The previous movie adaptations of Dr. Seuss, Ron Howards live-action How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) and Bo Welchs The Cat in the Hat (2003), did away with the wit of the celebrated books, leading to films that felt cluttered and creepy. Co-directed by Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino, Horton Hears a Who! doesnt quite match the wit of its source material but thats largely a result of stretching a tight 15-minute-to-read storybook into an hour-and-a-half movie. Still, the film represents a fair effort.
Blue Sky Studios (creators of the Ice Age movies) gives Hortons jungle and characters the expressive, tactile look of Claymation.
Plot-wise, the elephant Horton (Jim Carrey) and the Mayor of Whoville (Steve Carell) both become disrespected prophets. Seusss story has always been about cosmic epiphany. The jungles know-it-alls think Horton has lost his mind when he claims to have contacted the town of Whoville, which resides on a speck of dust on a clover. When the Mayor of Whoville first hears Hortons voice, its handled as if it was the earth-shattering moment of a science fiction film such as Jodie Fosters or Richard Dreyfusss first contact with aliens---in Contact (1997) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) respectively.
The understanding of a universe beyond ones own world is the universal truth to all these movies, which in their final and best moments treat even the most antagonistic characters with some respect.