Retro Review: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

One of the most beloved Christmas tales is updated so it can become a live-action extravaganza.

Will Hollywood destroy the classic tale or bring new depth and delight to this fairy tale?

Jim Carrey stars as the “Grinch” an angry confused being who perches atop a mountain looking over the small town of Whoville. As the classic story goes the Grinch despises Christmas and one Christmas he decides that he will spoil it for all the people of Whoville by stealing all their Christmas goodies.

As a child, I always enjoyed the classic cartoon telling of the Grinch and I was quite skeptical when I saw this modern adaptation. As far as I can tell this film can be broken down into four sections. The first being the film’s core story, the second and third are the good and bad parts added to that story and finally the overall look of the film itself.

The main problems I had with the film were the “Hollywood additions” to the story so that the film would be extended to a feature running time.

Some of these additions blended perfectly into the Grinch mythos while others left me wondering if they were really necessary. Some of the additions that I liked were baby-Grinch, and some of smaller Jim Carrey jokes. The Baby Grinch is adorable and in some circumstances it was delightful for the film to uncover the origins of the Grinch. I liked that whole idea except for one circumstance involving a female Who which I will get into later.

My favorite part of the film was young actress Taylor Momsen, who plays Little Cindy-Lou Who. She is adorable and precious. It’s through her eyes that we see the Grinch and Whoville. She is the heart of the picture and in some scenes I am not sure the film-makers remembered that. I loved seeing how much depth one so young can give forth and on top of that she can also sing too. She is definitely the hi-light of the movie.

The one of the additions that left me scratching my head were the idea of the Grinch having a love interest. Was it necessary for the film to add a childhood sweetheart to the Grinch? I think this whole idea robs the story of its purity and adds a more realistic side to the idea of Whoville. This is a fairy tale, people!!

It was cool to show why the Grinch hated Christmas but why link it to an old flame. What’s next giving Jolly Saint Nick an ex-wife? Or Rudolph, an illegitimate son? Other addition problems included a lot of the slapstick scenes that didn’t have anything to do with the fairy tale idea. (ala Grinch running from tiny exploding car. Why was that necessary?) Most of those scenes were vintage Jim Carrey but definitely not Dr Seuss.

My final comments surround the whole look of the picture and how it tried so hard to captivate the world of Dr Seuss.

I loved the aspect that they made the people of Whoville a cross between an elf and a rat. They are Whos not people. Also you have to commend Rick Baker for coming up with all the magical characters to fill this fairy tale world.

He definitely nailed the look and brilliance of what Dr Seuss dreamed up. In the cartoon all the Whos are naked fuzzy people but in some ways the special effects team added to those characters by giving them houses and clothes. Wonder what the Doctor would have thought of these Whos?

To wrap up, I have heard from some people they have a problem with Jim Carrey being completely covered in latex but if he wasn’t it probably would have made the whole Who world a little weird. Carrey’s springing, obnoxious and multi voiced ability did allow the actor to rise above all the latex in his performance. Was it just me or did the Grinch’s voice sound something like a bad Jimmy Stewart impression?

3.5 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer.

Written: November 17, 2000

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