The minds behind “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!” walk a tightrope between fidelity to a beloved text and keeping adults upright in their seats.
And they don’t step so much as a toe out of place.
The animated feature, out this week on DVD, takes the sturdy Seuss source material and injects it with the modern flourishes – an “Apocalypse Now” joke here, a MySpace gag there.
Those asides only enhance a tale which retains its rhyming patterns as well as Seuss’ inimitable creature gallery.
The Horton in question, voiced by Jim Carrey, hears a voice emanating from a speck sitting atop a puffy flower. That voice belongs to the Mayor of Whoville (Steve Carell), a man who lords over a community where nothing ever goes wrong, we’re told.
That Utopia could be short lived.
Some cynical types, like a purple kangaroo voiced by Carol Burnett, claim Whoville is but a figment of Horton’s imagination. You must conform and admit there’s no such place, she cries. And she means it, commandeering an army to stamp out any signs of noncomformity.
Yes, there’s a message betwixt the rhyming.
The creative missteps are few and forgivable, like an anime sequence that feels wholly out of place. And even the most child-like adults will start to fade before the film roars back to life en route to a giddy finale.
The animation is flat-out gorgeous, even if the CGI wonders cannot compete with the likes of “Wall*E” and other Pixar gems. Dr. Seuss’ characters come to life in wondrous fashion, and the film features a relatively restrained performance by Carrey. Like Robin Williams, Carrey often works best when his comic mania is kept in check.
It’s hard to imagine any child wouldn’t want “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!” as a permanent part of his or her DVD library.