a critiQal film review Dr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: Having been ridiculed in his youth by the citizens of Whoville, the Grinch (Carrey) decides he's going to stop Christmas from coming by stealing all of their presents - only to discover Christmas doesn't come from presents, it comes from the heart.

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  • ...should be seen solely for Jim Carrey's wonderfully entertaining performance as the mean green one.

Continuing on with our Christmas Movie Marathon this week, we looked to our DVD collection for something that would keep our Holiday spirits flying high – and stumbled across How The Grinch Stole Christmas, the live-action Jim Carrey film based on the book and classic animated Christmas special by Dr. Seuss.

Since we haven’t seen the film in quite awhile, it seemed a good one to go back to. But, would the live-action version be able to give us some Holiday cheer 8 years later, or should we be sticking with the animated version from now on?

Jim Carrey is the main reason to watch this live-action version. He was able to take the much-beloved animated character of The Grinch and turn him into something just as memorable without the animation. While The Grinch may not be drawn in How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Carrey gives the character his own brand of animation, using all his comedic tools to bring The Grinch right back into viewer’s hearts – this time by way of the funnybone.

Carrey is a perfect fit for The Grinch. He’s able to take a rather homely and sad figure and turn him into one of the funniest characters in recent Christmas movie memory by doing what he does best – making the audience laugh. His take on The Grinch manages to update the guy a bit, but at the same time make him easily recognizable as the same animated Grinch viewers have seen on TV year after year.

Unfortunately, Carrey’s Grinch is about the only reason to watch How The Grinch Stole Christmas. When The Grinch isn’t on-screen, the movie meanders along through a cast of second-rate actors – Christine Baranski, Jeff Tambor and Molly Shannon among them – that do little to contribute to the film, and are incredibly silly in the ridiculous getup they are forced to wear for the film.

It seems rather odd that while Carrey’s Grinch seems to be put together by a team of makeup artists that had real vision, the rest of the cast look like a haphazard congregation of rejected design ideas. Whether it’s the hair (looking like a wig designed to look a bad comb-over for Tambor, a messed-up game of Cat in the Cradle for the daughter and punk rock chic for the teens) or the odd, seemingly Voldemort-inspired, face prosthetics, the bad makeup and stylist ideas abound amongst Whoville.

As on might expect from a nearly 2-hour film taken from a half-hour Christmas special, the story is expanded for this live-action How The Grinch Stole Christmas. While the Dr. Seuss book may have included the back story involving the Grinch’s childhood, it seems unlikely, since it is such an awkward fit in the film.

Why spend time concentrating on a rather ugly younger version of the character when Carrey has enough comedy to fill the entire time all by himself? Toss in his wonderfully entertaining – both in his animated role or his live-action version – and it seems pointless to hash out a background no viewer will really care much about.

The commercialization of Christmas, shown with a bit of subtlety in the animated version, is kicked into the forefront in this live-action version, and that theme – thanks to the recent deaths that occurred during “Black Friday” – is truer today than when even this film was made.

Would we, like the Whos in Whoville still gather around and celebrate even if all the trimmings and presents were whisked away? It doesn’t seem like it in a culture that’s all about “the one with the most stuff, wins”. Of course, this attitude has been eagerly helped along by stores – so much so, in fact, that 2 new days have sprung from it, namely Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

By the time the end of the film rolls around, viewers will be entirely appreciative of each of The Grinch’s memorable scenes, and will easily have accepted Carrey’s new take on this classic character – and the rest of the film will fall away, largely forgotten – with the sole exception of a moral high ground viewers feel has faded to an almost forgotten memory in the world today.

It’s a wonder that the same film can include examples of makeup and styling done right (The Grinch) and that same crew delivering such abhorrent results (The Whos), but How The Grinch Stole Christmas manages it.

For fans of the animated classic, this live-action How The Grinch Stole Christmas should be seen solely for Jim Carrey’s wonderfully entertaining performance – and, thanks to the magic of DVD, the rest can be easily skipped with a simple press of the fast-forward button.

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