Movies adapted from books and movies with a lot of special effects each have their own built-in problems for filmmakers to deal with. Book adaptations can come off feeling incomplete, and special-effects movies can feel empty if all the emphasis goes toward the visuals.
It’s impressive that the makers of the computer-animated “Horton Hears a Who!” avoided both pitfalls and produced a movie both visually appealing and competently told — a feat most films never reach even without special challenges.
Horton (Jim Carrey) is a happy-go-lucky jungle dweller going about his business when he discovers a speck of fluff that contains an entire little world called Whoville. Horton makes contact with the Mayor of Whoville (Steve Carell, TV's "The Office," "Evan Almighty"), who tells him the speck needs a quiet, isolated new home if Whoville's going to survive.
In the meantime, the jungle's resident busybody Kangaroo (Carol Burnett) is hopping mad over what she perceives as Horton's unacceptable eccentricity, which she believes will "poison" the minds of "the children." After all, she says, "the jungle's no place to act like a wild animal." Kangaroo sets out to prove Whoville can't exist by destroying it (typical busybody logic), hiring a bloodthirsty vulture (Will Arnett, TV's "Arrested Development" ) to act as hit-bird.
Visually seamless and voiced with restrained frenzy by Carrey, Carell, Burnett, Seth Rogan, Jonah Hill, Jaime Pressley, Amy Poelher, Isla Fisher and others, "Horton" manages to stay on its narrative track rather than getting bogged down in its own silliness, which would have been very easy to do. A good time for kids and adults alike. —Mike Robertson