Wednesday, March 26, 2008

It's a who's who of stars in 'Horton'

*** out of ****

"A person's a person, no matter how small." That is the lesson for us all, that walk down the theater hall, to see Dr. Seuss' "Horton Hears a Who!" -- a worthy Hollywood adaptation once and for all.

After the so-so "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and the dire "Cat in the Hat," a Dr. Seuss story has found the right form in animation instead of live action, capturing the true essence of the book. The cartoon-y animation, true to book form, helps the movie come to life with many of the scenes inspired by the book's drawings. The talented voice cast with top-rated comedians of old and new, along with the hilarious script, boost "Horton" to one of the best family and comedy films this year.

"Horton" starts off with the star of the film, Horton (Jim Carrey, who starred in "Grinch"), a lovable and eccentric elephant living in the jungle of Nool, dictated by Sour Kangaroo (Carol Burnett) who dislikes imagination and things out of order. While taking a bath, Horton hears cries for help coming from a speck of dust floating in the air and chases it down, catching it on a daisy. Trying to talk to the speck, he ends up communicating with the Mayor (Steve Carell) who, unbeknownst to him, oversees the mircoscopic town of Whoville. Dr. Mary Lou Larue, the town's scientist, says that if the town cannot reach stability it is doomed. The Mayor, not believing Horton, who he can only hear but not see, makes the task of survival that much harder.

The Mayor passes on the information to Horton, who is determined to find a stable place for Whoville. He decides to go to the top of the highest mountain in the jungle of Nool. When the resident of the jungle catch wind of the story and start using their imaginations, Sour Kangaroo is unyielding in her attempts to destroy the speck, saying "The only things that are real are what you can see, hear, or feel." The Mayor, too, is under pressure, unable to convince his wife (Amy Poehler), the wicked councilman (Dan Fogler) and the rest of the town of their impending fate.

Sour Kangaroo solicits help from an evil vulture, Vlad (Will Arnett), to destroy the speck. Horton must watch out for aerial attacks from Vlad and the vigilant eye of Sour Kangaroo on his journey to the top of mount Nool.

First-time directors Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino do an excellent job of recreating the imaginative landscape created by Dr. Seuss with gratifying colorful visuals. Screenplay writers Dan Daurio and Cinco Paul also find the quintessence of the book, not straying far from its many themes with jokes-a-plenty.

Jim Carrey has a wide vocal range for Horton, providing a great character voice, and Steve Carell also gives equally fine voice-work as the reluctant Mayor. Dan Fogler and Will Arnett make excellent villains and Seth Rogen gets some snickers as Horton's mouse friend. Jaime Pressly ("My Name is Earl"), Jonah Hill ("Superbad"), Jesse McCartney ("Alvin and the Chipmunks") and Niecy Nash ("Reno 911!") round out the superb supporting cast. However, it is Carol Burnett that creates the fullest character with plenty of personality that you can't help but love and hate.

From the animation team that brought us "Ice Age," "Horton Hears a Who!" is another magical hit.

No matter what, "Horton" is definitely for you, even if you are a Grinch.

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