Director: Ron Howard
Written by Dr. Seuss, Jeffrey Price & Peter S. Seaman
Release Date: 17 November 2000
Running Time: 104 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG
Editor’s Rating: 3 out of 4 slices of roast beast
All of us reading this article right now have grown up with some incarnation of Dr. Seuss’ work. He’s a treasure that was born in my grandparent’s generation, came to prominence in my parent’s generation, and taught the children they would raise how to be good people while making us laugh with silly words and imaginative artwork. It only makes sense that at some point, a live-action movie would be made from his rather prolific list of publications. Of these, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is perfect, being one of his most famous works to date. However, just what director Ron Howard was going to do with it was anyone’s guess. Turning a book that takes around ten minutes to read into a feature-length movie? It’s quite the feat.
What the screenwriters ended up doing was focusing on Whoville, which in the book was a nondescript burg populated by cute-when-illustrated-but-creepy-in-real-life Whos, the place that falls victim to the Grinch’s home-invasion spree. The story centers around Cindy Lou Who, also passingly mentioned in the book, who is having a crisis of Christmas due to the rampant commercialism that keeps Whoville alive. Let me digress in order to expand upon this notion.
I live in Michigan, near Detroit (No, I have never been shot or mugged. Thanks for asking). About an hour north of here, there’s a city called Frankenmuth with a massive store the size of a football field on its outskirts called Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. It is a store that sells nothing but Christmas things all year round: there’s a forest of steel and pokey plastic as you survey the yards of Christmas trees Meijer and all other department stores buy their stock from. There are enough Christmas lights to create dozens of rope ladders in case the Empire State Building wants to implement the worst evacuation methods since the Titanic's lifeboats. There are enough Christmas ornaments to make the worst ball pit possible in the realm of human imagination, sorted by nationality, occasions (yes, you can buy Chanukkah and Kwanzaa ornaments here, because Christmas lives in your heart whether you believe in it or not), professions, and so much more. You know those Christmas Villages your mother or grandmother has you put together every year when you finally come to visit her? She can get every piece she needs there, including that “really cute” Dickensian-themed workhouse that you can’t bring yourself to tell her the truth about. Even the rare Tower of London dressed up like a Christmas Tree that was only available on Amazon for like five hundred bucks is there, sitting pretty and ten percent off.
Whoville is what will happen about twenty years down the line, when constant expansion of its inventory forces Bronner’s to become its own municipality. The town is funded by, revolves around, and is fanatically loyal to their most joyous and only holiday. Cindy Lou Who seems to be the only one who treasures the true meaning of Christmas.
And really, if I have to describe the “true meaning of Christmas” in a Christmas movie to you, I think you’re the only person with a hard-wired internet connection in a home with a stone roof, because that rock you’re living under must make it impossible to get WiFi.
Cindy Lou is also incredibly curious about The Grinch, this evil Who she hears so much about. She thinks that he’s just misunderstood, which is a terrible way to grow up, because most "Grinches" can't be fixed. Social undertones aside, she tries to get him to be a part of Christmas, it backfires, and then the book happens.
Above all, the thing to remember is that How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a Jim Carrey movie. All criticisms of Jim aside, he owns the Grinch. Whenever he’s onscreen, he dominates the frame in true Carrey fashion, but it’s not Carrey who owns the show, it’s the Grinch. Sure, it’s in Carrey’s style, but it’s a different character, not like the next person to try and headline a Seuss movie.. But Carrey is entertaining and charismatic throughout, even when he’s the most miserable being in the Greater Whoville Metropolitan Area.
The movie also has a strong supporting cast: Taylor Momsen is a living teddy bear’s equivalent of cuteness, Molly Shannon is awesome as always, Jeffery Tambor plays a great pompous windbag, and Clint Howard, director Ron Howard’s brother, plays an awesome sycophant with an awesome name: Whobris.
The movie does seem to suffer from some pop-culture references and language that date it a little bit, like a snowboarding Grinch delivering a line like “The powder is b****in’!” that take you out of the experience of the film. Maybe it is the split between the movie and the book I mentioned in the intro - the first half is mainly exposition to develop and pad the story, while the second half is the main action of the book, and the Grinch’s triumphant descent down Mount Crumpit is one of those things that stays in your mind, whether you saw the cartoon or read the book, and toying with it is a process that should be handled delicately. But for its few shortcomings, laughs will be had, just remember: you can't laugh and nibble on roast beast at the same time. Put your Who feast on hold while the Grinch is on. I'm speaking from personal experience.
**This movie is a part of my personal collection, and you should know;
I was not compensated for this review, as the writing is sure to show.**