As I’ve said before on this blog, Hollywood’s previous dealings with the work of Dr Seuss have been akin to pressing a large red button marked ‘SELF DESTRUCT’. If you took the last 2 Seuss films as gospel, then the fair Doctor wanted to scare the pants off kids, with really creepy characters that wouldn’t look out of place in an episode of the League of Gentlemen.
Thankfully, Horton Hears a Who is a big visual improvement. Blue Sky’s CGI work is excellent, giving the film a cartoony quality that, while lacking the detail of Ratatouille, sets the perfect tone for the jungle adventure. The characters all have an endearing quality to them, and the animation team use a wide pallete to paint the action. The look of Horton is so important, simply because there isn’t all that much else here.
The film centres on Horton, an elephant who finds a flower that houses a whole civilisation called Whoville. Some bad animals try to stop Horton, but you can guess what happens to those plans. The film’s thin plot is excusable given the source material, a 60-page kid’s book, but any film needs a good raft of well-presented characters. Horton gives you 3 – the big man himself, Steve Carrell’s Major, and the Jungle’s resident police Kangaroo. There’s plenty of cute fluffballs flying by in the background, but a lack of development or depth in both the plot and the players.
The voice cast is star-studded, with Carrell, Jim Carrey, Seth Rogen, Will Arnett and Isla Fisher all involved. While everyone puts in dependable turns, there doesn’t seem much correlation between the actor doing the voice, and the character they’re meant to be playing. Saying that, there are some genuine laughs in the script, and a couple of clever pop culture references thrown in, for good measure.
So it looks great, but there isn’t much going on. The all-star voice cast are a tad underwhelming, but it looks great. Really great. If only the good Doctor could have padded the book out to a solid 500 pages, then we’d be talking…
Horton Hears a Who is out now.