Friday, July 25, 2008

Reveiw of Horton Hears a Who

Some time ago I was browsing through the stacks of a bookstore and came across a book written by Dr. Seuss. I pulled it from the shelf and as I read the introduction I was surprised to learn that the book was intended for adults. But it looked like all Dr. Seuss books. I am not certain now but I believe the book was "Horton Hears a Who."

Some time later I was listening to a podcast of the radio program "" and John Snyder, the host, was reading that book, "Horton Hears a Who," to his audience in the context of National Right to Life Day. Was it, he asked, a pro-life allegory? In a memorable line from the book (and the movie) Horton declares, "a person is a person, no matter how small." The idea certainly fits whether the allegory was intentional or isogeted.

Then a little while after that I had the opportunity to watch, for the first time, the movie version of the Seuss classic at a makeshift drive-in. I went expecting to see a polemic against the so-called pro-choice movie in cognito. While that aspect was, apparently, present in the movie, there was a whole other level in which the movie may have been viewed (intentional by Seuss and/or the author of the screenplay or otherwise).

And so there are at least three levels on which, it seems to me, the film can be taken. The first level is that of merely a funny and entertaining cartoon for children of all ages. The second level is that of clandestine propaganda against the pro-choice, falsely so called, movement. But the third level is what I'd like to focus on in this 'review'.

I was struck in the movie with the apologetic overtones. Though never explicitly on the surface, I could see that the movie was quite possibly, a kind of a defence of religious faith. For example, the atheistic kangaroo (who was played, I think, by Carol Burnett) tried to persuade, very loudly but without a lot of sound reason, the other jungle dwellers that Horton was being silly. After all, they could neither see nor hear Whoville so it must not exist. In contrast, Horton could hear them and, in a sense, see them. Perhaps that was just a subjective delusion on his part, though, the kangaroo may have retorted.

Then within Whoville, the mayor had a hard time to get his fellow citizens to believe in Horton and the larger world outside of Whoville. When he finally came clean and said that Horton, who was trying to save them, was a giant elephant in the sky, they all looked up. He responded with, "don't bother looking for him because he is invisible." This is precisely what theists sometimes tell atheists.

Still, while we cannot see God, or Horton, in the traditional sense, their are signs all around us. We have the Scriptures and the prophets like Whoville had their mayor, a kind of prophet, and the Horton horn. Also we have a revelation of God in nature. Whoville had a scientist who saw the signs of Horton in nature. "How did you know?" she asked the mayor. This was with respect to the earthquakes when Horton fell and the climate change when he, Horton, moved to colder areas.

Yes, the perceived theological undertones gave the movie a special appeal for me. And there is one scene which was particularly poignant to me. The jungle has Horton locked in a cage. They are about to throw the clover, whereon Whoville resides, into the fire. Horton (played by Jim Carrey) says, with tears in his voice, "you are making a big mistake!" This scene immediately brought to my mind the scene from "Liar" when Carrey's character, an unscrupulous lawyer who is finally beginning to see the light, says to the judge, "I hold myself in contempt!"

As I said before, I am not sure if the deeper meanings of pro-life and pro-faith were intentional but they do fit in nicely with the narrative. If we apply the three-fold meaning to this scene what do we get? The exciting climax of the story for children. The shocking realisation of the multitude of children killed by abortion by women (and in a sense, men too) who don't realise that they are making a mistake. Remember, a person is a person, no matter how small. Finally, how many people head for the flames on the excuse that they cannot see or hear a God so He must not exist? What about all the signs of God in general and special revelation? They stick their head in the sand. Perhaps they just want to party (remember the Whoville anniversary party) or listen to the 'arguments' of another (as the people of Whoville where easily persuaded by the kangaroo).

If you are interested in any of the three levels then I think you will like this film. It was hilarious. Not just for kids. It had the obligatory Bugs Bunnyish allusions. Jim Carrey and Steve Carrell (who played the mayor) are certainly favorites in more adult oriented comedies. It was family friendly. It had a very strong (intentional?) pro-life message. And one is very tempted to say that it affirmed theistic faith in a subliminal sort of way. The flick definitely produces food for thought (and discussion).

In my own opinion it is probably one of the best movies of all time. I know that is saying a lot but I really do think so. Certainly at or near the top of the list amongst cartoons I have seen. I give the movie five out of five stars. I think we'll all want to add this picture to our movie libraries.

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