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How the Grinch Stole Christmas by James Horner

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

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How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Soundtrack) by James Horner

The Grinch
Composed by James Horner
Interscope Records (2000)

Rating: 6/10

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This release presents quite a quandary.  The score works very well in the film and the amount of score contained on this release is probably sufficient.  On the other hand, what ruins the amount of score that is included are the pop tracks that precede them.

"Oh the Noise, Noise, Noise, Noise!"
Review by Christopher Coleman
 

"...Oh the noise, noise, noise, noise!  If there's one thing I hate...oh the noise, noise, noise, noise!" The Grinch

Director Ron Howard has taken the essence of the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas story and made it into a full-blown live, action holiday film.  Instead of the purely sinister Boris Karloff portrayal of The Grinch, turning from darkness to light, we have the schizophrenic Jim Carrey.  With only occasional homage being paid to the original music, James Horner, has composed a score and written a title song (along with famed collaborator, Will Jennings and, pop artist, Faith Hill) that brings the story of the Grinch to the 21st century.  In addition, there are a host of other schizophrenic, vocal, pop tracks written for the film and included in the soundtrack.  

The movie relies more on the talents of Jim Carrey and the eye-candy effects, than the story itself, as most are already very familiar with the plot.  Howard and company do endeavor to bring the audience some "backstory" by delving into the childhood hurts of the Grinch.  The film, as a whole, is very entertaining, mostly due to Carrey's quick-wit and improvisation.  The soundtrack album; however, is another casualty of marketing as more than half of it is comprised by irrelevant pop tunes that hardly evoke any traditional sentiments of Christmas.  The combining of so many styles of music on a single "Christmas" album?  For what?  Sales!  What a great Grinchy-trick!  Be this as it may, helping to save us from a terminal listening experience is James Horner's score.   Horner's music continues to feature a number of his well-known signatures, but the fantastic nature of this film gives Horner a bit more freedom to experiment and depart from his conventions.  

"...And they'll sing and they'll sing and they'll sing, sing, sing, sing!"  Someone stop this whole thing!

The first fourteen tracks are sadly composed of a mixture of dialogue and pop tracks that, with the exception of the title song performed by Faith Hill, are pretty excruciating to listen to and really have little place on this soundtrack or any holiday album.  As purely a marketing ploy to attract the lucrative teen market, Interscope Records have included songs performed by Busta Rhymes, Smash Mouth and N' Sync.  I suppose Britney Spears was too busy with her Christmas special to contribute to this album.  To Interscope's credit, they, at the very least, grouped all of these performances at the beginning the CD and concluded this nightmarish section with Faith Hill's salvaging performance of "Where Are You Christmas?"  - thus making a fairly smooth transition into James Horner's score.

"...They'll blow their flu-flubas.  They'll bang their tartinkas.  They'll blow their who-hubas.  They'll bang their gardinkas!"

2000 has seen or heard very little from James Horner.  With the lone submission of his score for The Perfect Storm, How the Grinch Stole Christmas has been eagerly awaited by James Horner fans.  Horner certainly takes this score in a new direction or, at least, in a direction he hasn't had opportunity to go in for some time.  A number of years ago, Horner was much more active in scoring animated films such as: The Land Before Time, Once Upon a Forest, Pagemaster.  Such projects provided Horner with the opportunity to fill in his repertoire with the zany, comical, and unpredictable.  Also, Horner was able to show a more imaginative side of his composing in feature films like: Casper and Jumanji.  If a Suessian environment couldn't bring this out of the composer again, then it is likely we'd heard the last of such music from Horner.  However, the ol' Grinch does just that.

The opening track, The Shape of Things to Come (1), actually is a synopsis of the score in general.  It  begins quite serenely with one of Horner's signature escalating swells before giving way to the main theme being performed by the strings.  Fans will find it similar to his main theme for Bicentennial Man as well as the wedding theme from Deep Impact.  Unfortunately, for Horner's reputation as a music-criminal, there is also no denying the Elfman influence upon his work here.  Be that as it may, it isn't long before the influence of Who'ville is heard, as the Happy Who-lidays quirkly enters in with rude brass and familiar "whoish" vocals.  Appropriately, Horner mixes in some holiday-cheer with tubular bells and celebratory jingle-bells.  Still, before the end of the track, we are introduced to the sinister theme representing the activity of the unredeemed Grinch.  It is here that reflections of Horner's past work in animated films can be heard.

Many of the tracks containing score are mixed with narration, almost echoing Rhino's release of the music from the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  In this case, unlike, Rhino Records, Interscope does not include enough narration to tell the main points of the plot. The narration is scattered throughout the pop tracks and score and are not in chronological order.  Unfortunately, in many of the "action" sequences, with Carrey's chaotic rantings combined with Elfmanic-score behind it, neither can be heard well enough or focused upon enough to be appreciated.

Still, there are a number of high points that typical, Horner fans will be able to enjoy- usually in the softer moments.  Memories of a Green Childhood (2), offer some very tender moments, crafted in Horner's familiar style of string swells, soft piano notes, and woodwinds. The conclusion of track 20, Does Cindy Lou Really Ruin Christmas?, reprises the main theme, first through soft woodwinds and then building into a full orchestral performance.  Of course, the ultimate performance of this theme comes at the climax of the story, when Mr. Grinch has A Change of Heart (21).  This performance, once again, is very close to Bicentennial Man, but interjected is a an interesting ingredient.  Horner includes his four-note calling card, played on the trumpet along with quite an an orchestral and choral (synth) upheaval.  The track concludes with the theme being played tenderly once again and then with a heavenly mix of bells, percussions, brass, and strings.  Unfortunately, the last few seconds turn into a quirky few moments that would have been better suited at the beginning of the following track.

This release presents quite a quandary.  The score works very well in the film and the amount of score contained on this release is probably sufficient.  On the other hand, what ruins the amount of score that is included are the pop tracks that precede them.  For staunch Horner fans, there is a main theme that most are sure to like.  Also, fans will hear Horner return to some style that he has not employed for sometime, but they will also hear work that may be too close to that of Danny Elfman's past efforts.   

 

Rating: 6/10

 

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Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Kids Today * 0:20  
2 Grinch 2000 by Busta Rhymes/ Jim Carrey 3:34  *
3 Green Christmas by Barenaked Ladies 2:35  *
4 Christmas of Love by Little Isidore & the Inquisitors 2:19  **
5 Lonely Christmas Eve by Ben Folds 3:20  **
6 Grinch Schedule * 0:40  
7 Better Do It Right by Smash Mouth 3:10  ***
8 Whoville Medley:  Perfect Christmas Night/Grinch  Trans-Siberian Orchestra 4:59  ****
9 Reindeer * 0:35  
10 Christmas is Going to the Dogs by Eels 2:57  **
11 You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch by Busta Rhymes/ Jim Carrey 2:31  *
12 Christmas Means More * 0:49  
13 You Don't Have to Be Alone by 'N Sync 4:33  **
14 Where Are You Christmas by Faith Hill 4:06  ***
15 Shape of Things to Come 6:32  ****
16 Memories of a Green Childhood 3:28  ***
17 Christmas, Why Can't I find You? 2:09  ***
18 Stealing Christmas * 6:55  ***
19 The Big Heist 4:04  ***
20 Does Cindy Lou Really Ruin Christmas? 4:09  **
21 A Change of Heart 3:43  ****
22 The Sleigh of Presents 6:01  ****
23 He Carves the Roast Beast (includes Welcome Christmas) 3:12  ***
 

Total Running Time (approx)

76:41  

 

 
   

 

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