Horton Hears a Who! (2008)

Rated: G
Length: 88 minutes
Grade: A+AA+A+=A+
Budget: $85 million
Box Office: $297 million (155 U.S., 142 Intl.)

Written by: Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel), with the book adapted to this version by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul (Where is Fred?, The Santa Clause 2)
Directed by: Jimmy Hayward (Animator for Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc., Toy Story 1+2, and A Bug’s Life) and Steve Martino (Art director for Robots and two Monty Python video games)
Starring: The voices of Charles Osgood, Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, Will Arnett, Seth Rogen, Dan Fogler, Amy Poehler, Isla Fisher, Jaime Pressly, Jonah Hill, and Carol Burnett as a brilliantly voiced June Kangaroo.

When the loveable elephant Horton one day discovers himself in the possession of a speck of dust containing an entire world full of microscopic people, he must strive to protect them from a world of people who deny the reality of anything they can’t see directly.

Entertainment Value: A+
Okay, I love this book. It’s one of my favorite Dr. Seusses, and I thought the original animated version was pretty good for its time, but I was totally blown away from the very first seconds by this version. This is some of the best animation I have ever seen. The voicing is just wonderful. And the thing I loved the best is that they kept all the essentials of the original story, honoring the rhymes of the narrator in the process, while also adding in substantial amounts of new, imaginative, and generally very funny dialogue/plot. This is two grand slams in one at-bat.

Superficial Content: A
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sex/Nudity A, Violence A-, Language A, Illegal Activity A
Squeaky. In fact, the scariest scene from the old version is the boiling oil and the Wickersham’s capturing Horton, but I found the versions in this film to be not scary at all. There are a couple of name-calling (idiot) moments, but this is certainly about as G as G gets.

Significant Content: A+
Keep your word. Believe in things you can’t immediately perceive. One person with the truth is stronger than the entire world who doesn’t believe it. And one of the most famous refrains in Seussdom: “A person’s a person no matter how small.”

Artistic/Thought Value: A+
As I raved previously, the animation here is outstanding, although I thought the Japanese anime sequence was out of place and odd. But the thought value is just wonderful, as this is one of Seuss’s most useful books for the pro-life cause, even though Seuss was pro-choice and actively opposed people using his story for this purpose.

Discussion Questions:
~What does this movie have to say about the morality of abortion?
~What does this movie have to say about the power of faith?
~What does this movie have to say about the dangers of naturalism, the view that the only reality is that which we can see and touch for ourselves directly?
~Since Geisel was upset that this story was used by pro-lifers, what do you think the purpose of the story was in his mind? Do you think that it matters more what the creator of a work of art thinks it means or what the people who consume it think it means?
~Why do you think Seuss chose to make the people tiny and powerless but the animals large and powerful?
~Compare Kangaroo’s parenting style with that of the mayor. What lessons does each learn during this movie? Should we always obey our parents?
Overall Grade: A+
Hilarious, beautiful, meaningful, and highly entertaining. And, by the way, the joke about being pouch-schooled was hilarious. Don’t be deterred by the way Carrey and Co. ruined the Grinch. He’s atoned for it here.

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