“On the fifteenth of May, in the Jungle of Nool,
In the heat of the day, in the cool of the pool,
He was splashing…enjoying the jungle’s great joys…
When Horton the Elephant heard a small noise.”
So begins Horton Hears a Who — a nearly universal favorite from Dr. Seuss’s extensive collection — and so also begins the movie. That is, Horton is definitely splashing in the pool as the metaphorical curtain rises. Jim Carrey (Horton) and Steve Carell (the Mayor) charm in this admittedly quite extended version of the original story. It is also nice to hear Carol Burnett’s dulcet tones from the throat of the Big Kangaroo (one is reminded of Miss Hannigan from Annie.)
Those significant story extensions appear, for example, when the “Little Kangaroo in [the Big Kangaroo’s] Pouch” has a mind of his own rather than simply agreeing with everything his mother says (character development). Or when the Mayor of Whoville suddenly has to contend with the Whoville Town Council which, by insisting that everything in Whoville be serene and conflict-free, goes a long way to providing the conflict that directors Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino decided was necessary to make this loving story fill 1 hour and 30 minutes.
And conflict and character development there was! However, my overall impressions and conclusion were that — well, perhaps there is a more appropriate way to tell you. And yes, there are spoilers if you know neither the book nor the movie…
On a Friday in March, at a drive-in up north
a reviewer was waiting for films to burst forth
across the screen… awaiting the start of a flick
she feared could make even a flu virus sick.
For she had seen one she was sure wouldn’t be
awful or heinous, but merry and free —
’cause this movie was based on a wonderful book
’bout a Cat and a fish and a dress on a hook
But Oh No! she realized in horror and shame
The Cat she’d expected was just not the same
(and the actor Mike Myers was partly to blame!)
So ’twas trepidation she felt there that night…
Would the movie be good? Or would it be a fright?
And would it have a Mayor? A Horton? A ‘Roo?
With Carrey as Horton, who knew what he’d do!
And Whoville! It’s buildings, its bikes, and its tech—
Is it there? All secure on its clover-borne speck?
Oh bliss! There it was! The Mayor — the speck —
And the Elephant Horton — he too was on deck!
The story was longer — well, duh! After all,
A book’s not a film — it’s a little too small.
The changes included a homeschooling ‘Roo —
Her freethinking baby named Rudy came too —
Plus a Whoville Town Council who bothered the Mayor
And his 96 daughters — you count them, they’re there!
“Well?” you might think. “Some small changes are fine.
But the message? The Suess-ness? The true bottom line?
And is Horton a deity? Is that for real?”
An overtone only — it’s not a big deal!
The real deal is this — this movie is awesome!
The families I watched with found Horton “applause-some!”
While purists might fuss about Jojo, the son
Of Steve Carell’s Mayor, who knows it’s no fun
To have to be Mayor when you prefer art
(The book’s Jojo had a much tinier part)
Though no less important — both rose to the top
And rescued fair Whoville with their famous “Yop!”
Important as YOP to the movie’s conclusion
(which if ruined would bring on horrendous confusion)
was the moment of heartrending, breath-holding fear:
would the Seuss book be honored, or be turned on its ear?!!
The moral be modernized? Changed in some way?
Together we watched Carrey’s elephant say —
And the words that he quoted elated us all —
“A person’s a person, no matter how small!”