to the various conditions through which Horton moves it.

If thereís a problem with Horton Hears a Who, itís the same problem shared by the live-action Seuss movies: the authorís stories were short and succinct, and not necessarily sufficient to fill out a 90-minute movie. Like its predecessors, Horton has to add elements to pad the running time. This means more slapstick episodes, more pop cultural references (including an out-of-place but still funny ďPokemonĒ parody), and more adventure.

Unlike, say, The Cat in the Hat, this film at least adds filler that is consistent in tone with Dr. Seussís style. (Iím still appalled by that Paris Hilton cameo in Cat, which was released the same week that her sex tape scandal broke.) The bookís message Ė ďa personís a person now matter how smallĒ Ė is expanded upon, and I think that children in particular will be touched by it. Thereís an emphasis on kindness and the need to look out for one another. I enjoyed the sweetness of how that message is presented.

Thereís also a lot to laugh at. Carrey and Carell are, as always, hilarious, and a slate of comedy stars do supporting voice work, including Seth Rogen, Isla Fisher, Jonah Hill, Amy Poehler, and Jamie Pressley. The cast in itself is fun. Additionally, the animators have given the movie a beautiful look, with a bright, colorful style. This is one animated picture that is enjoyable to look at and to listen to.

Horton Hears a Who comes at a time when there arenít a lot of other family-friendly movies out there. This is one that kids will go ape for; that said, Dr. Seussís works cross all demographics, and I think that grown-ups will find themselves having a good time as well.

( out of four)


Horton Hears a Who is rated G. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.

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