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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! is based on Dr. Seuss' beloved children's book. The book's wide fan base, coupled with the popularity of voice actors Jim Carrey and Steve Carell, should make most kids, especially those under 12, interested in seeing the film. Its message, like many of Seuss' tales, is one of inclusion and protecting those who can't protect themselves. There's some mild potty humor and name-calling ("boob," "idiot," and "stupid"). Vlad, the slightly scary bird, is funnier than he is disturbing.
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What's the story?
In this adaptation of Dr. Seuss' classic Horton Hears a Who!, beloved elephant Horton is voiced by Jim Carrey. Horton, as any Seuss fan knows, lives peacefully in the Jungle of Nool until the day he hears a nearly inaudible call for help from a teeny, tiny speck, which he places on a clover. As it turns out, that speck is home to Whoville and its citizens, the Whos. Following his motto that "a person's a person, no matter how small," Horton promises the Mayor of Whoville (Steve Carell) to keep Whoville safe, even though residents of the Jungle, led by the sour Kangaroo (Carol Burnett) think Horton is either crazy or a liar and want to destroy the speck.
Is it any good?
With their impeccable timing and incredibly expressive voices, Carrey and Carell are the perfect combo to play Horton and the Mayor. They capture their characters' sense of awe and insecurity. The film expands the book's character pool to create a huge family for the Mayor: He has a wife (Amy Poehler) and 96 daughters. Also, Jo Jo (Jesse McCartney) is now the Mayor's loner, misunderstood son instead of a random Who. There are other differences between the original text and the film, but most work just fine to pad the story.
What's especially refreshing is that, by keeping the adaptation animated, there are no costumed actors to distract from the story's positive message. Horton firmly keeps the focus on his promise to protect the Whos because he believes in the inherent value of all beings. That's a powerful -- and difficult -- concept for very young kids to grasp, but somehow Dr. Seuss (channeled by this big-studio production) makes the lesson both approachable and very entertaining.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the messages in Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!. What does Horton's motto -- "a person's a person, no matter how small" -- mean? How does he prove that he means it?
Families can also discuss how the movie stacks up against the book. Are the extra characters and storylines in keeping with the spirit of Dr. Seuss' original?
- In theaters: March 13, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: December 8, 2008
- Cast: Carol Burnett, Jim Carrey, Steve Carell
- Director: Jimmy Hayward
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Book Characters, Wild Animals
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Integrity
- Run time: 86 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
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