Friday, March 14, 2008

Horton doesn't trample the Dr. Seuss magic

After a couple of expensive wrong turns into frenetic live action – Jim Carrey was the only reason to see How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Mike Myers was among the many reasons not to see The Cat in the Hat – Dr. Seuss is back where he belongs when not between hard covers. Back, that is, in the welcoming fold of the movie cartoon. The adapted classic is Horton Hears a Who!, the retro-style animation is computer-generated and the two fit together like hand in … well, like a tiny perfect hand in a somewhat oversized glove, but no matter. The embrace is warm and the message does get preserved.

And quite the message it is. The book is one of Seuss's most compact allegories, perhaps less delightful than some in the sheer dance of the wordplay but chock-a-block with lots of pretty big ideas. Swiftian shifts in perspective, the limitations of empirical thought, the leap to godlike faith, the raised voice of the democratic collective, the moral obligation owed to the minute by the mighty – the good Doctor definitely gave those first-graders plenty to chew on at recess. His magic, of course, is to do it with charm and wit and brevity. Reading a mix so sweet, little do the tykes realize that, somewhere in the back of their budding minds, they just got an early enrolment in Philosophy 101.

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