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Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!, The Bank Job, more

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DR. SEUSS' HORTON HEARS A WHO! In Horton's world, "a person's a person, no matter how small," but in our world, a mediocre movie's a mediocre movie, no matter how overhyped, overblown and overbearing. Certainly, there are many who will give this animated film a free ride by virtue of the fact that it's roughly 10,000 times better than the ghastly live-action version of Dr. Seuss' The Cat In the Hat. That's absolutely true, but it's also true that a month-old loaf of bread isn't nearly as disgusting as a year-old loaf of bread, and I wouldn't care to indulge in either. There's a reason that the 1966 TV version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! remains the best Seuss on film, and that's because its 26-minute length comes closest to approximating the brief reading time of one of the good doctor's delightful books. But when stretched out to 90 minutes, a great deal of padding is needed, thereby maximizing the chances of screwing up the source material. That's definitely the case here, since the basic story – Horton the happy-go-lucky elephant finds himself ridiculed by the other jungle denizens when he insists that a speck on a clover contains an entire civilization (the residents of Whoville) – retains its humanist (better make that anthropomorphic) appeal. But the additions to the original content are misguided, beginning with a decidedly non-Seussian reference to "poop" (ah, more scatological humor for the kiddies to digest) and ending with an atrocious Pokemon-inspired sequence that must be seen to be disbelieved. And while the animation often captures the intricate details found on the storybook pages, the sense of whimsy is largely missing, replaced by a heavy-handed touch made all the more noticeable by the marquee-value-only casting of Jim Carrey (as Horton), Steve Carell, Seth Rogen and others. **

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THE BANK JOB The Bank Job bills itself as being based on a true story, but given cinema's propensity for fudging details every which way, that's not a declaration that I'd be willing to take to the bank myself. But veracity be damned: Even if every detail of this heist flick was drenched in fiction, it doesn't change the fact that it's one compelling package. Set in 1971 London, here's a film that feels veddy British to its core, starting with the casting of Jason Statham, who, thanks to a series of action films, has become the current poster boy for British roughhousing. The Bank Job allows his character, Terry Leather, to use his brains more than his brawn, and this allows Statham to allow a bit more vulnerability than usual – his character even has a wife and two daughters, a break from the image of the emotionless lone warrior. Not that there's much room for the sentimental stuff in this admirably knotty crime flick. Terry Leather is approached by a former acquaintance (Saffron Burrows) to pull off a robbery at a Lloyds Bank that will benefit them both. She has her own reasons beyond monetary gain for making this proposal, and Terry senses that rather quickly. But he and his crew go for it anyway, a decision that involves them in a labyrinthine scandal that involves a black militant, a porn peddler, high-ranking government officials and even a member of the British royal family. Brimming with satisfying twists and populated with colorful characters, this represents a Job well done. ***1/2

MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is the sort of airy confection that will be dismissed by many as a pleasant but forgettable bauble, and that's OK. But catch it on the proper wavelength, and its pleasures are not only bountiful but durable. It's romantic without being cynical, witty without being puerile, and blessed by two divine performances from Frances McDormand and Amy Adams. McDormand plays the title character, a British maid in 1939 London who all too suddenly finds herself unemployed. Desperate to remain off the streets, she dupes her way into the position of social secretary to American actress Delysia Lafosse (Adams), an opportunistic if sweet-natured starlet whose biggest problem seems to be choosing between two playboys (Tom Payne and Mark Strong) who can advance her career and a struggling pianist (Lee Pace) who truly loves her. Yeah, I know: It's a no-brainer guessing who gets her hand by the fadeout. Yet despite Adam's screwball-style performance – as enchanting as her turn in Enchanted – the film's main source of delight doesn't rest with Delysia's affairs of the heart but with Miss Pettigrew's. A prim woman who lost her beloved during the First World War, Miss Pettigrew has long given up on any chance at romance. That a potential suitor comes along in the form of a successful clothing designer (Ciaran Hinds) seems just right, not only by the demands of the storyline but by the demands of our own hearts. McDormand sells her character with utter conviction, and the only thing possibly more praiseworthy than Miss Pettigrew is the movie that bears her name. ***1/2

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