Dr Seuss recovered

by Nikki Tranter

13 March 2008


The new Horton ‘toon may be state of the art. But it’s great virtue isn’t the 3-D animation. It’s the good Doctor, whose writing about Whos never goes out of style.

The good news: Horton Hears a Who is a keeper. At least, Roger Moore thinks it is. And after Mr. Moore’s recent pounding of Ben Stein’s Expelled, I’m inclined to believe him just because he’s just so very cool right now. Moore’s view is such that while the animation in the new film, and its performances from Jim Carrey and Steve Carell, are first-rate, the film works best because it keeps Seuss’s facts vs, faith themes:

It’s as if Seuss, the late Theodor Geisel, was straddling two sides of the “faith vs. facts” debate, and coming down against willful ignorance and narrow-mindedness in general.

Travis Nichols at the Seattle P-I liked the film, too, though his summation of the themes within is a lot simpler: It’s about standing up for what you believe in. The Washington Post are fans, but Desson Thomson wonders if Seuss’s message has been too watered down:

In the McCarthy era in which the book was written, people saw pointed commentary in its depiction of the fascistic qualities in the people of Who-ville (who refuse to believe there is a world beyond the mini speck of dust on which they live), and Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) made clear his displeasure over the antiabortion movement’s canny politicization of the book’s best-known phrase, “A person’s a person no matter how small.” In a subtle but effective way, the movie sounds a central message: We shouldn’t be tone deaf to other people’s realities.

He ends up referring to the film as sweet, but guileless.

More vocal in their displeasure, the Canadian Press appreciated the whimsy, but felt it was far too drawn out:

There was barely material enough for the 1970 half-hour TV version of Horton Hears a Who! so imagine the stretching and stuffing that went into this. Everything Horton does drags on rather tediously.

So, Moore’s love is not unanimous, but, at the same time, few reviews I’ve come across are out and out Grinch-style pannings. Even the bad reviews note just how much this new film tries to make its point; tries, you might say, to eradicate The Grinch from our memories by actually having a point at all.

Check out Freep‘s look back at past Seuss adaptations. And while you’re at it, go here to check out five things you didn’t know about Dr. Seuss. My favourite? Did you know Dr. Seuss invented the word “nerd”?

I’ll report on my Who experience when the film opens in Australia later this month.

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