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Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas

Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas

Carreying On from the Animated Classic

After having been a fan of the cartoon for my entire life, I was excited when I heard they were planning to make a big-screen version of The Grinch.

Ron Howard is a fine director, and Jim Carrey is an excellent actor (especially for a zany role such as this), so I didn't see how it could possibly be anything but great.

Never think like that.

The movie isn't bad, but doesn't come anywhere near the quality of the original 1960's cartoon. The problem arises when you try and take a 30 minute show and stretch it into 100. Naturally, you're going to get a whole bunch of stuff you don't need to see.

The story still focuses on The Grinch and his dislike for the Whos and Christmas. But it goes 'way too deeply. The screenwriters (Peter S. Seaman and Jeffrey Price) wanted to explain just why The Grinch was such a Grinch, so we get a flashback into his childhood, how he was teased by his classmates, and had a crush on the lovely Martha May Whovier. Then, at Christmas, he got teased one too many times and ran away to live on Mount Crumpet. From that day forward, he hated everything Christmas and everything Whovian.

Something a lot of Hollywood writers don't seem to understand is that some things are better off unexplained. In Tremors, we never did find out where the creatures came from, and it doesn't matter. They would undoubtedly have tried to come up with some crazy explanation that would take away from the enjoyment of the film. Like here: it doesn't matter why The Grinch is a Grinch. Especially when we get a perfectly good explanation with his heart being two sizes too small (also that maybe his head wasn't screwed on right, and his shoes were too tight). The Grinch childhood stuff really damages the movie.

If they needed to fill space, they should have spent more time focusing on The Grinch stealing Christmas. I always thought that part was too short in the cartoon anyway. Aside from that, it would have given Jim Carrey another opportunity to bufoon around.

Speaking of Mr. Carrey, it is he who saves the film. No one on the planet (that I know of) could have played The Grinch better. It's the perfect blend of physical comedy and zany shenanigans, the stuff that made him famous.

There are two other major problems with the film. One is that the message of the cartoon was pretty much lost here. The cartoon teaches us that Christmas is about more than presents. The movie does the same, but in a much shallower way. Cindy Lou Who is the only one who thinks Christmas is more than gifts, and the mayor of Whoville is a mean, nasty old whostard. All the Whos should be nice people, and all of them should know that Christmas means more than what it seems on the surface. They shouldn't need a young girl to teach them. It should be they who collectively teach The Grinch.

The other flaw is the look of the film. If someone like Tim Burton had been in charge, Whoville would have been bright with colour, and The Grinch's lair would have been dark and menacing. Instead, both places look pretty much the same.

Credit should, and deserves to, be given to Rick Baker's makeup. The man is easily the master when it comes to makeup effects, and he manages to make Carrey look like he should. A lesser actor would have become lost and unrecognizable beneath all the green fur.

But, even with all its flaws, the live-action version of The Grinch is still reasonably enjoyable.

Let's face it: it could have been a lot worse.

The copy we reviewed was only a screener, so there are no extra features. The audio and video are both very good, however. The picture is shown in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and seems absent of any sort of grain or fuzz - except for that on the Grinch himself (nice to see). The 5.1 Dolby Digital comes in handy for scenes like The Grinch going down Mt. Crumpet, or going crazy in Whoville. Fortunately, the usual "Property of Universal," and all that jazz that mar such pre-release screeners only show up occasionally.

A nice touch, as far as screeners go.

Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas, from Universal Home Entertainment
105 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) 16X9 enhanced, 5.1 Dolby Digital
Starring Jim Carrey, Taylor Momsen, Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Tambor and Bill Irwin
Screenplay by Peter S. Seaman and Jeffrey Price
Produced by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, Directed by Ron Howard


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Updated May 13, 2006