From fantastical jungle to tiny-creature metropolis, worlds collide in "Dr. Suess' Horton Hears a Who," a film that will have you rooting for both the big guy and the small.
On a casual day in the jungle of Nool, the elephant Horton was enjoying the pool. When lo and behold, from a speck in the air, tiny voices were screaming for help, he could swear.
Theodore "Dr. Suess" Geisel told it better, but for those who think they might lose their sanity after 88 minutes of zany rhyme-time dialogue, fear not. The film truly is a modern adaptation of the 1954 children's book, with regular dialogue from the acting talents of Jim Carey as Horton and Steve Carell as the mayor of Whoville.
Whoville, you say? It's actually a tiny world of tiny Suessian people, all living in a city of delightfully bizarre architecture where nothing has ever gone wrong.
All that changes when the speck on which the city thrives is jolted and tossed around in Horton's world.
While Horton strikes up an instant rapport with the mayor, neither the rest of Whoville nor anyone else in the jungle of Nool know anything of the mutual universes.
In fact, one practical, order-instilling kangaroo (voice of Carol Burnett) threatens to take the clover on which Horton's speck sits, all for protecting the young jungle creatures from using their imaginations.
Although the morals in the film version hit the viewer rather squarely, the subtle political/philosophical implications of the Suess stories are always stimulating.
On its own two feet, "Horton" the movie works rather well. Carey's goofy voiceover performance makes for some entertaining sequences, including one in which Horton imagines he's an anime-style hero - odd but humorous.
Carell is apt in his own role, but his Whoville world is more enjoyable for the imaginative art direction, which comes closest to capturing the distinct iconography of Dr. Suess.
As important as it is to measure a film on its own merit, people expect something very precise from a Suess work. While "Horton" may be better than the two live-action Suess predecessors ("How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and "The Cat in the Hat"), the magic of that author and illustrator's unique genius always will be diminished in translation.