A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that it's arguable whether this collection truly is the "best of" Dr. Seuss; it's comprised of three lesser-known cartoon versions of Theodor Geisel stories. These three tales, combined in a one-hour compilation, range in tone from light-hearted to heavy. Kids who are learning to read and nostalgic parents will like them most; "Horton Hatches the Egg" is the most kid-friendly. Preschoolers should enjoy the simplicity of the stories and the Seussian wordplay, although the dark messages, such as mutual destruction ("The Butter Battle Book"), and loneliness ("Daisy-Headed Mayzie"), will fly over their heads. Kids who have also read the books will get a special kick out of these lesser-known Seuss tales. Preteens have probably outgrown these stories, but can still appreciate them, especially as an animation sampler.
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What's the story?
This collection of animated adaptations of three Dr. Seuss stories kicks off with "The Butter Battle Book," in which similar creatures known as Yooks and Zooks live divided by an ancient wall. A battle between the Yook Grandfather and the Zook VanItch escalates. The open ending has the pair stubbornly confronting each other with doomsday devices. In "Daisy-Headed Mayzie," little Mayzie McGrew unintentionally causes a sensation when a daisy flower sprouts from her hair. Initially she's alarmed and mocked at school, but when doctors and scientists marvel at the phenomenon, she becomes a pampered celebrity. In "Horton Hatches the Egg," a kindly elephant is persuaded by Mayzie (no relation), a lazy bird, to sit on her egg for a short time. What Horton doesn't know is that Mayzie has no intention of returning soon. Hunters find Horton and sell him to the circus--tree, egg, and all. Mayzie reappears, jealous of Horton's fame, and accuses him of stealing her egg.
Is it any good?
THE BEST OF DR. SEUSS is a diverse Seuss mini-fest. While the kids watch, grown-up animation buffs can consider the very different studios that produced these cartoons. "Horton Hatches the Egg" came out in 1944 as part of the legendary Warner Brothers "Merrie Melodies" series that also gave birth to Bugs Bunny and pals. "Daisy-Headed Mayzie" is from Hanna-Barbara, while "The Butter Battle Book" was directed by cult animator Ralph Bakshi. Bakshi's visual verve improves on the original, adding the infernal factory in which the Big-Boy Boomeroo is born. The tale was a late Dr. Seuss effort bemoaning America's escalating arms race with the USSR -- kids might not understand its dated Cold War message.
"Horton Hatches the Egg" is the real keeper, a lavish piece of animation. In addition to its lesson of honor and determination, it rewards older viewers with some Warners-style satire of then-popular movies: Mayzie the bird occasionally lapses into Scarlett O'Hara mannerisms, and, in a jarringly dark bit of humor, a fish happily commits suicide after glimpsing Horton and announcing "Now I've seen everything!" This behavior is partially explicable; the fish is a ringer for sinister Hollywood star Peter Lorre.
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