Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!

21 05 2010

Ted Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss) was not afraid of including social commentary in his children’s books. Besides being a children’s author, he was also a political cartoonist and writer for the military during World War II, with his Private Snafu shorts being particularly illuminating.

So it’s refreshing to (finally) see a modern Seuss adaptation that at least tries to adhere to the spirit of his work. Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! (2008) is the fourth feature from Blue Sky Studios, who also produced Robots (2005) and the three Ice Age movies (2002, 2006 and 2009). Blue Sky are like the Chuck Jones to Pixar’s Walt Disney, and so while they don’t produce serious, studied entertainment in the Pixar vein, they also don’t resort to the mindless hipster grab-bag approach of DreamWorks Animation; instead, Blue Sky offer a manic charm all their own.

It’s only fitting, then, that Blue Sky Studios adapt one of Seuss’ more memorable children’s books, following in the footsteps of Chuck Jones’ own successful adaptations. This is not a nightmare-fuelled acid trip a la Ron Howard’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (2000) (and the less said about Mike Myers as The Cat in the Hat (2003) the better); rather, Blue Sky’s Horton is colourful and whimsical, giving spectators an amazing 3D realisation of Seuss’ illustrations that is as faithful as can be. And while pop-culture elements are a little overdone at times, this is still miles ahead of the horrors that DreamWorks might have visited upon the source.
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27 Dresses

11 01 2008

27 DressesAt their worst, romantic comedies display an utter contempt for their target demographic, assuming that any woman seeking out a rom-com isn’t particularly interested in genuine wit or insight — it’s essentially porn for the girly set. (A similar argument can be made for the action genre, mind you, with the genders switched.) 27 Dresses, while still following the conventions of genre, nonetheless never feels like it’s pandering or condescending to its audience.

Katherine Heigl plays Jane, a woman obsessed with the idea of marriage despite living out the cliché of “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” — she’s got all 27 bridesmaid dresses to prove it. She is, of course, secretly in love with her boss, the cool-but-bland George (Edward Burns), but when her superficial younger sister Tess (Malin Akerman) arrives and cluelessly snaps him up in a whirlwind romance, Jane is inevitably called upon to plan their wedding.

Meanwhile, James Marsden is Kevin, a cynical journalist stuck writing for the sappy “Commitments” column in the New York Journal, and he sees writing a biting piece on Jane (the archetypal “lonely bridesmaid”) as being his ticket to gaining legitimacy. Ostensibly following Tess and George’s wedding, Kevin gradually gains Jane’s trust despite them both being philosophically at odds when it comes to the ethics of the so-called “wedding industry”.
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