REEL CRITIC:

If, at any time since 1954, you have had a small child and a great fondness for sweet, brave, faithful elephants, then you may have figured this out already — the writers of “Horton Hears a Who” have used about 10 minutes worth of Dr. Seuss’ original story.

Of course, most Dr. Seuss books only lasted about 10 minutes anyway, but that was all Theodore Geisel needed to make you feel good about life in general and yourself in particular. This isn’t to say that this latest version of “Horton Hears a Who” isn’t a first-rate movie. It is.

You have to give writers Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul credit for basing their story on the best. You’ve also got to admit that they’ve done a great job of adding 80 minutes of their own lively material to the classic story of that very special elephant. There is never any doubt that Horton “meant what I said, and I said what I meant, ’cause an elephant’s faithful, 100 percent.” Horton is the real thing.

As in the book, Horton takes responsibility for saving a tiny white speck that is really an entire civilization facing total extinction. What isn’t in the book are subplots involving murder-for-hire, father-son alienation, the depths of personal angst and the ugly face of mob violence. All this, and it still earns its G rating.

Happily, the heart and soul of the book are also part of the movie. The animation uses all the gloriously goofy scenery and characters originally drawn by our dear doctor. Best of all, Jim Carrey’s Horton really does give us the quiet (if we can we use a word like “quiet” when talking about Jim Carrey), honest, caring and straightforward pachyderm we’d all love to have as a best friend, even if very few of us could ever be friends as good as Horton.

Sure, this Horton has frequent flights of imaginative fun never guessed at in the book, but these additions make sense and blend in well, if you look at them more like the role-playing games of 6-year-old boys.

No one else besides Steve Carell could have done such wonderful work in creating the voice of the mayor of Who-ville, a reluctant hero, just like Horton, and truly a person worth saving, no matter how small.

And in the totally thankless role of that mean, selfish, self-righteous Kangaroo — Carol Burnett can’t be beat.

Well, Kangaroo can be beat, and Horton will win, of course, since this is a children’s movie. And her heart will soften appropriately when Horton repays her cruelty by offering her a kind, forgiving smile and a cookie. Did I mention that this is a G-rated movie?


 MARY BURKIN of Burbank is an actress, playwright and Glendale lawyer.

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