Horton Hears a Who
February 6, 2018
(The shortened intro)
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. It's no secret that Dr. Seuss films have had a bit of a checkered past.
(Cut to a montage of clips of inappropriate scenes in Dr. Seuss movies: The Cat in the Hat...)
Cat in the Hat: (holding up a garden hoe) Dirty hoe!
(...How the Grinch Stole Christmas...)
Grinch: (holding up some mistletoe) Kiss it, Whoville! (wiggling it over his butt) Boiiiiiiiiinggggg!
Once-ler: (singing as he rocks out on a guitar amid piles of money everywhere) How ba-a-a-ad can I be?
(Back to the NC)
NC: Pretty goddamn bad, apparently. But the one film that everyone agrees is goo... (hesitates a little) ...oooooooooo-least bad, is Horton Hears a Who.
(The film's title is shown, before showing the film's clips)
NC (vo): Starring Jim Carrey and Steve Carell...
NC: Because that worked so great before. (A poster for Bruce Almighty is shown)
NC (vo): ...the film was based on the hit book that led to an under-performing box office*. Overtime, though, it's gotten a reputation as the closest thing to a good Dr. Seuss movie we ever got. Well, I'm here to ask, "Is it really?" I mean, granted, we all know Seuss needs more anime references, emo kids, and... (The baby yak Katie is shown) ...whatever the hell this is. But is it good enough to count as a decent movie, or is it just...uh...the least painful? Well, I think it's time to look over what was ironically overlooked a film about being overlooked. So let's look it over.
- NOTE: Contrary to what NC said, the film grossed over $297 million worldwide over a $85 million budget, making it a big hit.
NC: This is my review of Horton Hears a Who.
(The movie starts with a small yellow speck flying out of the cave and into the jungle. After that, Horton the elephant, voiced by Jim Carrey, is first shown meeting up with his gang of kid animals, including Katie)
NC (vo): It starts off pretty enough with a colorful and creative environment, as Jim Carrey, thank God not covered in makeup to look like the character this time, is teaching a class of ugly about the various animals in the forest.
Horton: The leaf bug. (The bugs land on Horton, and he frantically tries to shoo them off) Ahh! They're on me!
(The gang tries to get one of the leaf bugs out of Horton's trunk, but he just twirls around as the gang keeps on holding on the trunk while Katie follows, walking on the ground)
NC: (smiling uncomfortably) Yeah, that's definitely movement. You're kids, you like that.
(The Sour Kangaroo hops into the scene, with her son Rudy in her pouch)
NC (vo): Then a sour kangaroo, played by Carol Burnett, looks over the shenanigans Horton is causing.
Rudy: Why can't I play with the other kids, Mom?
Sour Kangaroo: The jungle is no place to act like a wild animal.
NC: She'll learn to lighten up, and he'll be happy. Can we just get that 1/3 of the movie now?
(As Horton speaks to the gang, a speck flies by his ear and he overhears a small sound coming out of it thanks to his big ears. We're then shown him imagining how a family of microscopic creatures are probably calling for help, all animated in traditional Dr. Seuss style)
NC (vo): But a tiny speck flies by, and Horton hears a sound from it. The animation cleverly goes hand-drawn to show Horton's imagination, mimicking Seuss's original style, but unfortunately, the rest of the style seems to like action and references for the sake of there just being action and references.
(Horton chases the floating speck while he is hit with bananas from above by the Wickersham ape tribe brothers, whom Horton disturbed along the way)
Horton: I love the smell of bananas in the morning!
(Everything goes slo-mo as Horton jumps)
Horton: (imitating Henry Kissinger) I feel the diplomatic process is beginning to break down.
NC: (chuckling) It's just like Robin Williams in Aladdin, except he came in halfway through the film so we could get to know the characters, and this hasn't even been nine minutes yet.
(The speck lands on a pink clover in the pond, and Horton takes the flower for himself)
NC (vo): Horton catches the speck on a flower, but the kangaroo (speaks in a posh voice) is not amused! (normal) No, really. She sounds like that.
Sour Kangaroo: (laughs) Absurd. There aren't people that small.
Horton: What if there is someone (looks up in the sky) way out there, looking down on our world right now?
Sour Kangaroo: There is nothing on that speck.
NC: (as Jane, crosses arms) As an atheist, it's my job to be offended by that! And then offended by anyone else being offended by anything!
(We zoom on the speck and are shown the city of Whoville and its inhabitants, the Whos, living their happy lives, and their mayor Ned (Steve Carell) coming out of his house to get the paper)
NC (vo): But, sure enough, there's a whole town of people on a speck, filled with people called the Whos. Steve Carell plays the mayor named...
Narrator (Charles Osgood): ...a man named McDodd...
NC: Wait, what?
NC: ...Wait, what?
NC: (gives up) Whatever. You just call him that to rhyme with "odd".
Narrator: ...who's devoted and fair and a little bit odd.
(Ned's family is shown, consisting of a wife Sally and her 96 daughters whose names begin with the letter H, all eating at the spiral table)
NC (vo): Apparently, Who sperm come out of shotgun barrel testicles, because the mayor has 96 daughters. I'm gonna take a wild guess and say his wife would not look that good after so many births.
NC: I think this will be a more fitting representation. (A picture of a really scared-looking middle-aged woman is shown)
(Ned goes to speak with his only son, a teenager named JoJo who doesn't talk with anybody or to himself)
NC (vo): There is, however, one boy in the group. He's the oldest named JoJo, who the mayor is prepping to take over as mayor. But he never speaks, because...get this...
Narrator: And why didn't he speak? Well, I think the lad was afraid if he did, he might let down his dad.
(NC is confused)
NC: Clearly, you understand why many children also don't speak. You made a child psychology book, Dr. Seuss! ...'s people.
(Back in the jungle, Horton shows the speck to another one of his friends, a mouse named Morton, voiced by Seth Rogen)
NC (vo): Meanwhile, Horton comes across his friend, Seth Rogen.
NC: Yeah, they name this character something else, but listen to him!
Morton: That's awesome, Horton. That really...helps.
NC: Even if I said the character's name, all you would hear is Seth Rogen. Watch. (He speaks, but while the lips are saying "Morton", the voice says "Seth Rogen") See?
(Horton notices his gang coming up to him, and he decides to tell them everything despite the Kangaroo's warnings. However, when he jumps while holding the clover, a small earthquake happens in Whoville. Ned, who's the only one in town concerned about this, tries to tell the city's council that the anniversary celebration must be held later, but is ridiculed and humiliated. We then are shown the inside of the city hall and the assistant, Miss Yelp, speaking on the phone and looking at her WhoSpace page)
NC (vo): He tells Horton to keep the speck to himself, but Horton's students...I think the whole teacher thing never comes back with Horton...accidentally get him to blurt it out. However, Horton's movements are causing big earthquakes in the Who's world, because... (The opening scene is briefly shown again) all of this somehow had no impact. However, this disturbs the mayor, who suggests postponing their big Who-celebration. They, of course, don't listen to him, mirroring the rejection Horton is going through as well, but it seems the Whos just want to ignore the problem and spend their time on WhoSpace.
NC: Yeah, you see why topical jokes don't always work, Seuss movies?
(Ned hears a muffled noise coming out of a broken pipe. He puts a gramophone pipe onto it, and Horton's voice comes out of it clearly. Horton then tells Ned that their town is on a small speck and proves his point by putting the Whoville in shade of a flower. Ned is really shocked and scared)
NC (vo): Horton and the mayor finally hear each other, and they try to explain who/what/who they are.
Horton: Your whole world fits on a flower in my world. (Cut to Ned looking up worryingly) It's pretty amazing.
NC: (as Horton; pretending to be holding the clover) And if you don't want me to go astronaut from Twilight Zone on your ass, you'll... (thinks for a bit) Eh, this sounds like fun. (He eagerly starts hitting "the clover" with his other hand)
(Horton sees the safe place for a flower, the Mount Nool, and starts walking to it)
NC (vo): Realizing the danger they could be in, the mayor asks Horton to locate them a safer spot to be placed. Horton decides to put them at the top of a mountain, because... (An avalanche is shown) those are safe as hell...but he decides to do it, once again, through hand-drawn animation.
NC: Oh, cool! You mean, like in Seuss' original style like what you did before?
(The animation abruptly switches to...animesque art style, starting with Horton preparing for a kick and yelling)
NC: Or South Park just made fun of anime at the time. I guess we can, too. (A shot of the South Park's Season 8 episode "Good Times with Weapons" is shown)
Horton: (imitating the Japanese way of speech) It is clear that you are no match for my technique!
(He hits the branch, it inevitably ricochets and slaps him in his rear. Cut back to NC, who gives an exasperated low sigh, massaging his forehead)
Clover: (having a face and speaking in Ned's voice) Horton is the greatest hero of them all! Ha!
Morton: (as the screen splits) Morton!
Horton and Morton: GOOOO!
NC: I think this calls for a facepalm with a facepalm. (He takes out a famous shot from Star Trek: The Next Generation of Jean-Luc Picard facepalming and covers his forehead with it in frustration)
Morton: (floating out of nowhere) You are fast, Horton, but the Kangaroo has monkeys!
(The Wickersham Brothers fly through the air towards Horton and Morton)
Horton: I will make monkeys of these monkeys. It is their destiny. Huh-ah! (puts his hooves together over the clover) Oi-ya, MORE CLOVER! (A blast of pink energy comes out of Horton's hooves like in Dragon Ball, defeating the Wickershams)
NC: Where does the elephant of Dr. Seuss even watch anime? Is there a...Crunchyrhyme?!
(Horton runs like the wind to the mountain)
Morton: (points towards Mount Nool) But Mount Nool is that way.
(Horton is confused at first, but then smiles widely, laughing)
NC: Oh, my God, STOP!
(The animesque scene ends just as Horton trips and falls)
NC: Thank you. Please never anything again.
(Horton's gang catches up to him, each of them holding a clover to introduce their own "imaginary worlds")
NC (vo): Finally, we can get the story back on track.
(Katie puts the clover on her head, stands on her hind legs, makes a weird sound and backs away, disappearing in the nearby bush. NC is REALLY weirded out)
NC: (speaking quickly) Do I need a break? I need a break. Here's a break.
(Sure enough, we go to commercial. After coming back, we are shown Horton trying to cross over a really fragile bridge. At the same time, Ned is at the dentist's)
NC (vo): So Horton crosses a shaky bridge to get to the mountain as, once again, Horton's movements seem to only affect the environment around the mayor.
(As Horton slides back on the bridge's ropes, the dentist accidentally places a hypodermic syringe into Ned's hand, making it really weak and shabby)
NC: You know Carol Burnett is in this, right? She won't like they were ripping her off. (The shot from the sketch from The Carol Burnett Show called "The Dentist" is shown, starring Tim Conway and Harvey Corman)
(After a while, Horton finally gets to the other side)
NC (vo): He makes it across the bridge and seems to be very happy.
Horton: (shaking his rear happily) I feel really good right now. Maybe it's my new sense of purpose. (And he starts dancing to techno music)
NC: (hand on cheek) You know, for a new sense of purpose, he sure seems to do a lot of stuff with no purpose.
(The Kangaroo and Rudy enter a dark and creepy place, the habitat of Vlad Vladikoff, the vulture)
NC (vo): The Kangaroo hates that Horton's imagination is spreading to the children, so she decides to send a giant vulture after him.
Vlad (Will Arnett): (speaking with a Russian accent) I would only do this for a price. (looks at Rudy in the Kangaroo's pouch) This little kangaroo.
Rudy: (covering in fear) Mom!
Sour Kangaroo: Quiet, Rudy. Mommy's thinking it over.
NC: (smirking, shaking his head) I'm so glad she's fighting for the children by debating whether or not she wants to sacrifice her own to a vulture.
Vlad: I'll take it.
NC: (swipes the scene away) No, no, no, I'm not done. What the hell was up with that?!
NC (vo): That seemed bizarrely out of character! She can be mean, but not "give up her kid" mean. I mean, don't get me wrong, she still says no, but would it make more sense if she was insulted by that gesture? She seems to just smile and walk away, forcing him (Vlad) to change his tune.
NC: In fact, even for his character, it doesn't really fit!
NC (vo): He's constantly trying to look scary, but it's revealed he's not as threatening as he appears. In fact, he's kind of a screw-up. So...why was this pointless moment of two characters breaking character even in here? It doesn't seem to add anything, it's not very funny, and it doesn't match their personas.
NC: I mean, it makes about as much sense as having...
Horton: (in anime scene; making a Dragon Ball-like power blast) Oi-ya, MORE CLOVER!
NC: Oh, that's right. They...just like pointless shit. (turns to his left) Isn't that sad, Bill?
NC: (turns back) It's very sad.
(Vlad chases after Horton and the clover)
NC (vo): The vulture attacks Horton, resulting in one of my favorite jokes in the movie.
(Horton makes it through the bamboo field, but Vlad can't gain on him and disappears out of Horton's sight. The latter catches his breath, and then chuckles)
Horton: I just know he's gonna jump somewhere.
Vlad: (appearing right in front of Horton) Hello. (Horton screams at that)
NC: I can't help it. I like it when the movie critiques its cliches before I do.
(While Horton was running away from Vlad, Whoville has suffered several cataclysms, and the Whos demand Ned to explain the situation, yet the council and its chairman brush it off)
NC (vo): He manages to fight him off, but the town finally notices that shit is happening, resulting in the politicians' high-up saying nothing is wrong.
NC: You sure this is fiction?
NC (vo): The mayor finally tells everybody what's going on.
Ned: A giant elephant in the sky! (The Whos look up in amazement) Don't bother looking; he's invisible.
(However, there is no answer from Horton, and the townspeople and the council laugh at the mayor)
NC: Would it sound better if he was a turtle and it was written by Stephen King?
(The reason of silence is Vlad managing to steal the clover from Horton. Vlad drops the flower in the large field full of pink clovers, and Horton frantically tries to find the one with the speck)
NC (vo): They obviously don't believe the mayor, and the flower is taken away before he can prove Horton is really around. Like in the book, it's dropped into a gigantic field of flowers, making it impossible to find. And, exactly like the book, he (Horton) finds it.
NC: I never said the book was flawless.
(Horton finds the clover and makes contact with the town)
NC (vo): The Whos finally hear Horton, which allows him to do his best John F. Kennedy impersonation.
Horton: (imitating John F. Kennedy) And, uh, we will, uh, put a speck on Mount Nool before the end of this, uh, decade.
NC: (shaking head in disbelief) There's a JFK in Dr. Seuss, too? (The cover for the book How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is shown) You know what? If there's a Who-Christ, why am I questioning anything?
(Jessica Quilligan, the mother of one of Horton's friends, sees Horton speaking to the clover, rushes to the Kangaroo and tells her about that. Becoming really angry, the Kangaroo gathers a group of animals around her, but Morton tries to talk things over)
NC (vo): The Kangaroo finds out, though, and tries to rally everybody behind her.
Morton: This is Horton we're talking about! You all know him! He wouldn't hurt a fly! Except for that fly city he sat on. But he didn't do that on purpose.
NC: Huh. So in this version, Horton already killed a town of tiny living things.
(After a long beat, the word "Off-putting" flashes onscreen. Back to the movie, the animals surround Horton and try to capture him in a cage and snatch the flower from him. As Horton is struggling, the Whos attempt to get the animals' attention by shouting that they are here, with making various sounds and playing different instruments)
NC (vo): The crowd rushes towards Horton to take the speck away from him, so all the Whos try to scream to be heard. This leads to a musically and visually creative climax, resulting in all the various noises they can make.
(While the townsfolk continue making sounds, Ned discovers JoJo isn't around, and rushes to a abandoned observatory. Inside it, there are a lot more musical instruments and contraptions, all secretly made by JoJo)
NC (vo): Sure enough, JoJo just happened to create a device in his off-time to make the loudest noise in town...
(The clip of The Simpsons episode "Marge vs. the Monorail" is briefly shown)
Lyle Lanley: Yeah, sure.
(After opening the observatory's roof, Ned and JoJo grab a gramophone pipe, run to the top of the city hall, and Jojo screams into the pipe, making the first vocal sound in a long while. The sound waves burst through the clouds)
NC (vo): ...and Jojo, of course, sounds off the final sound, speaking for the first time, breaking the...
NC: ...Sound barrier. I don't know.
(This makes the Whos's yells and noises sound perfectly clear in the jungle, and Rudy grabs the clover just before it could fall in a pot of hot oil and returns it back to Horton)
NC (vo): But the animals finally hear it, and the Kangaroo's son saves them and brings the flower back to Horton.
(The Whos cheer for JoJo and Ned, including...a punk rock Who)
Punk Rock Who: YEAH!! (He high-fives a Who standing next to him)
NC (vo): Oh, there's punk rock in Dr. Seuss, too...I don't care.
(Horton comes up to the Kangaroo, who feels embarrassed, regretful and left out)
NC (vo): Horton, apparently, is nice enough to even forgive the Kangaroo.
(He gives her a cookie made by Vlad (the bunny), smiling. The Kangaroo opens a small umbrella underneath the clover and smiles in return)
NC: (as Sour Kangaroo) It's the least I can do for attempting mass genocide.
JoJo (Jesse McCartney): What are we gonna do without you, Horton?
Horton: I'll always be around. (suddenly starts singing "Can't Fight This Feeling") And even as I wander...
NC: Oh, and in the last five minutes, we decided to become a musical. Because...our identity's now strong enough to say we shouldn't!
(All the animals walk with the clover to Mount Nool. We zoom out to see the jungle is actually located on a tiny speck floating in space amongst many other specks. And then...Katie flies up for pretty much no reason)
NC (vo): We zoom out and see a whole universe of beautiful specks. (Beat) And this butt-ugly thing. What even was the joke with that? Don't tell me. I don't want to see it again.
(The movie ends)
NC: Horton Hears a Who? I hear a middle-of-the-road shrug.
(The clips are shown as NC gives his final thought on the movie)
NC (vo): The bad stuff isn't nearly as bad as the other Seuss films, and once in a while, there is a funny and/or creative moment. But it tries too hard to hit too many demographics, resulting in a weak experience, but not necessarily a bad one. It's not painful, it's just kind of confused. You can feel the pressure from studios, producers, etc. trying to make this something distinct, and instead turning out something kind of underwhelming. Still, I think kids can watch it fine, there's no real bad lessons in it. At least, if you don't think too hard about them. I guess, in hindsight, it is the best Dr. Seuss movie ever made, but given his other films, that's not exactly a high bar. It is what it is: a middle-of-the-road flick. And compared to the other Seuss films, I'll gladly take that any day.
NC: I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to.
(He gets up and leaves. The credits roll, followed by the Channel Awesome logo)