I first saw Horton Hears a Who on a airplane flight from Chicago to Orlando and thought it was charming and kind of funny. It’s hard to gauge a movie’s actual quality in an environment like that but I got the overall gist.
Watching the movie a second time on DVD it came through a lot better. The story remains essentially true to Dr. Suess’ original, with Horton the elephant finding a speck that has landed on a flower that he believes contains a whole civilization. He takes it upon himself to protect that speck while the Whos – the people who live in the world encompassed by the speck – begin to become aware that there’s a big world beyond their own senses.
At the time of its release there was a lot of press about how right-to-life advocates were adopting the movie as their own, based largely on Horton’s repeated mantra that “A person’s a person no matter how small.” While I thought that was a tad ridiculous at the time, watching the movie it’s hard not to view it in the light of the abortion rights and intelligent design debates.
The kangaroo that is out to destroy the speck and prove Horton is imagining things spouts many of the lines usually associated with satirical portrayals of conservatives who want to keep evolution out of the classroom. On the other hand her insistence that there can’t be life beyond what we see with our own eyes seems to be a parody-version of a liberal’s “life doesn’t start until it’s in the visible world” point of view.
But beyond any socio-political subtext Horton Hears a Who is a pretty enjoyable movie for the family. Some parents might not be thrilled with the amount of crotch-based humor (not a lot, but enough that I can think of two or three instances) in the previously gentle story but that’s going to depend on your overall point of view with kid’s films.
The DVD release of the movie adds a number of features to the film, including a Director’s Commentary as well as a handful of behind-the-scenes featurettes on everything from Jim Carrey’s voice performance to a couple dealing with the overall task of bringing the story to computer-animated life.
There’s also a Special Edition of the film that contains a second disc with a Digital Copy of the film for you to transfer to your iTunes library and then take with you on your iPod.