Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch (2018)

 

Released: November 9, 2018. Directed by: Yarrow Cheney, Scott Mosier. Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Cameron Seely, Rashida Jones. Runtime: 1h, 26 min.

When I went to see “Overlord” in November, I overheard a mom saying to her kid “Are you excited for your first movie?” Knowing how cool it is to see your first movie at a theatre, I was bummed he was seeing something as mediocre as “Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch” for his first movie at the theatre.

“Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch” is the third adaption of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! where Benedict Cumberbatch voices the titular Grinch in a version that doesn’t add anything new or interesting to the story.

This time, The Grinch isn’t particularly feared and is just seen as meaner than the average Who. He still doesn’t like Christmas, so when the Who’s bring in a gigantic Christmas tree, he hatches a plan to put an end to their happiness: Steal Christmas.

Illumination Entertainment’s animation style fits Seuss’s style, especially his inventions which the animation brings to life well. I like their vision of Whoville, but the animation is the only good part of the film, even though it makes Cindy-Lou Who (Cameron Seely) look like a Martian with her pigtails sticking up in the air, and the character design’s similar to “Despicable Me.”

As for the story, there’s just not enough plot for a feature film. It’s just told with very little creativity, and there are no Jim Carrey kind-of antics to distract from the lack of story.

The Grinch featured

Benedict Cumberbatch in Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch (IMDb)

Cumberbatch is fine as the Grinch, but he’s not terribly memorable. Nothing about this film is memorable, and the main source of laughs come from the Grinch’s cheery neighbour (Keenan Thompson) and the Grinch’s dog Max and an overweight reindeer, and the Grinch trolling the citizens of Whoville made me smile, but those moments were the only times I did.

Pharrell Williams’ monotone narration also does not help matters of entertainment. Since you already know which direction is going, I was getting antsy for the Grinch just to steal Christmas, but it feels like it takes forever to get there. There just aren’t many interesting characters to watch in this one, as the Grinch and Cindy Lou’s interactions are extremely limited until he makes his Christmas heist.

Even then, it’s a bit of a cliche way for Cindy Lou to meet him – setting up a Rube Goldberg trap to try to catch Santa Claus so she can ask him for something selfless.

We know about the Grinch’s loneliness and we know that he steals Christmas and that his heart grows three sizes, but this version doesn’t delve into any kind of new backstory or anything interesting, for that matter. And it was just kind of weird seeing a version where the people aren’t afraid of the Grinch. But for this version, the filmmakers just unfortunately don’t do anything to make it memorable.

Score: 50/100

 

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Dumb and Dumber To (2014)

Dumb and Dumber To, IMDbReleased: November 14, 2014. Directed by: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly. Starring: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Laurie Holden. Runtime: 1 hr., 49 min.

In 1994, ignorance was bliss for Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey). In 2014, it’s still endearing, and they maintain the same level of innocence but they are more obnoxious. They make arm fart noises and try to get the crowd to call the speaker a nerd at a sort-of TED talk. It misses, though the joke could be their harsh misjudgment of the situation.

Harry (Jeff Daniels) is still the innocent one. Daniels is able to fall back into his character, even though he seems rusty until ten minutes pass. After twenty years, that’s expected. Lloyd still puts his needs before anyone else, dead or alive. Carrey is occasionally over-the-top, but he has a blast portraying the character. The film is kept alive by the actor’s chemistry when there are periodic, unfunny lulls.

After twenty years, a Lloyd, who now looks like a hermit, is at a mental hospital. He’s upset about not getting with Mary Swanson and he has been sitting in a wheelchair with a blank stare into nothingness. It turns out, he has been joking this entire time to prank Harry.

Harry needs a kidney and thinks he needs it from a family member and not just a blood type match. When he finds a letter from old flame Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner) that states she is pregnant, he sets off to find the daughter he never knew. And meanwhile, he can hit her up for a kidney.

Lloyd is attracted to the daughter and decides to tag along. They find her in El Paso, Texas, after stopping in Maryland at her house. They meet her adoptive father and have to hand deliver an important invention that she forgot to bring. The pair get mixed up in a murder plot where they are one of the targets.

It’s formulaic, but in the spirit of the original film. I can understand that the Farrelly brothers want to emulate the intense success of the original cult pleasure, but comedy sequels have proven time and time again that it’s difficult to recreate the magic twice. The writers actually repeat five jokes from the original. They largely follow the original’s premise to a tee and it disables any room for innovation because of that.

Some repeated choices are charming – particularly the repeated song of the Apache Indian’s “Boom Shack-a-Lack”. It’s a pleasant, nostalgic moment. I do like some music decisions by the film’s composer, the band Empire of the Sun. Songs like Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” and Marty Robbins’ “El Paso” are obvious, but effective. They tie scenes together.

Harry gets a fantasy sequence which depicts what type of father he would have been to Penny. Lloyd’s fantasy sequence is just as violent as the first one – where his fantasy of being with Penny mirrors his one with Mary Swanson.

The defense of his girl’s honour is still creative. The daughter, Penny, portrayed by Rachel Melvin, is dumber than a doornail. Melvin can’t display much talent because she is give a character with very little depth. The character’s stupidity isn’t endearing – it is more often annoying.

Lloyd and Harry treat Fraida Felcher with a distinct meanness, which just isn’t in good spirits. The joke is that the beautiful young woman experienced the reverse ugly duckling and changed into one. The Walking Dead’s Laurie Holden portrays a character named Adele who is married to Pinchelow. She doesn’t get any depth. She works with a sneer throughout but doesn’t get any laughs.

Rob Riggle is the main villain. He plays two characters – a handyman named Travis and then his twin brother, Captain Lippincott, a military figure who has camouflage expertise. This enables cool displays of make-up and great attention to detail.

When the film’s humour misses, it’s awkward – like a kid trying too hard to be funny. It’s frustrating when the Farrelly brothers take the joke too far, it’s like they don’t know the boundaries of utter grossness. They might be going for a shock factor but it’s unnecessary.

The humour doesn’t have that shadow of intelligence behind the stupidity like the original. Much of the jokes don’t flow as well as the original because the plot isn’t quite coherent.

The most negatively astounding thing about the film is that the entire narrative falls apart at the end within a matter of ten minutes. It’s frustrating because many plot aspects are forfeited for either convenience or for a half-assed joke. It makes the road to the end completely irreverent. It’s a creative decision that I will never be able to get behind.

Score60/100

Dumb & Dumber (1994)

Released: December 16, 1994. Directed by: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly. Starring: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Lauren Holly. Runtime: 1 hr., 46 min.

The cult favourite Dumb & Dumber put the Farrelly brothers on the map. It was also part of Jim Carrey’s first breakout year of a trio of films that made sparked his great career, along with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Mask.

For me, it is definitely the definitive road trip film. It’s a buddy comedy about two complete idiots, Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) who travel cross-country to Aspen, Colorado, in pursuit of one of Harry’s limousine passengers, Mary Swanson (Lauren Holly).

She purposely left her briefcase at the airport as ransom payment for her kidnapped husband. It was meant for thugs – Joe Mentalino (Mike Starr) and J.P. Shay (Karen Duffy). When Christmas grabs the briefcase, the goons mistake him for a “professional” or an FBI agent and not just a love-struck buffoon.

Both Lloyd and Harry have lost their jobs. Harry was a pet groomer who recently spent his life savings turning his car into a sheepdog. With no jobs or reason to stay in Rhode Island, Lloyd coerces Harry into a road trip to Aspen to deliver the briefcase to Swanson, who Larry later thinks is named Samsonite – the brand name on the briefcase.

The thugs learn of their intentions and pursue them, but not before they take decapitate Harry’s pet parakeet, Petey. Both Larry and Harry think his head falling off is from old age. The two idiots need some cash for the road after Lloyd was robbed. Lloyd hilariously sells miscellaneous items, including Petey, to a blind adolescent named Billy, who lives in their apartment building.

Billy misconstrues the bird as simply quiet, and it becomes a bit of a sensation on the news and one of the film’s funniest moments. The clever humour about two guys being stupid as they can be won’t be for everyone.

Surely, their sheer stupidity can become frustrating, but it’s the joke. If you like two guys getting in a lot of misunderstandings, you are sure to laugh. If you are one of those people who are continuously frustrated by that one incredibly stupid character on every sitcom, avoid this. The two protagonists are that type of character and their daftness is the ongoing gag.

The plot isn’t the greatest thing in the world, but it’s good enough for a simplistic road trip buddy comedy. And for the film’s tone and the protagonists, it fits very well. It’s funny when just about everyone they meet overestimate them.

Thugs think they must be special agents – and never for a second do people consider them just being the idiots they are. Even Mary mistakes Harry’s stupidity as intentional humour. She also thinks that their orange and sky-blue tuxedos are an ironic joke.

There are plot inconsistencies. Why does Lloyd pack mittens and think there are Rockies when at first he thinks Aspen is in California and calls it a warm climate?

But their misadventures along the way make it largely worth it. I, for one, was hooked by the first gag. Limousine driver Lloyd crawls back to the passenger seat of his limo to hit on a beautiful woman. He asks her if she is from Jersey and she says she is from Austria. He then tries to impress her with an Australian accent, which just perfectly captures his stupidity early on.

Score8/10

Horton Hears a Who! (2009)

Horton Hears a Who!

Horton Hears a Who!

Release Date: March 14, 2008

Director: Jimmy Hayward, Steve Martino

Stars (voices): Jim Carrey, Steve Carrell, Carol Burnett

Runtime: 86 min

Dr. Seuss writes some excellent books. Blue Sky Productions (those guys behind ‘Ice Age‘, ‘Rio‘) makes some pretty good animated movies. Put the two together, and you end up with the thoroughly decent Horton Hears a Who!

Horton Hears a Who! tells the story of Horton (voiced by Jim Carrey), who, incidentally, hears a who of the town of Whoville, that happens to live on a speck. He has to keep away the speck from evil kangaroos and crazy-lookin’ monkeys, and go out of his way to bring it to safety.

That is the same Whoville of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The message at play here is that everyone has a voice, no matter small. Horton constantly communicates with the Mayor of Whoville voiced by Steve Carrell, a comedian with an equally big voice, as the message might suggest. You’ll want Horton to get that speck to the mountain and be safe. But you’ll forget half of the names of the citizens of Whoville the second the end credits roll.

Horton Hears a Whoo!

While the movie isn’t ground-breaking, it has some nice animation that fits the imagination of Dr. Seuss. Jim Carrey is over-the-top as Horton, but he’s just being his usual self. His voice acting will make this entertaining for older audiences, as well as children. Some of his impressions will leave children in the dark about the real joke, because they’ll only be thinking – “Oh, he’s talking in a funny voice. That’s supposed to be funny. Ha-ha!” I’d rather him stick to live-action movies. He does some spot-on impressions, but for some viewers, he could take away from the story.

Jim Carrey and Steve Carell are the stars of the show. As is the animation. The story’s lightly written. It’s forgettable, but it offers some good entertainment. It’s one of those great movies for a rainy day. You can relax and watch it, and just have a good time. It’s nothing more, but it’s nothing less. It’s definitely better than Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in Hat.

70/100

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)

Incredible Burt WonderstoneThe Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Release Date: March 15, 2013

Director: Don Scardino

Stars: Steve Carell, Jim Carrey, Olivia Wilde

Runtime: 100 min

Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) was that one kid who always got picked on growing up. Then he received the Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin) magic kit for his birthday and… well, nothing changed with the bullying aspect. Though, he gained inspiration and a lifelong friend out of it, the person who will be soon be known as Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi). Burt wants to become a magician and that’s just what he does.

Skip ahead to when they’ve been a headlining act in Vegas for ten years. A new street performer, Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), comes on the scene and, in retrospect, makes Burt and Anton’s show feel extremely stale, especially because they’ve been doing the same old shit for the past ten years. The only thing that sometimes changes is the pretty assistant that helps them. In order to become popular again, Burt and Anton must learn to settle their differences and Burt must discover again what made him fall in love with magic in the first place.

The plot is really all about learning to adjust and be a more flexible person, something that Burt really needs to learn. It’s successful on that meaningful level. The audience can feel for the characters because all of us would like to see Burt and Anton be successful again and settle their differences, but the point of this isn’t to be meaningful. At all. It’s essentially a buddy comedy of meeting half-way, and Burt and Anton’s climb back to the top.

There aren’t too many characters, and they’re all developed in a mostly general way. Burt is just a selfish sex-fiendish magician who should learn to become more selfless, Anton is Burt’s magic partner who puts up with his nonsense, Jane (Olivia Wilde) is a former assistant of Burt and Anton who’s an aspiring magician herself; Rance is a magic veteran who Burt finds a friend in; Doug (James Gandolfini) is the traditional Las Vegas self-centered hotel owner; and Steve Gray is the ridiculous Criss Angel-esque street performer, who even has a show called Brain Rapist.

Everyone is good in their roles but, as expected, Jim Carrey is the real scene-stealer. He gets some of the biggest laughs, and does some of the nastiest gags. He’s playing a bit of a loony bird, and that’s what he does best. This just goes to show that Carrey can be much better than Carell when they’re in the same film, and I’d pick Bruce Almighty over Evan Almighty almost any day.

The movie is just a really silly way to show how far these actors would go for a laugh. They do cool magic tricks, silly stunts, hit-and-miss gags (most hit), and dress up in funky costumes and wigs. It’s somewhat quotable, too, but the hilarious stunts are the most memorable. Even when the film isn’t that funny, the movie tries, and that’s easy to respect. The only part that is easy to hate is really the beginning, because of two extremely annoying kids – Mason Cook (though, he might still be hated because the only other flick he’d be most associated with is Spy Kids: All the Time in the World) and Luke Vanek – thankfully, the characters grow up fairly quickly, and they’re the thing I would just like to forget completely.

Alas, a fair amount of the material won’t stick in people’s memories. Most could remember the best laughs come December, but the rest of the feature will feel a lot like a disappearing act from one’s memory.

In a nutshell: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone isn’t as magical as it might seem to promise, but it’s fairly satisfying and it offers a funny experience with a great premise and a silly story. It knows it’s silly, so it embraces it and takes it for a ride. While a fair deal of it isn’t extremely memorable, the solid performers make me want to give a recommendation. There’s nothing incredible that makes it worth the watch in theaters, but I’d recommend at least giving it a chance when it comes out on home media.

73/100

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)

A Series of Unfortunate EventsLemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

Release Date: December 17, 2004

Director: Brad Silberling

Stars: Jim Carrey, Jude Law, Meryl Streep

Runtime: 108 min

Tagline: On December 17, Christmas cheer takes a holiday

Violet (Emily Browning), Klaus (Liam Aiken), and Sunny Baudelaire (Kara Hoffman and Shelby Hoffman) are three intelligent young children who receive terrible news that their parents have died in a fire and have left them an enormous fortune not to be used until the eldest child is of age. When they are sent to live with Count Olaf, a greedy distant relative, they soon learn he is trying to steal their fortune for himself.

Because of the seriously insane Olaf, they meet colourful relatives along the way after he does some… questionable acts. He tries to kill the children, first of all. You read that right. He checks the train schedule, parks his car on the tracks, and locks the kids in the car, leaving them for death. He doesn’t stop there. This sadistic and fairly obnoxious “actor” would do just about anything to gain the family fortune. He’s strange and creepy, but Carrey gives a great performance.

The acts Olaf goes through are sometimes much too mature for young children, and a lot of it is extremely dark. Especially for a family film. The third act is by far the strangest of the feature and frankly, it made me very uncomfortable. It’s necessary for the story, sure, but it’s just too strange for words. Though, the actions these characters often do make this a memorable feature. There are some great emotional moments, and even though the third act seriously creeped me out, it ends on a great and emotional note.

This film is based on Lemony Snicket’s thirteen-book series entitled A Series of Unfortunate Events. I know what you might be thinking: One movie based on thirteen books?! It really isn’t as crowded as it may sound. It flows well and the production design is fantastic and it’s a nice film to look at, because the cinematography is notably great. I did care for the three central characters on some level because they just lost their parents and I really wouldn’t want to see their fortune lost and have them be miserable until they’re eighteen years of age. Since their parents did die, many could relate to them, and the audience, can at least comprehend their sorrow. Though, most of us couldn’t say a psychopath actor tried to steal our fortune by trying to kill us and dressing up in weird costumes. If one is to take any morals from this story, they would be: 1) Just give the kids a damn chance and listen to them, because they could sometimes really help; 2) Some actors are just bat shit crazy, and 3) If you correct someone, they might get really pissed off and you won’t ever be seen again.

Meryl Streep is great as an irrational phobic; and Billy Connolly is fantastic as Uncle Monty, an eccentric herpetologist. Though, Jim Carrey is the real highlight of this. He has some hilarious jokes that may be sure to make you laugh out loud, and his impression of a dinosaur is worth the DVD price alone.

This film is really refreshing to me, mostly because it is just so self-aware. In a few moments of suspense, the narrator, Jude Law impersonating Lemony Snicket, makes his typewriter jam, so we are left with a twenty-second cliffhanger as he tries to fix his typewriter. It’s really humorous, and I love films like that. He also warns the audience that this will be an unpleasant story with suspicious fires and carnivorous leeches, not a dancing elf, but that movie probably has plenty of seating in theater two. So, like he warns you and I am about to warn you, this film isn’t for extremely young children, so just listen to the narrator and go see the little lame happy elves. Everyone else, stay, it’s a pretty unique, strange family feature.

72/100

The Truman Show (1998) Review

The Truman Show

Release Date: June 5, 1998

Director: Peter Weir

Stars: Jim Carrey, Laura Linney, Ed Harris

                                             Runtime: 103 min

Tagline: On the air. Unaware.

Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) is a friendly and charismatic simpleton. He’s also the star of a reality show that he was born into. The show he’s on is the most popular show in the world, The Truman Show. It’s a 24-hour drama that chronicles his every move. Everyone that he thinks are his friends is really just actors put there for the show; and Truman is the only genuine person in the fictional town of Sea Haven that he calls home.

Once Truman starts to wonder if there’s something going around this town, he really just wants to get out and explore the world. Though, Truman has never been that exploratory after an incident that caused a phobia of water; a childhood experience when he and his father went out to sea and they were attacked by a thunderstorm and his dad fell off the boat and supposedly drowned.

The Truman Show is actually such an original and intriguing plot. The character that is Truman Burbank is so simple too, that you can’t help but sympathize with the guy. He is probably one of the most intriguing characters since Forrest Gump. The film uses the aspects of drama, comedy and fantasy which make such a wonderful blend.

The Truman Show is an interesting and entertaining ride that cannot be missed. It also has great performances from a lot of the cast. The only thing that I did not like about the movie was the fact that Truman’s wife was quite annoying and fake. Granted, in a way it was good that she was extremely fake. I guess the film’s only flaw was that it was a little slow in some areas.

The film is directed wonderfully by Peter Weir (Dead Poets Society), written by Andrew Niccol (Gattaca), stars Laura Linney as Truman’s wife, Noah Emmerich as Marlon, Natasha McElhone as Truman’s lost love, Lauren; Holland Taylor as Truman’s mother, Ed Harris as the show’s creator, Christof; and Paul Giamatti as a Control Room Director.

This film is an absolute treat, with a magnificent performance by funny man Jim Carrey in a great dramatic role.

As Truman would say, “Good morning, and if I don’t see you; good afternoon, good evening and goodnight.”

90/100