How the Grinch Stole Christmas

The-GrinchHow the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) Universal Pictures/Comedy-Fantasy RT: 104 minutes Rated PG (some crude humor, slapstick violence) Director: Ron Howard Screenplay: Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman Music: James Horner Cinematography: Donald Peterman Release date: November 17, 2000 Starring: Jim Carrey, Taylor Momsen, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Bill Irwin, Molly Shannon, Clint Howard, Josh Ryan Evans, Mindy Sterling, Rose Winfree, Rance Howard, Anthony Hopkins (narrator).

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I have fond memories of watching the 1966 animated special every year on TV, it ran about 26 minutes and it told the story beautifully and simply. I don't feel the same way about the live-action version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, another adaptation of the beloved Dr. Seuss book from 1957. In my opinion, it's a crass and unattractive excuse for a Christmas-themed movie. This is NOT the Grinch that I remember from childhood, it's just Jim Carrey (The Mask) playing...... Jim Carrey imitating the Grinch. The filmmakers should have just called this The Jim Carrey Show for all the mugging and clowning around he does throughout the course of the movie.

Some of it is kind of funny, but most of it feels pretty forced. Furthermore, everything seems to be bathed in a dingy green color and the Whos look like rats, the act of looking at this movie is an unpleasant one and that's not what anybody wants from a Christmas movie. While it's not the worst Christmas movie that I've ever seen (that would be Christmas with the Kranks!), it's still a very disappointing production, especially when you consider that it's directed by the super-talented Ron Howard (Splash, Cocoon, A Beautiful Mind). Now we all know the story by heart, so I'll just give you a brief overview of the plot. In the microscopic city of Whoville (located inside a snowflake), the entire population celebrates the coming of Christmas with great joy and excitement, all except for one miserable individual, that would be the cynical and misanthropic Grinch, who isolates himself in a dark cavern at the top of a mountain far away from the other Whos. He has his reasons for hating Christmas and he can't stand watching everybody being happy. He comes up with an evil scheme to put an end to all the joy and happiness, he'll sneak into town on Christmas Eve and steal all the presents and decorations. In other words, he's going to steal Christmas. That's the basic story of The Grinch, everybody knows and loves it. In order to make the story a feature length film, the writers had to come up with some additional material and elaborate on some of the characetrs. I understand why this was done and some of it is mildly interesting, but it's not exactly an improvement. Two things come to mind right away: (1) if it ain't broke, don't fix it and (2) sometimes less is more.

how the_grinch_stole_christmasIn order to add some length to the story, the writers explain why the Grinch hates Christmas. As a child, his classmates ridiculed him about his appearance and mocked him for being the only 8-year-old who has a beard. The Grinch had a crush on a young girl in his class and he makes her a special gift one Christmas, he tries to shave for the first time and ends up doing a real hack job. His classmates (and teacher) laugh at him and the Grinch responds by trashing the classroom, throwing their Christmas tree out the window and retreating to a dark cavern high in the mountains. One of his former classmates, Augustus Maywho (Tambor, The Hangover) liked the same girl, Martha May Whovier (Baranski, The Ref). She's becomes the most desirable Who in town and still carries a torch for the Grinch even though Augustus (now the town mayor) has proposed marriage to her. The writers also include a storyline about Cindy Lou Who (Momsen, Gossip Girl) and her curiosity about the Grinch. She believes that behind all the meanness lies a sweet and warm Who, she sets out to prove this to all the frightened residents of Whoville, going so far as to nominate him as the "Cheermeister" for the town Whobilation on Christmas Eve. It looks like he might have a change of heart when he starts to enjoy himself, but when Augustus gives him an electric shaver as a joke, the Grinch goes on a rampage and destroys the party before retreating to his cave again. The main addition to the movie is a message about the commercialization of Christmas, the movie opens with scenes of the Whos shopping for piles of gifts and spending copious amounts of money. There's also some mention of a competition for who has the most elaborately decorated home in town. It's not until the Grinch steals all the presents that somebody points out the true meaning of Christmas and, considering all of the preceding events, it comes off as perfunctory and insincere.

When the mere act of looking at a movie becomes unpleasant, it's obvious that something went wrong on the filmmakers' end. I've already described the look of the movie, there's no need to repeat myself, but it's hard to believe that the director approved of it. What's even worse is that The Grinch made a lot of money, it made about $260 million domestically making it the second highest-grossing Christmas movie of all time after Home Alone (1990). Jim Carrey has some great dialogue, I'm particularly fond of his answering machine message, "If you utter so much as one syllable, I'LL HUNT YOU DOWN AND GUT YOU LIKE A FISH!!!! If you'd like to fax me, press the star key." I've been tempted to put this on my own answering machine. The Grinch tries to flag down a taxi in Whoville, but it passes him by and he says, "It's because I'm green, isn't it?" As amusing as it may be, it isn't the Grinch that I knew growing up, I want something more malevolent and less jokey. Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs) makes a fine narrator, he's actually perfect for the job, but I prefer the original narration by old school horror movie star Boris Karloff (Frankenstein). The filmmakers really drop the ball on the trademark song "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch", instead of sticking with the original version (which would have been perfect), they use a remake by Carrey and Busta Rhymes, it doesn't have the same effect. I felt like I was watching a spoof of the Grinch rather than a straight rendition of the classic story. It's the first time that a Dr. Seuss story has been made into a live-action feature film and I suppose this was inevitable, but the filmmakers really made a mess of the property, I would imagine that it had the late author spinning in his grave. How the Grinch Stole Christmas isn't a terrible movie, it's simply a misconceived one and perhaps it should have been left alone. It's impossible to improve on perfection and attempting to do so is a futile gesture, yet some people don't understand this and audiences suffer through another inferior movie. Thank you Mr. Howard, but I'll stick with the animated cartoon, that's the definitive telling of the Grinch story.

 

 

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