How the Grinch Stole Christmas"
Reviewed by Carlos deVillalvilla
(Click on the images to see larger version and credits.)
Family movies, particularly those concerning the holidays, have become increasingly marketing-oriented, substituting toys and corporate tie-ins for good storytelling and meaningful lessons. It's ironic that this live-action remake of a beloved animated classic that espouses the feeling behind Christmas over the commercialism that Christmas has become should be marketed so aggressively - with toys and corporate tie-ins.
Irony aside, most of us who aren't named Ebeneezer Scrooge know the story of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." A mean-spirited, cold-hearted (that heart being two sizes too small) creature known as the Grinch (Jim Carrey) sits in his mountain lair, dreading the coming of Christmas, a holiday loathed by the green-furred curmudgeon. Taking solace by playing mean-spirited pranks on his Christmas-obsessed neighbors down in Whoville (known as Whos, creatures with off-the-wall haircuts and upwardly mobile noses, the Grinch is eventually goaded into a dastardly scheme. He means to eradicate every vestige of Christmas from Whoville while the unsuspecting Whos slumber amid the spleandours of pine and light.
With the reluctant help of his adorable mutt Max, the Grinch devises a Santa suit and a rather unlikely-looking sleigh to carry out his nefarious deed. Of course, we all know how it ends - so there's no need to discuss that here.
Director Ron Howard goes deeper into the background story of the Grinch, exploring the reasons behind his hate affair with the Yuletide, and adds numerous subplots, turning tiny Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen) into a central character, who's non-judgemental belief in the goodness of the Grinch proves to be the linchpin the story revolves around. Writer Jeffrey Price adds a love interest (Christine Baranski), a pompous mayor (Jeffrey Tambor) and Cindy Lou's simple but eveytually steadfast dad (Bill Irwin).
The onscreen Whoville appears just as the late Theodore Geisel drew it, only in greater detail. Methinks the film's designers spent a lot of time examining Seuss Landing at Universal's Islands of Adventure; the set bears a striking resemblence to the theme park. Much like Never-Never Land in "Hook," Whoville and the Mount Crumpit Grinch Cave become pivotal to the movie's success, becoming places that are real and that we want to visit. Whoville may not be the star of the show, but it's certainly an important cast member.
In one of his most physically demanding roles, Carrey brings the Grinch to life and though he can't resist the over-the-top mugging that keeps me from being a big fan of his work, I am nonetheless impressed with his commitment to the character.
Young Taylor Momsen makes a charming Cindy Lou Who, and though it probably wasn't a wise idea to let her sing, she at least is off-key with heart. Boris Karloff is no longer with us to narrate, but Anthony Hopkins is the best person for filling those shoes that we have today, Christopher Lee notwithstanding.
This is a family movie that is actually for the whole family. Young 'uns will appreciate the simple story, the physical comedy and the wonderful eye candy. Adults (most of us who grew up with Dr. Seuss, or reading it to someone who did) will find comfort in the nostalgia that is evoked, and delight in seeing Whoville brought to life.
Add "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" to the list of timeless holiday classics that include "It's a Wonderful Life" and "A Christmas Carol," movies that we'll want to revisit again and again through the years. It's a marvelous treat you can take the entire family to see, or share with a date, or experience by yourself. Bring extra napkins from the concession stand when you buy your popcorn; Da Queen gave this one sentimental hankie, and for once, I think she underrated it.
"So watch this Grinch and bring your best biggest smile, you'll surely remember how to be a wee child."
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See cast, credit and other details about "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" at Internet Movie Data Base.