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Animation and Anime

HORTON HEARS A WHO And Our Spy Sees It!

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. There are two new clips from this film on Yahoo! Movies right now, and I think they had the opposite effect from what’s intended. When I saw the first two trailers for this, I was excited by how close they came to the look of classic Dr. Seuss illustrations, and I was hoping the film would play as a righteous homage to his work in general. Long-time-spy-with-a-brand-new-name “Ouendaaaaaaaaaaan!” pops in today with a full report on his reaction to Blue Sky’s latest animated offering, and it sounds like he felt the way I did after seeing those clips, which seemed more manic than funny, more loud than entertaining. Let’s see...

Sigh. It's not much fun laying into one of these films. When you hear the Blue Sky guys talk, they're full of such enthusiasm. When you see the images they've generated for the screen, you're amazed at what they've pulled off. When you have a book and an author as well loved as Seuss, you're really pulling for them to get it right. But when you see the finished product, it's a really underwhelming, even slightly draining experience. I remember the rush of seeing Toy Story for the first time, and everything came together so beautifully that it took a few more viewings to really take in. A leap forward visually, but more than that, a wonderful combination of imagination, characterisation and genuine wit, which managed to entrance kids and adults alike. In the mid-90s, something of a golden age for cinema if you ask me, here was a kids' film that left you dizzy on the power of cinema to enthrall and entertain. And while Pixar produced a series of films (which were nearly as good, and occasionally, arguably better) the other 3D guys arrived, and the likes of Shrek were born. For me, the goodwill generated by Pixar's work carried over onto these other films, createing a feeling that a 3D animated movie would be worth seeing. That then began to wane as Dreamworks in particular shovelled out a series of also-rans, dominated by sequels, stunt-casting, uninspired plots and tiresome pop culture references. (Shrek 3 was, for me, one of the better ones as they seemed to not bother with jokes, so we were spared seeing yet another humorous historical take on a Burger King logo...) To be fair to Blue Sky Studios, I thought Ice Age was a pretty decent start, mainly thanks to the visual humour they brought with Scrat's antics. Robots was pretty middle-of-the-road in my eyes but with Horton Hears A Who, they seem to have completed their transition from Pixar-wannabe to Dreamworks-style also-ran. It starts nicely, with some genuinely impressive visuals: photo-realistic water drops on a leaf start a chain reaction that dislodges the Whoville speck and sets the story in motion. And then the rot of overwhelming seen-it-all-before averageness starts to set in. Here comes Jim Carrey (as Horton) doing his wacky thing once more, with a script that's not really worthy of the enthusiasm he puts into it. Now we'll introduce a few cute, happy-meal-destined sidekicks, most of whom are voiced by someone you'll have heard of, with Seth Rogen being given the most screen-time. He made me laugh a few times, I'm gracious enough to admit. Down in Whoville, things are a little more entertaining because there's a little more to look at. On the downside, the humour level seems pretty similar. "Thing X is not going to happen!" [Thing X happens]. And then come my beloved pop culture reviews. There's an eye-rollingly tired 2D bit where (stepping on Kung Fu Panda's upcoming toes) Horton imagines himself as a heroic warrior, complete with that joke where people move their mouth a lot and speak like they're dubbing a 70s kung-fu movie. Bombarded with fruit by monkeys, Horton claims to "love the smell of bananas in the morning". They're jokes that'll go over the heads of a young audience and bore the shit out of the parents. It was the moment when the Mayor's assistant (complete with sassy black woman voice over, but a white face) logs onto whospace.com and brags about how many friends she has when I genuinely lost all hope, though. NNNNGGAAAAAAARGGHGHGHHGH!!!! You're adapting a book that's loved, by a writer loved even more. A nice story with lovely visuals. Just adapt the fucking thing, keep the voiceover, and drop the references to the internet, which didn't even exist when Seuss died. Or if you have to drag the thing kicking and screaming into the modern era, do it with some ingenuity, wit and originality, and leave the riffs on slow-motion action sequences and brief moments of breakdancing for Meet The Spartans 2. It's simply not good enough to make a reference to something without a genuinely good joke to back it up. I understand why these moments are there - this is a thin story that needed expanding to fill an animated feature. The end result, however, is a film that's occasionally delightful, when all you're given is some impressive visuals and excerpts from the original Seuss rhyme, then increasingly tiresome as everything in between pads out, or flat out pisses on, the good stuff. Is there anything to like? The finale works pretty well, and would have been a lot more effective on the end of a better film. The angry mob who try to seize Horton's speck are slightly sinister and the way Whoville reacts is worth seeing on a big screen. But that's certainly not a recommendation for this genuinely lackluster effort.
Readers Talkback
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  • Feb. 27, 2008, 6:10 p.m. CST

    Blargh?

    by tylerzero

  • Feb. 27, 2008, 6:10 p.m. CST

    Yes! Blargh bitches!

    by tylerzero

  • Feb. 27, 2008, 6:13 p.m. CST

    Damn

    by Mr. Gunderson

    I was hoping that this would work better than the abysmal live-action Suess adaptations. Curses!!

  • Feb. 27, 2008, 6:34 p.m. CST

    who the hell is this reviewer?

    by BadMrWonka

    writes well, very coherent, gracious but honest, good backstory to the review, concise descriptions, no references to bodily functions...<p>are you sure this guy has contributed to the site before?

  • Feb. 27, 2008, 6:35 p.m. CST

    What the hell else were you guys expecting?

    by moondoggy2u

    Look, I love Dr. Seuss as much as next red-blooded American<p>I adore the books and I love the television shows!<p>In Fact, I'm a die-hard, charter Seussianatarian. <p>But facts are facts are facts are facts<p>The stories are too thin and a script has to grow.<p>Besides, I want a film about The Lorax...

  • Feb. 27, 2008, 6:40 p.m. CST

    Comparing it to Toy Story is kind of pointless.

    by cinemixtape.com

    Original material versus beloved classic. We've seen this before. Seuss doesn't work on the big screen. His books were already packed with imagery, so there's no need translate it to a different medium. Low expectations >>> high expectations.

  • Feb. 27, 2008, 6:47 p.m. CST

    this is a real shame

    by Obscura

    Blue sky started good played it safe with ice age and it worked, and i was hoping they'd grow into making some really good stuff. Robots is pretty much just an animation orgasm with no story. ice age 2 wasnt needed.... and now if this is average as it sounds, it just depresses me. 13 years after toy story and pixar are STILL the only people making decent animated flicks since the end of the good Disneys.

  • Feb. 27, 2008, 6:48 p.m. CST

    Second THE LORAX film idea!!!!

    by Brians Life

    But this one, eh. Everything I saw said to me "Sub Par Non Pixar CG flick"...not surprised that's what it was. <br><br>Did anyone ever think that maybe The Lorax was a sequel to THE GRINCH!?!?!

  • Feb. 27, 2008, 6:56 p.m. CST

    Careful there, Life of Brian,

    by moondoggy2u

    You're agreeing with someone who is either 14 or an idiot...

  • Feb. 27, 2008, 7:09 p.m. CST

    DAMN!

    by Brians Life

    J'accuse! I remember watching the animated film of THE LORAX more than reading the book and I always speculated that the green hand in the window belonged to that of The Grinch and this was his redemption or sorts. <br><br>pretty deep for a 10 year old huh?

  • Feb. 27, 2008, 7:22 p.m. CST

    I gave up after The Grinch.

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    I was smart enough not to see The Cat in the Hat (patting self on back). I have no interest in this. I love Dr Seuss. I love the books, I love the cartoons. My kids love them as well. But, they just do not translate to a 90-minute or more movie. Grinch taught us this, but no one has listened. It's a shame too because I ususally love Opie's stuff. The Grinch cartoon, now that's a classic. The Horton cartoon for that matter is good. Since it's only 15 minutes long max it keeps the message of the book, and doesn't overdo it.

  • Feb. 27, 2008, 7:22 p.m. CST

    "I speak for the trees!"

    by slone13

    I third the Lorax movie. With all this bullshit global warming/save the earth hoopla going around I can't believe it isn't already in production...

  • Feb. 27, 2008, 7:30 p.m. CST

    Trailers?

    by BRUTICUS

    I've seen the trailers and im fairly confident they have achieved something very new to the world of animation and to the big screen. I look forward to seeing this film.

  • Feb. 27, 2008, 7:48 p.m. CST

    A person's a person, no matter how small.

    by Yeti

    Still want to check this one out although I have to admit Blue Sky's last two films underwhelmed.

  • Feb. 27, 2008, 7:58 p.m. CST

    Know what's good? Jones and Pratt and Bakshi

    by Larry of Arabia

    Grinch. Lorax. Butter Battle Book. True to the books and animation style. Truly great directors that know to trust a good story. Know what else is good? Design for Death. Look it up.

  • Feb. 27, 2008, 7:58 p.m. CST

    damn

    by LegoKenobi

    the trailers actually have me intrigued, but the review above makes me cry inside. i'm torn!

  • Feb. 27, 2008, 8:16 p.m. CST

    I always thought

    by red_weed

    That Blue Sky had amazing lighting and rendering for all their work. and on this one, they have drastically changed the way they do fur and hair since the ice ages. Too bad their incredible technical achievements aren't married with advances in story and character. I'll be seeing this one but just for the visuals, because I like that stuff.

  • Feb. 27, 2008, 8:33 p.m. CST

    WTF is up with Seuss' widow?

    by Gungan Slayer

    What the hell? Has she no respect at all for the great work made by her husband? She's just rolling in all the cash made by these shitty films--"The Grinch" "The Cat and the Hat" and now Horton? SIGH. I really, really thought that Horton was going to be awesome, but I was still a bit scared. When I first saw the stills to this movie, I was like, 'how can they mess this up?" Lo and behold, they completely fucked it up. whospace.com? WHOSPACE.COM?? WHAT. THE. FUCK.

  • Feb. 27, 2008, 8:33 p.m. CST

    Politicizing Seuss...

    by micturatingbenjamin

    This is Ted Geisel right? Dr. Seuss? Okay. Lorax and just about all of his books were subversive political morality plays. When you remove the Ken Kesey-style Merry Prankster and add instead pop-culture references and tired sitcom writing, you get the above.<p>Star bellied Sneetches...Lorax...Horton hears a 'who'. These are the tales of a subversive man with a wicked sense of humor. And he and Shel Silverstein did enough to my brain already to make me the subversive-type I am today. Shame about this flick. I suppose I won't see it until my niece owns it on DVD, then.

  • Feb. 27, 2008, 8:43 p.m. CST

    Just the idea of this depresses me...

    by FlickaPoo

    ...Seuss managed to convey an entire universe with simple black line and flat splashed in color...the idea of his books getting the full wacky side kick pop culture reference joke treatment......I can't talk or think about this anymore...

  • Feb. 27, 2008, 9:01 p.m. CST

    a VERY well written review, regardless.

    by Fish Tank

    Thanks.

  • Feb. 27, 2008, 9:12 p.m. CST

    MicturatingBen....BRAVO!

    by Brians Life

    Well said, brother. I proudly give Suess credit for initializing both the subversity and the sarcasm of my personality....THANKS, DOCTOR!!!

  • Feb. 27, 2008, 10:17 p.m. CST

    Is there a Who Book?

    by skywalkerfamily

    I bet there is.

  • Feb. 27, 2008, 10:36 p.m. CST

    What drags these movies down...

    by neverhed

    ...more than anything sometimes is that horribly cliche, generic "inspirational" string arrangement they have scored as the background music for these cheesy family flicks. The soundtrack to those clips inspired an uncontrollable gag reflex within me, no matter how much I wanted to like them.

  • Feb. 27, 2008, 11:03 p.m. CST

    Yeah, what is it with the inspirational strings?

    by moondoggy2u

    Or how come every superhero flick since Danny Elfman's Batman score has to feature bongos? <p>And what is it with Howard Shore and Enya or Hans Zimmer and middle-eastern wailing?

  • Feb. 27, 2008, 11:27 p.m. CST

    Horton takes a dump

    by skywalkerfamily

    I bet it will.

  • Feb. 28, 2008, 12:57 a.m. CST

    Horton hears "I'm Fucking Seth Rogen"

    by stinkyfingerz

    And decides to go on a murderous rampage, crushing every who in sight. You can't tell me you wouldn't pay to see that, and get your 4 minutes of time back?! http://www.quickstopentertainment.com/2008/02/25/quick-stop-exclusive-im-fing-seth-rogen/

  • Feb. 28, 2008, 12:58 a.m. CST

    Harry, Drew, give this guy a name and an avatar and put him to w

    by DOGSOUP

  • Feb. 28, 2008, 3:06 a.m. CST

    Good Review

    by Abhimanyu

    I know it's been said already, but it's a pleasure to read something so articulate and heartfelt. Kudos, sir, on a job well done indeed.

  • Feb. 28, 2008, 4:43 a.m. CST

    CG is the new Disney DTV.

    by Tourist

    ...But it cant be bad! Its done with puters! Parents should spend less time worrying about online ass bandits and being a little more discerning with the shit they shovel into their foul offsprings heads. I cant take anymore talking animal/toy shit. Although I was flabbergasted, suprised and knocked on my ass by Ratatouie. It was okay. Here I was expecting unbearable shit, and what I got was pretty alright. So, theres a bright beacon of hope left still.

  • Feb. 28, 2008, 4:45 a.m. CST

    On an unrelated note...

    by Tourist

    ...Maybe we will be lucky enough to get these guys to take over Wild Things.

  • Feb. 28, 2008, 4:49 a.m. CST

    Hey Larry...

    by Tourist

    ...Thanks for the headsup on Design For Death. Hope I can check it out. Like to add my kudos to the reviewer too. Good and to the point. Thanks.

  • Feb. 28, 2008, 5:26 a.m. CST

    Fuck Kung Fu Panda

    by Lost Jarv

    useless homo bear. <P>A real bear would chomp him.

  • Feb. 28, 2008, 6:30 a.m. CST

    Jarv

    by just pillow talk

    There appears to be a bear in the new Will Ferrell movie. Unfortunately, I don't think it really eats him. That would make great comedy.

  • Feb. 28, 2008, 7:26 a.m. CST

    Gungan Slayer, that's a good point considering

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    she disowned the Cat in the Hat movie after it was made. Why would she allow them to make another unless, unfortunately, during or after The Grinch she signed a multiple film contract.

  • Feb. 28, 2008, 7:28 a.m. CST

    I love it where the Who says "help me" then

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    Horton takes a big rock, and crushes it to put it out of its misery just before the giant spider finishes it off. Oh wait, wrong movie.

  • Feb. 28, 2008, 7:48 a.m. CST

    "Unless."

    by Darkman

    "Unless someone like you cares a whole lot, nothing gonna get better. It's not." <br><br> True words to live by...even though it doesn't really stop crappy movies from coming out. Where was I? I was just musing about how hilarious it would be if Al Gore voiced the Once-ler in a LORAX movie. Excellent point about how we need that movie now more than ever. <br><br> As for this, it was adapted by the writers of BUBBLE BOY. Who expected this to be good?

  • Feb. 28, 2008, 8:30 a.m. CST

    Oh well

    by Darth Kosher

    Maybe they'll do better with Horton Hatches the Egg. Doesn't matter. My kids will see it and be happy. So who am I to shit on their parade?

  • Feb. 28, 2008, 9 a.m. CST

    At least it isn't live action...

    by Kid Z

    ... with Carrey in a big, fake, rubber fatsuit with a trunk glued to his face and directed by Opie Cunningham. Unfortunately, Carrey's in it, period, totally the wrong choice to play Horton, who was always sort of a nebbishy character, not a manic laugh riot. Could be worse, though... it could've been Mike Myers. The problem, yet again, is corporate-think, "Hey Jim Carrey was in that other Suess thing and it made a lot of money... cast him in this!"

  • Feb. 28, 2008, 9:26 a.m. CST

    Three strikes and you're out

    by amrisharmpit

    Three chances to adapt Seuss, all three chances blown. Memo to Hollywood: no more Dr. Seuss movies. Especially with Jim Carrey involved. You'll never get it right. EVER.

  • Feb. 28, 2008, 9:26 a.m. CST

    Is it really so surprising?

    by boobler

    No. The stories at Blue Sky are and always have been in the hands of a bunch of business school graduates 3,000 miles from the studio. Every original and daring idea that gets sent to Los Angeles is torn up, spit on, swallowed down and shit out. In homage to the late great Dr. Suess: Shit is shit and that's it. It's too bad too, because our renderer kicks the crap out of Pixar's.

  • Feb. 28, 2008, 9:45 a.m. CST

    I had hope, until the characters spoke

    by Bot-Bot

    ...and ruined it for me. When Jim Carrey says "A person's a person no matter how small" - then adds, "that's my code, my motto!" I wanted to gag! I hate it when actors or writers decide that a simple, elegant classic line isn't good enough, and needs to be "spiced up." with self-reference or wink wink , like we're complete idiots.

  • Feb. 28, 2008, 10 a.m. CST

    Will there be sequels? Horton touches a Who. Ha!!

    by Diagnostic

    Horton sees a Who. Horton tastes a Who.<Br>I hope so.

  • Feb. 28, 2008, 10:05 a.m. CST

    Horton touches a Who!

    by DaBUU

    Classic, lol

  • Feb. 28, 2008, 10:20 a.m. CST

    FOR KIDS. SAW IV FOR ADULTS

    by daveydan

    I've seen the trailers and this movie looks kind of fun. I've got kids who love all animated films. The Toy Stories and Incredibles are the kings and the Ice Ages are the dogs. My kids laugh at all of them the same. They love Madagascar. I hate that movie. Horton is a kids book. It is a kids movie, written to make kids laugh and to make them want to see it again. My kids saw Valiant twice. Twice. Kids will eat Horton up. It was written for kids. Kids. The Horton book is small. An accurate Horton should last about 10 minutes based upon the source. This is an adaption. Look it up. And good for "Mrs. Seuss" for making money. Gee, Who wants to make money?? For starters,she does. Apparantly a lot of people in these talkbacks don't or they'd be spending more time working than writing these talkbacks (yes, I've written myself into a corner of irony). Let the writers write and you buy a ticket. OR you could beocme a writer. Try that. And you retired professional writers, and I have to assume most of you are, given your eloquent and thought out critiques of a movie you haven't even seen, need to take a business course or two. I haven't seen Horton, but the animation looks awesome. Steve Carrell is the funniest guy alive right now. Jim Carey has kind of run his course, but you know what, he is a lot funnier than any of you and he still gets big laughs$$$$$. See you all of you at Horton. Watch it like a cartoon and it will be fun. It won't be an English Patient or Eastern Promises. Horton Hears a Who. That sounds fun. I'm glad the studios still make fun movies, because the Saw franchise lost that fun feeling mid way through III and I need something light to replace it.

  • Feb. 28, 2008, 10:54 a.m. CST

    Horton Hears A Who-Ha

    by skimn

    voiced by Al Pacino.

  • Feb. 28, 2008, 11:26 a.m. CST

    "It's for kids" is no excuse for being crap!

    by mbeemer

    And an adaptation doesn't HAVE to be shitty.

  • Feb. 28, 2008, 11:46 a.m. CST

    Current pop culture references destroy

    by skimn

    any timeless quality the material may have. Horton Hears A Who - the book, timeless. Horton Hears A Who - the movie, forgotten two weeks after it comes out. I thought this may have a chance until I saw the myspace reference, and thought screw that noise..

  • Feb. 28, 2008, 3:41 p.m. CST

    So, how about the MySpace line in Iron Man?

    by SpencerTrilby

    it's a kids (mostly) movie, adapted from 40+ years old material, and drops pop references as seen in the trailer (the aforementioned line). Should they drop it from the final cut in order to achieve "timeless" quality? Discuss.

  • Feb. 28, 2008, 4:19 p.m. CST

    Pop Culture Refs

    by Jonas Grumpy

    Yeah, all of these evil pop culture references should be banned, as they ruin the cartoons. Just like how those abysmal animated shorts which opened with the "WB" logo 50+ years ago are all hopelessly dated, and are thus currently unwatchable. Idiots.

  • Feb. 28, 2008, 4:20 p.m. CST

    Oobleck!

    by Jonas Grumpy

    If you're going to make a Seuss movie, why not "Bartholomew and the Oobleck"? Hell, make it a two-fer, and throw in "The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins" while you're at it.

  • Feb. 28, 2008, 5:27 p.m. CST

    joeelliott

    by supertoyslast

    The reviewer said "the rush *of* seeing Toy Story" not "the rush *to* see Toy Story".

  • Feb. 28, 2008, 6:14 p.m. CST

    Horton Hears...nothing.

    by christian66

    "The stories at Blue Sky are and always have been in the hands of a bunch of business school graduates 3,000 miles from the studio." Exactly. You'd think one of these high-paid studio folk could come up with an original thought outside of "Can we put in a fart joke here and a Paris Hilton reference there?" But that's what happens when you put soulless marketing folk in charge of imagination: they shit all over it. And I mean YOU corporate drones. Get out of the movies and get to work on reality shows. You'll be happier working at your low level of creativity. Please.

  • Feb. 28, 2008, 7:17 p.m. CST

    The name's Poochie D and I rock the telly...

    by Christopher3

    Fucking Hollywood types (and their bratty kids who are probably feeding them notes) need to leave the Seuss the FUCK ALONE. It's only a matter of time before they put Fox In Socks in Converse.

  • March 11, 2008, 6:39 p.m. CST

    Every Review is a Shitfest

    by Transsporter

    Shrek 3 was GOOD ?????!!!! You can sneak your little weasels in and have them write story points without spoilers but you know a reviewer is shit for brains when all he can do is compare every other 3D film ever made to describe it. Talk about eye rolling.