Let me just say first that, I consider Bo Welch's The Cat in the Hat (2003) the worst movie I've seen in my more than ten years of reviewing movies, and Ron Howard's How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) is not far behind, and would no doubt rank somewhere in the bottom fifty. Jim Carrey returns from the title role in The Grinch as the voice of the title role in Horton Hears a Who! so I was skeptical at best about the quality of the new film. Not to mention that most CGI animated films not produced by Pixar tend to range from forgettable to awful. What a happy surprise, then, to see one of those rare animated films -- and an even rarer family film -- which ventures into that elusive middle ground, providing wholesome entertainment for kids as well as a few belly laughs for adults.
Directed by Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino, both making their feature debut, Horton begins by effortlessly rendering in 3D space that familiar 2D world of Theodor Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss), with its curvy trees and oval-shaped hills and dales. We meet our hero, Horton (voiced by Jim Carrey), a pachyderm whose personality teeters between dutiful and lazy, helpless and self-reliant, goofy and dedicated. He teaches a class of young animals about various forms of jungle life, but not without a bit of inadvertent, entertaining slapstick. One day, a speck of fluff floats past his sizable ears and he hears a voice emanating from it. He rescues the speck, deposits it on top of a clover and learns that, living upon the speck, is an entire miniature society called Whoville (not to be confused with the Whoville in The Grinch) and run, more or less, by the Mayor (voiced by Steve Carell).