Home > Reviews > HORTON HEARS A WHO! – John Powell


Original Review by Clark Douglas

Though far from being a classic family film, “Horton Hears a Who” is far and away the most successful feature-length Dr. Seuss adaptation to date, easily topping the horrid “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “The Cat and the Hat” theatrical films. The film features the voice talent of Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, Carol Burnett, Will Arnett, and Seth Rogan. 20th Century Fox’s go-to guy for animated features in recent years has been the talented John Powell, who returns with yet another energetic effort here.

Powell supplies his trademark blend of zippy themes and slick orchestration, creating a rather entertaining if somewhat familiar listening experience. The themes are engaging enough, but Powell grabs the listener’s attention with the steady stream of eclectic curveballs he throws into the mix. “Horton Takes a Luxurious Bath” offers swooning Hawaiian ukulele music, while frantic action cues like “Banana Wars” throw in some hilariously bizarre sound effects.

Have you ever heard wacky cimbalom music? Check out “Into Whoville/Breakfast with Mayor”. Or how about “The Quest”, in which Powell employs purposefully “damaged” funk circa 1977? At the very least, “Horton Hears a Who” keeps the listener on their toes with this sort of thing, and Powell writes with enough integrity to prevent these cues from being mere novelty items.

The biggest highlights come later in the album. The first is an Ennio Morricone tribute called “Mountain Chase” that is nothing short of glorious. Soaring spaghetti western brass and epic choral work contribute to a delightful cue that fans of stuff like “Guns of San Sebastian” are bound to enjoy. The other superb stuff is at the end of the album, during the final six cues beginning with “We are Here” and continuing through “A Big Ending”. I always imagined that this particular portion of Seuss’ book could serve as inspiration for a terrific musical sequence, and Powell really delivers with an enthusiastic series of bells and whistles that leaves this listener with a great big goofy grin on his face.

If the stars seem a bit low considering my description, it’s only because Powell has done this sort of thing even better elsewhere (“Robots” and “Happy Feet” leap to mind). Make no mistake though… “Horton Hears a Who” is a lot of fun, and fans of Powell’s style will undoubtedly be delighted.

Rating: ***½

Track Listing:

  • Fall From Tree (1:06)
  • Cave of Destiny (0:32)
  • Jungle of Nool (0:47)
  • Horton Takes a Luxurious Bath (1:42)
  • Enter the Kangaroo (1:13)
  • Banana Wars (1:03)
  • Saved (2:22)
  • Into Whoville/Breakfast With the Mayor (3:04)
  • Club Nool (1:41)
  • The Town Council (1:13)
  • Hello (2:17)
  • Dr. Larue (1:17)
  • The Quest (1:36)
  • The Bridge Work (2:29)
  • Horton Dance! (0:24)
  • Handle With Care (1:21)
  • Bedtime (1:56)
  • Snow Day (1:18)
  • Morton Tells of the Kangaroo’s Duplicity (2:30)
  • Vlad Attack (1:54)
  • Power Grab (2:45)
  • Kite Flying Day (1:22)
  • Mountain Chase (2:08)
  • Clover Field Search (2:16)
  • Memory Game (1:04)
  • For the Children!!! (0:59)
  • Angry Mob (2:40)
  • Roping and Caging (1:03)
  • We Are Here (1:04)
  • Symphonophone (1:12)
  • JoJo Saves the Day (2:22)
  • Hall of Mayors (1:31)
  • Horton Suite (6:52)
  • A Big Ending (0:53)

Running Time: 59 minutes 56 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6888 (2008)

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