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Film review: Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!

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"Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!" is by far the best of the recent movie features that were based on late author and artist Theodor Seuss Geisel's beloved children's books.

Of course, given that its competition consists of the noxious, live-action adaptations of Geisel's "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and "The Cat in the Hat" books, that's not as big of an accomplishment as you might think.

But at least the makers of this comic fantasy were smart enough to render the tale in state-of-the-art digital animation and to include more of the actual Seuss language than those other two films did.

As a result, the movie does amuse and, as with all his works, it does feature a good message.

Veteran newsman Charles Osgood narrates the tale, and Jim Carrey voices the main character, an amiable elephant named Horton who believes he hears voices coming from a dust mote.

It turns out he's right, and the mote contains the entirety of Whoville, a teeny, tiny community. Whoville's mayor (voiced by Steve Carell) is worried about its survival, but Horton agrees to take them to a safer, more secure location.

However, a self-righteous kangaroo (the voice of Carol Burnett) thinks that Horton is setting a bad example for the children and sets out to disprove his seemingly crazy claims.

The film was produced by the people who were behind the "Ice Age" movies, and it was co-directed by a former Pixar animator. And it's obvious they used Geisel's artwork as models for the characters and backgrounds.

However, not everything works here. A 2-D animated parody of Japanese anime (in particular, the once-popular Pokemon phenomenon) falls completely flat, and at times it feels like the screenwriters are stretching the relatively brief material a bit thin.

Fortunately, the very good voice cast seems inspired. Carrey does step out of character, but it's not as grating as when he did it as the Grinch. Carell is endearingly goofy as the put-upon figurehead. And it's nice to at least hear from Burnett again.

"Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!" is rated G, though it does contain mostly comic violent action (slapstick, pratfalls, animal violence and some strong peril elements), some mildly vulgar digestive and bodily function humor, brief drug content (accidental misuse of dental anesthetics), and a few derogatory slurs. Running time: 88 minutes.

E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com