Of course, I've heard of "Horton Hears a Who", but as I was listening to a "what's coming out this weekend" informational thing about it, I realized that I had never read the book and really didn't know what the story was about. For whatever reason, I don't recall having seen a trailer or a TV spot for the film, and I didn't really know if I wanted to see it, especially since I'm not fond of Jim Carrey and I don't have a particular affinity for Steve Carell. The husband wanted to see it though, so we did end up going, with a friend joining us as well.
For a Sunday afternoon, 4pm-ish show in suburbia, the theatre was much more packed than I had expected - it was probably almost 2/3rd full. I had been even more surprised to see that the following show was already reading as "SOLD OUT" when we bought tickets for this show. I guess that's the kind of thing that was happening all weekend which accounted for the film making a whopping $45 million on its opening weekend.
I ended up liking the film much more than I expected, and overall, I really enjoyed the film a lot. Since I don't know the original story, I don't know how faithful it was to it, but I would expect that they wouldn't have strayed too far away from the source.
One thing I was really impressed with was the animation. The first drops of water on the leaf were pretty amazing, though I wasn't quite as happy with some of the jungle scenes themselves. I can't quite explain what bothered me about them, but the early shot coming down the waterfall wasn't as spectacular as I had wanted it to be, though the river shots were pretty good. But the first little blips of Whoville really got my attention, probably because the style was so different than in the jungle but still so good. And then in that first real scene in Whoville, when the camera panned across the city and all this stuff was happening, I was just blown away by how great it looked. Now, again, I don't know if this difference in style is reflective of how the book is, but even if it is, I think they did a great job of duplicating it on film.
The story, of course, includes a few good lessons - don't let others bully you around, don't be afraid to stand up for what you believe in, even if there are consequences, don't be a part of a mob that sticks your nose in where it doesn't belong especially if you don't know all the facts, and be true to your word. I think they did a good job of conveying the message without it being heavyhanded, and I think it's a message and film that speaks on all levels, so no matter if you're young or old, everyone can come away with some aspect of the message that you can understand and use, and you've had an entertaining movie to watch as well.
I loved the bit that Vlad could either be the scary vulture or the cute little bunny with cookies and that they actually did the payoff of that bit.
So I'm wondering - are these the same Whos that are in the Grinch story? Does the Grinch live on a speck as well? Could be - it's clear from the ending of the film that we live on a speck too.
I loved the music that the citizens of Whoville are playing when they're trying to get the attention of the rabid jungle mob trying to cage Horton. I especially loved the music that JoJo produces. Spiffy scene.
I did think the sequence of the cast singing REO Speedwagon's 1985 hit "Can't Fight This Feeling" was a bit odd - funny, but odd. I would love to know how they even thought up the idea to do that.
I've not particularly been a fan of Jim Carrey as I feel that he gets too manic (as Robin Williams can sometimes get as well) to be funny and is more show-offy than entertaining. I remember thinking he did a great job in one of his earliest works, a TV movie called "Doing Time on Maple Drive". I also think he did a terrific job in "Man on the Moon", capturing the spirit of Andy Kaufman dead on, and "The Majestic", where he gave a truly understated and personal performance. But his overacting histrionics in "Batman Forever" typifies the kind of performance by him that I hate, and there have been a number of movies that I probably would have been interested in seeing if he had not been in them. I wasn't sure how he was going to do as Horton, and while I found the occasional sequence to be over the top, I generally thought he was kept well in-check and made Horton into an interesting character.
Even though I know who Steve Carell is, I don't think I've ever actually seen anything he's done as I don't think his kind of projects are my normal cup of tea, but I thought he also did a very good job as the Mayor of Whoville.
I was very impressed that they got Charles Osgood as the narrator. What a voice of authority to have in that role. And I was amused that they got teen music star Jesse McCartney (who I remember from ages ago when he played J.R. Chandler on "All My Children") to do the few lines as JoJo. I wonder if he had anything to do with any of the music that JoJo created.
But for me, the standout performance came from Carol Burnett as the shrewish Kangaroo. I had seen her name flash by in the credits, but I think I would have recognized her voice in any case. She gave the perfect tone to the character. She's no slouch when it comes to acting - I used to love watching her shows, and it was amazing to see her morphing into the various characters. She really showed off her ability to convey so much with the tone and timbre of her voice, giving Kangaroo the perfect inflections necessary at each turn.
Two small "hey, that's cool" moments in the film:
1. I didn't see it myself, but the husband and the friend both noticed that during the breakfast segment, when the Mayor of Whoville's children are basically being conveyor-belted around the winding table, at one point, you can see that one of the plates has green eggs and ham on it.
2. Towards the end of the film, when the Mayor of Whoville is introducing various people to Horton, I believe it's Burt/Bert from accounting who leans out the window a bit, and you can see he's holding a coffee mug. It's only a quick second, but I could swear the coffee mug has the Blue Sky Studios logo name on it.
Definitely a recommend for this film.
As one might expect, several animated family features had trailers that played before this film.
"Speed Racer" - I missed the very beginning of the trailer as I was late getting into the theatre. OK, so it's mostly a live-action film, but the race sequences are oddly animated - very CGI. I know the husband is looking forward to this, and while I remember loving Speed Racer as a kid, I can barely remember anything about the show, but I'm interested in the movie anyway.
Here's the trailer.
"Wall-E" - Yet another trailer, and the first one I've seen where there's actual talking from other than Wall-E himself. I also had heard of Eve but not seen her before, so it was interesting how absolutely different she looks than he does.
Go here to see the new trailer. It's the one dated March 14, 2008.
"Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" - This weekend was also the debut of the trailer for the third Ice Age movie, which is scheduled to be released on July 4, 2009 in digital 3D. Reports are that it was only being shown in front of "Horton". I hadn't heard anything about the film other than that they were probably making another one. The trailer stars Scrat, not surprisingly, and he's as funny as ever. I looked around at some sites, and apparently, all of the gang is back, including Queen Latifah. I didn't care much for her character in the last film, so I'm not thrilled about that, but since the movie is about dinosaurs, I'm excited to see what they're going to do.
The trailer doesn't seem to be up anywhere on the net yet, but I expect it will be soon. In the meantime, here's the official Ice Age site, which shows the teaser poster artwork for the third film. From there, you can enter the Ice Age 3 site itself, which currently doesn't have the trailer, but I'm figuring it will soon.