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HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS

Directed by Ron Howard (2000, Universal Pictures)
Starring Jim Carrey, Jeffrey Tambor, Taylor Momsen, Anthony Hopkins, and Christine Baranski

As Whoville celebrates the Whobilation, the Mean One contemplates taking away their cheer.

 

 

2 stars

December 16th, 2000 in the Theatre  
   

If you go for the sets and costumes, this movie was fantastic.  If you go to see Jim Carrey perform, it will be deeply satisfying.  If you want more insight into the Grinch and to see what makes Whos tick, I'm not so sure.  I thought the movie was good, and pretty well done, but in no way was it great or inspiring.

This was a Jim Carrey movie; of that there is no doubt.  Unfortunately, I am not a Jim Carrey fan.  I don't think his physical antics are funny, nor do I find his facial contortions amusing, for the most part.  He is definitely a talented comic actor, but I don't go in for those things.  As such, I was less than enchanted with a lot of the movie.  As he starts bashing his head between the cymbals of a giant monkey, I was wondering how long it would go on for.  

But I guess if they were going to do a live-action remake of the Grinch, this is the way to go.  If you're going to do it, you might as well make it as absurd as possible.  Everything about Whoville and the Grinch was taken to the extreme.  

The sets were remarkable.  I don't think there was a single piece of generic "stuff" anywhere on the set -it was all home-made.  Even Cindy Lou Who's pencil, where she writes to Santa, was constructed, evident by its unique shape.  All the houses, cars, trees, and furniture were uniquely Who-made.  They were very cartoonish, which was great.  

And the costumes were also extremely well done.  All were flamboyant, a perfect match to the Whos themselves.  The hair styles were extremely funny, because every one of them was different, and they were all shaped in some strange pattern.  One actually had ABC written with her braids!  They were identified as being a different branch of humanity by their noses (an inbred trait, perhaps?), which also made them quite cute.  

Unfortunately, this movie turns my entire notion of the Whos upside down.  I've always thought of Whos as altruistic beings, without a mean bone in their bodies.  They didn't need presents, and they barely noticed when the presents were missing on the night that the Grinch stole them.  I guess fleshing a cartoon out into more than three times its original length required some tweaking.  Maybe the producers thought they were making it more realistic, in making the Whos disappointed on Christmas morning, then having Cindy and her father point out that they don't need all these things.  

I didn't like the idea of the Evil Mayor, who blames everything on the Grinch and just wants to preside over contests and parties.  At the end, he is so condescending to Cindy and her father that I wanted him thrown into that trash transporter.  

I also never got the sense of why the name of the Grinch incited such fear among the population.  When Lou's teenage boys run into town screaming that they saw the Grinch, the town stops and goes completely quiet, as if saying his name would make him appear.  The flashback shows that he liked/ disliked/ liked and then disliked Christmas as a kid, and that he threw a tantrum on the last day anybody ever saw him, but has he done anything since then?  Does he send coal to people's stockings?  Has he ever stolen Christmas before?

I know it's not supposed to be analyzed, but they went to so much trouble to explain why the Grinch hates Christmas, why did they leave this part, which is just as important, so vague?  

I suppose they needed some filler, but I really didn't think the flashbacks were necessary, either.  I felt that they were explaining something that didn't need explaining.  So he's miserable, and hates Christmas -so what.  There are people out there like that, and it doesn't always stem from a childhood trauma.  Anyway, they clearly showed that he never liked Christmas, even the day he was "born".  

The Grinch also seemed to be too inconsistent.  He was shown as part of a love triangle -which shows how people's tastes can be quite strange (both Martha's for falling in love with the Grinch, and the Grinch's for falling in love with Martha).  He was shown despising the Whos and their joyous nature.  But it seems that he desperately wants to be accepted by them, anyway.  Nobody likes to be a loner...

Anyway, there were many things that I truly did enjoy about this movie.  There was some sparkling dialogue.  I did get sick of the rhymes, which often sounded like they were written by somebody who didn't know how to write a rhyming poem (these were obviously not Dr. Seuss' original dialogue).  But it was a terrific moment when the Grinch realizes that he's speaking in the rhymes that he hates so much!

The best part of the movie has to be after Cindy Lou Who leaves his layer, and the Grinch "checks" his schedule for the rest of the night.  It was absolutely hilarious.  "Grovel in self pity, dinner with self -I can't cancel that again, be miserable..."!  When he was attending the award ceremony, I could have done without the mouth-stuffing contest, but the bag race was amazing.  There were a number of moments that only Jim Carrey could pull off: the agenda scene, when he wakes up horrified to find himself singing Who songs, and when he gets the mean idea of stealing all the gifts, after walking inside to find his dog dancing to a great dog-Christmas tune.  Was it just me, or did the Grinch sound more like Sean Connery than Jim Carrey?

Most of the scenes where the Grinch is stealing the presents are well done.  He gets his due when he sucks up a cat into his present-vacuum!  His construction of the sled, and his coercion of the dog into a reindeer were also quite funny -especially when the dog brings him the wrong size wrench.  

The songs were well realized as well.  Cindy Lou Who had a very decent voice, wondering where Christmas went to.  But the prize has to go to Carrey for his rendition of You're a Mean One.  The voices he used, and the tune he carried were absolutely amazing.  Of course, Faith Hill did her usual incredible job during the end credits.  

As much as I didn't really get into the Whos and their commercialism and competition, they did provide many really funny moments.  The gun which shot lights up onto the rafters of Martha's house was a gem, as was finding Cindy missing -only to discover that she's holding a pile of presents taller than she is!  Getting her wrapped up by the Grinch in the post office was also great.  

I'm glad they decided to show the heart monitor, just like in the cartoon, only I'm puzzled and disappointed that they didn't use it to show his heart getting three sizes larger at the end.

Finally, I absolutely loved the opening and closing scenes, where we draw up close to the snowflake, move in closer and closer, only to find a vast countryside embedded within.  Through the mountains we travel, until we see a small town at the base of a crooked mountain.  At the end, we do the same thing in reverse.  It was terrific!

So I thought the Grinch was a good movie, but not great, and certainly not worth all the hype.  The cartoon is still much better, though they went to a lot of trouble to make everything look very off-putting, like Whoville is supposed to be.  I found it slow until the Grinch decides to become the Mean One, after which it picked up again.  And aside from attempting to explain what I think is unexplainable, it did a pretty good job as a comedy.  There were many high moments and just as many low moments.  Kids will probably love it anyway (except perhaps where the Grinch incinerates a giant Christmas tree -I wonder if that went too far?).  Me?  Good, but not great.

 
   

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