Halfway through this computer-animated version of the 1954 Dr. Seuss classic, Fred, my 8-year-old consultant on kids' films, turned to me and whispered, "They changed the plot a lot because they wanted to make it longer for the movie." You got that right, buddy.
Hollywood never leaves well enough alone when it comes to Dr. Seuss. Though this cartoon Horton Hears a Who! is an improvement over the rococo live-action versions of How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) and The Cat in the Hat (2003), it still insists on embellishing the original with trumped-up story lines and winking grown-up jokes ("I love the smell of bananas in the morning," barks an attacking monkey). These threaten at times to overwhelm the simple tale of Horton (voiced by Carrey), an elephant who swears to protect—"because a person's a person, no matter how small"—a group of Whos, tiny creatures who live on a speck of dust. Voice work by Carrey, Carell (as Who-ville's mayor) and especially Burnett, who plays a judgmental kangaroo, is effective. While Fred was a fan—"That was hilarious," he said at the end—adult viewers may wish fleetingly for a can of Endust.