Story

Horton (voiced by Jim Carrey) is a friendly, compassionate elephant who acts as a ‘school teacher’ to an assortment of young animals in the Jungle of Nool. One day, he hears a cry for help on a tiny speck of dust and decides to do what he can to assist. Using his extra large ears, he is able to hear what others can’t and soon discovers that the speck is home to a microscopic community of Whos. They live in a town called Whoville and are blissfully unaware that their world could, at any second, be entirely destroyed.

Horton makes a promise to the Mayor of Whoville (Steve Carell) that he will do all that he can to see that the speck is deposited in the safest place possible. This will ensure that the Whos can live as happily and safely as they have since the beginning of Who history.

The self-proclaimed Mayor of the Jungle of Nool, a nasty Kangaroo (Carol Burnett), doesn’t like Horton or his imaginative ways. When she discovers him talking to a speck of dust clinging to a clover, she uses this to incite the rest of the jungle community to ostracise him. She even hires a ‘hit vulture’ named Vlad (Will Arnett) to attack Horton and ‘finish off’ the clover. She almost succeeds in destroying the clover and humiliating Horton. The Whos have a special person in their town, however. This person doesn’t conform, doesn’t fit in and doesn’t even speak. Once he finds his voice, he is heard above the rest. His creativity and uniqueness save his world from imminent annihilation.

Themes

Isolation within one’s community; the destruction of a world

Violence

  • Gorillas fire bananas at Horton as if they are machine gun ammunition.
  • Gorillas launch a huge ‘banana bomb’ at Horton. The result is that he slips on some peels and careers out of control through the jungle, before crashing. He is not hurt.
  • The Mayor of Whoville is repeatedly kicked in the backside after he tells a committee that they should postpone a celebration.
  • The Mayor angrily throws a staple gun at a picture of the chairperson’s head. The gun ricochets off the painting and staples his own forehead instead.
  • Horton imagines that he is a fabulous hero saving an unknown world. He conjures up a ninja sequence where he battles imaginary foes, much like a Japanese cartoon.
  • One of Horton’s students, who is hiding in the bushes, is kicked high into the sky.
  • Kangaroo repeatedly threatens Horton and incites violence against him.
  • Kangaroo hires a vulture to ‘take care of the speck’ and consequently kill all of the Whos in Whoville.
  • Horton must outrun the vulture, who tries to get the speck on the clover away from him. He hides in fields and narrowly escapes only to be faced with the vulture again. Horton eventually flings the vulture into a cliff. Moments later, the vulture returns to capture the clover.
  • The vulture drops the clover with the speck over a cliff into a field full of clovers. It appears that all of Whoville has been destroyed.
  • An angry mob of forest animals gang up on Horton. They poke him with sticks, tie him down and force him into a cage.
  • The Kangaroo attempts to boil the clover, and the Whos, in oil.
  • A young gorilla is grabbed and then tossed aside.

Content that may disturb children

Under 5

  • When Kangaroo visits the vulture, she enters a very creepy, menacing world where even she is scared when animal bones begin dropping at her feet. Vlad looks evil and nasty. As payment for destroying the clover, he wants the joey that is in her pouch. Kangaroo outsmarts him, but there are a tense few moments when her little joey doesn’t know what will happen.
  • When Vlad drops the clover over the cliff, Horton is devastated. He believes that it could have killed the Whos. He is seen sobbing uncontrollably because he can’t locate the speck. When he finally does, there is no answer, just devastation and rubble. The Whos turn out to be fine, but the suspenseful moments leading up to that discovery could worry very young viewers.
  • The angry mob of forest animals turn against Horton and tie him down, poking him with sticks and attempting to confine him to a cage. Meanwhile, they prepare a pot of bubbling oil in which to burn the clover and destroy the speck. Horton begs them to stop. The Whos desperately try to make enough noise so that they are heard by the other animals because it is their last chance to survive. At the last second, an unlikely hand reaches out to save the speck and Horton is redeemed. The scene has several suspenseful moments that could disturb some young children.

From 5-8

Younger children in this age group might also be disturbed by some of the scenes described above.

Over 8

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film.

Sexual references

None

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

None

Nudity and sexual activity

None

Product placement

The film is, in itself, a promotion of Dr Seuss products.

Coarse language 

Although this movie contains no coarse language, it does include frequent name-calling.

Ideas to discuss with your children

Horton Hears a Who! is an animated adventure based on a Dr Seuss story. It features a rhyming story line, a twisting, yet predictable, plot and a happy ending. Although not perfectly suited to very young viewers, it is a family-friendly film.

The main messages from this movie are that:

  • A person is a person, no matter how small.
  • Just because you can’t see, touch or hear something doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

You could talk about these messages as well as values presented in this movie, such as:

  • being true to yourself
  • fulfilling the promises you make to others
  • compassion, forgiveness and imagination.

You could also talk to your children about what might happen in real life if you follow the group and take the easy path, regardless of whether it is right.