Seuss that's a delight, not a fright

Posted: March 14, 2008

On the 14th of March on your favorite screen,

Ambles Horton, a character elephantine.

Gray, and grateful for his place in the universe,

The pachyderm breaks the Dr. Seuss movie curse.

Seuss lovers - and who is not? - may now heave a sigh of relief. Unlike those behind the recent live-action grotesqueries The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and The Cat in the Hat, the makers of the Horton Hears a Who!, a most genial animation, do well by the great, good medic of metrical writing. Even better, they honor the smile-making delight of Seuss' drawing style, too.

As any 5-year-old can tell you, Horton's story is quite simple. While frolicking "in the heat of the day, in the cool of a pool, he was splashing, enjoying the jungle's great joys, when Horton the elephant heard a small noise."

From a speck on a dandelion, Horton discerns two things. That there is a microscopic universe, Whoville, populated by imaginative builders whose convoluted engineering suggests that they are graduates of the Rube Goldberg College of Design. And that rumbles in the jungle can cause quakes and climate change in the infinitesimal Whoville.

As any 55-year-old can tell you, Horton's story is quite cosmic. For the pachyderm (voiced by an unusually serene Jim Carrey) takes it on faith that there exists a parallel universe that he can only faintly hear.

And he remains firm in convincing doubters, especially Sour Kangaroo (Carol Burnett), that though it cannot be seen, Whoville exists.

With a gentle hand, the captivating and helium-light 88-minute film touches on issues of religious and scientific belief, the Butterfly Effect (the notion that the flutter of insect wings might create small changes in the atmosphere that cause a tornado), global warming and peaceful coexistence.

The under-6 set won't notice the story's covert agenda, which is as relevant today as in 1954 when it was originally published. For its intended audience, Horton's agenda is overt: Listen, be a friend, and most important - have fun!


Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillymews.com. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at http://go.philly.com/flickgrrl/.

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