Horton Hears a Who
by Laura Tucker
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It’s interesting to relate to something as a child and later be reintroduced to it as an adult. There are so many songs that went completely over my head back then, and listening to them now, I find out they’re about sex or drug use. I was really excited to watch Horton Hears a Who when it came out, as I remember it being one of my favorite Dr. Suess stories from when I was little. Yet, watching it now, more than 35 years later, I found a new appreciation for the story, learning what it’s really about.
I only remember Horton the elephant finding new friends, the Whos, who lived on the speck. But there are some great morals and undertones within the film, like most Dr. Suess stories. I have to think that these were always in the story, but they didn’t stand out in my mind enough reading the book when I was so young.
There’s another whole story going on outside Horton’s speck. He’s an educator of some type, teaching the kids of the “people” where he lives. I found it interesting that they referred to them as “people,” since one was an elephant, another was a kangaroo, others were unidentifiable creatures, but they were most certainly not people.
Horton hears a tiny speck flying by him and after a long, mad dash to save the speck, he places it on a clover. What he’s hearing is the world of the Whos. Their whole world is contained on the tiny speck. Because the speck took flight in the way it did, everything there is going topsy-turvy, and they can’t figure out what’s going on. The mayor would like to cancel the Who-Centennial because of the commotion, but the council will not hear of it.
Outside of the speck, the parents of Horton’s students aren’t very understanding of his connection to the speck on the clover. They don’t believe that there is a whole world residing on the speck. They insist that the whole thing is preposterous and impossible and want him to get rid of the speck and and clover before teaching their children again.
Throughout all this, we hear Horton utter the first moral in the film: “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” Of course, I now remember reading that line in the book, but I never thought about it as deeply as I now do as an adult. It’s all about acceptance. Everyone is important in society, no matter how big or small, heavy or thin, etc.
Additionally, there was another moral embedded within the story: the dangers of “group think.” The Whos living on the tiny speck back up the city council on their group think that the Who-Centennial continuing is of utmost importance. No one will allow the mayor to speak his beliefs of the dangers that may be coming their way. The parents of Horton’s students certainly participate in this, as well, and refuse to think independently about Horton’s need to help the Whos. All they can concentrate on is one “person” said it was wrong, so it has to be.
In addition to this great story by the legendary Dr. Suess, there are also some great voice performances in this animated film by Jim Carrey as Horton and Steve Carell as the mayor. The humor is, of course, built up much more in the film than it was in the book, and it has to be because of these great talents, along with the comedic voices of Carol Burnett and Amy Poehler.
From the classic Dr. Suess story, to the morals embedded within, to the collection of comedic talent, Horton Hears a Who makes for a great family film.
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