The children's books written by Dr. Seuss have not exactly made great adaptations in the modern era. After his death in 1991, multiple film and TV adaptations have been made based on his books with varied results. While the TV adaptation of "Green Eggs and Ham" ended up being amazing, other adaptations haven't had the same luck. The live-action adaptations of "The Grinch" and "The Cat in the Hat" ended up being terrible while animated adaptations of "The Lorax" as well as another take on "The Grinch" from Illumination didn't fully reach the books full potential. However, we did get a really good adaptation of a Dr. Seuss book in 2008 from Blue Sky with "Horton Hears a Who". While it may have flaws and does have some weird out of place moments, this was for a time the best modern Dr. Seuss adaptation we've gotten and having watched it again, I can see why this adaption is still looked at fondly amongst Seuss fans.
In the jungle of Nool, an elephant named Horton (Jim Carrey) hears a voice coming from a small speck of dust. After safely landing the speck on the clover, he then discovers that down on the clover is a whole city known as Whoville which is populated by the Whos. The mayor of Whoville, Ned McDodd (Steve Carrell) has begun to suspect that the city is starting to get unsafe due to strange phenomena but the chairmen of the city refuse to hear him out and declare the mayor a moron. Once the mayor discovers through Horton that the city is on a tiny speck, he asks Horton to get Whoville safely to the safest place in the jungle which ends up being on the top of Mt. Nool. Yet Horton is in deeper trouble than the mayor as a sour kangaroo (Carol Burnett) begins to suspect that Horton is making up the story about the Whos since she and the other animals can't hear them and tries to do everything in her power to stop Horton from reaching Mt. Nool and convince her that she's right.
As I said previously, there have been many adaptations of Dr. Seuss's books made in the past and before this film, there were live-action adaptations of "The Cat in the Hat" and "The Grinch" respectively starring Mike Meyers and Carrey. However, critics weren't the only ones who hate those films. Seuss's widow, Audrey Geisel, ended up being so disgusted with "Cat in the Hat" that she proclaimed that she would never again allow a live-action adaption of her late husband's work. When this film came out, it had a lot to live up to since the last two adaptations ended up being really bad and fortunately, Blue Sky was able to pull it off. The big aspect of why this film works so well is the story that stays true to the original Dr. Seuss adaption while also giving it enough weight to support itself. One big reason why so many other adaptations of his works have failed has been they've added elements that just feel unnecessary or ridiculous. This was a big reason why "The Lorax" failed four years later despite that film boasting the same screenwriters as this. This film, however, keeps the spirit of Seuss alive while also adding enough material to sustain its feature film runtime which I attribute to directors Jimmy Wayward and especially Steve Martino. Watching this film again, it made perfect sense why the family of Charles Schulz picked Martino to direct "The Peanuts Movie" because he understands what is needed in an adaptation of a beloved work to stay faithful to the original material while also giving it a modern spin. There are elements of this film that weren't in the book that I got enjoyment out of including a scene where Horton has to cross a rickety rope bridge while the Mayor is at a dentist's appointment. That scene got a genuine laugh from me. As far as the animation goes, it captures Seuss's world perfectly. His world was made for animation and not live-action and this film proves it. It's bright, colorful, and very well detailed. The fur and feathers of the animals in the Jungle of Nool have held up well and I also like the quirky designs of Whoville seen in this film. It reminded me of the Whoville in the Chuck Jones version "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and felt almost like a modern update on it. As far as the characters go, I also found them enjoyable. Horton has a certain playful attitude to him that made him being an enjoyable protagonist and Carrey's performance sold it, but I enjoyed Ned McDodd the most. He was the character I found the funniest and most relatable. He's trying to juggle many different skills including having a huge family, running a city, and coming to terms that his city is on a tiny speck of dust and I had to give him respect over that. Even other characters worked like Vladikoff (Will Arnett) and Horton's friend Morton (Seth Rogen). I also loved the narration of this film. Radio commentator Charles Osgood narrated this film and his gentle and delicate voice just seemed perfect for this story. I also adored the musical score by John Powell. It's very boisterous and exciting and quite honestly one of the best scores he's ever made. It almost felt like preparation for "How to Train Your Dragon" which finally got him a long-overdue Oscar nomination. With that said, this film does suffer a bit. The film does delve into very odd moments including and out of place anime scene and a bizarre singalong to REO Speedwagon's "Can't Fight This Feeling" and neither of them works. They just left me scratching my head and both really should've been cut from the film. I also felt that the sour kangaroo got too over the top at times and should've also been a little restrained. Though that's really about it.
In the end, "Horton Hears a Who" is still a really good Dr. Seuss adaptation. The story was faithful and added enough material to keep it afloat, the animation was very good and captured Seuss's world perfectly, and the characters were all enjoyable and fun to watch. This may not be a perfect adaptation, but it's still a very good one. I felt it did capture the martial well enough and I got to give credit to Blue Sky for doing a really good job on this film. I do wish they made more Dr. Seuss films yet they still have this one film under their belt and it's a good film from them. I'm glad we did get it.