Dr. Seuss has not been successfully translated to the screen too often. Films either based on the writings of Dr. Seuss or written by Theodor Geisel himself have either manage to flop horrifically or become brilliant works of art. Why the chasm? Might as well ask why school districts have sought to ban the books of this genius.
The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T
This film actually features a screenplay from Dr. Seuss. The story is about a crazed maniac intent on forcing 500 boys to play a gigantic piano round the clock. Only one pint sized little hero can save the day. To say that “The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T” is a surreal masterwork destined to be misunderstood by critics and audiences alike when it first hit theaters in 1953 is to state the obvious. This film is a dazzling visual delight that would stand as the ultimate cinematic comedic achievement to hit the big screen attached to the name Dr. Seuss for decades. So many memorable sequences and visual touches bring this film to life that to name them all would require the entirety of this article. But let’s move on to the nadir of Dr. Seuss on screen.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
It was madness to even try. Why make a live action version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” as a big screen comedy when the small screen cartoon did it all so magnificently? Unfortunately, this Dr. Seuss comedy-and that description should be used very loosely-came about at the height of the madness of Jim Carrey mania. The result isn’t a character, but Jim Carrey doing his worst Jim Carrey stuff. Overbloated, overlong, over-budgeted and undermined by a lack of creativity, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” was nearly bad enough to obstruct future attempts at bringing Dr. Seuss to the screen.
Horton Hears a Who
The years have been kind to Jim Carrey. While he is central to the awfulness that is “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” he is also central to the success of “Horton Hears a Who.” Of course, the main reason why this animated Dr. Seuss big screen comedy is the best so far is the script. “Horton Hears a Who” is actually a very incisive and subtle political allegory. That political component, which many fans may well have missed, is the reason why this Dr. Seuss big screen comedy works so well.
For more from Timothy Sexton, check out:
Johnny Depp Wants to Play Dr. Seuss…and Tonto…and Kolchak…and Me!
Green Eggs and Ham: The Truest Story Ever Written About America