Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas Review

Posted: December 22, 2013 by moviebuff801 in moviebuff801's Movie Reviews, Time Capsule Reviews

Release Date: November 17th, 2000

Running Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes

Written by: Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman

Directed by: Ron Howard

Starring: Jim Carrey, Taylor Momsen, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski

By: Michael “MovieBuff801” Dennos

I don’t think there’s anybody alive who has read Dr. Seuss’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas and hasn’t at least liked it.  And if there is, then I’d prefer not to meet them.  Growing up, I loved not just the book, but the 1966 animated short film of it, too — and still do to this day.  They’re timeless classics, truly.  Now, can the same be said for director Ron Howard’s live-action adaptation from 2000 starring Jim Carrey?  I can remember all the way back to late 2001, when the film was first released on DVD and pretty much just watching the hell out of the thing.  Finally looking back on the movie all these years later, it’s been made abundantly clear that I had some really questionable tastes in films, because even with someone like Ron Howard at the helm, this movie … well, kind of sucks.  It’s okay though, Younger Me, I can forgive you for such naïveté.  After all, it is the Christmas season.

Inside a single snowflake lies a town called Whoville, and beyond the borders of Whoville towers Mount Crumpit, and residing in Mount Crumpit is The Grinch (Jim Carrey).  The Grinch is a mean, green, foul machine who abhors the Whos of Whoville, and hates Christmas — the Whos’ favorite holiday — even more.  The Whos themselves are a kind, mouse-nosed race who go bananas at Christmastime, obsessed with all the gift-giving and materialism inherent in the holiday, all except for the young Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen).  She’s the precocious daughter of the local postman who’s begun to ponder the true meaning of Christmas, but she’s also recently become intrigued by the story of the mysterious Grinch, especially after a run-in with him at the post office during a bout of mischief-making on his part.  The more Cindy Lou learns about The Grinch, the more she begins to see him as a misunderstood outcast and takes pity on him.  Her attempts to bring him back into society are marred by the fact that The Grinch possesses a heart that’s two sizes too small, and when the Whos go too far, it prompts The Grinch to (of course) steal Christmas away from the Whos.  And most of the time, these events are narrated by Anthony Hopkins.

If there’s anything that this film proves, it’s that The Grinch works so much better as a 25-30 minute short film than as a 105-minute feature.  In fact, it should’ve stayed that way, because really, what’s wrong with the original cartoon?  The story worked just fine the way it was, and many generations of kids have enjoyed it since.  If this remake were any good, then this wouldn’t feel like much of an issue, but unfortunately, this film isn’t good.  I have no trouble seeing why my much younger self would love this movie, but my older self can’t help but be bothered by the numerous annoyances on display here.  This leads me to raise the question: why are most of the Christmas-related films we get nowadays crap?  Can’t we put more effort into them?  Because this seriously could’ve been so much better, especially when you consider the talent involved.

The main problem here is that the film lacks the heart and charm of the cartoon, and instead replaces it with lots of noise, noise, noise!  Not to mention there’s also a lot of crude/stupid humor that diminishes how heartwarming this story is meant to be, but more on that in a minute.  For now, I want to talk about the portrayal of the Whos themselves, which is just all wrong.  Perhaps the best thing about the book and cartoon is its central message about Christmas, personified in those two formats by the Whos.  There, they always understood the true meaning of Christmas, which made the ending so good.  Here, the decision to have the Whos be so consumed by Consumerism, and in effect be a lot more shallow, dilutes both the whole point of the story and the impact of the ending.  Sure, they still come to the same realization about the holiday, but it’s only after quite a bit of bitching and moaning about all of their missing stuff.  But it doesn’t stop there.  In addition to being shallow consumers, the Whos in Ron Howard’s version are also kind of assholes.  This comes into play during the flashbacks dealing with The Grinch’s childhood as well as how the Mayor, played by Jeffrey Tambor, constantly treats Cindy Lou.  It becomes so much, that by the time The Grinch actually starts stealing Christmas, we’re actually sort of rooting for him.  At least, I was.

Speaking of The Grinch himself, let’s move onto Jim Carrey.  As the titular character, Carrey has his moments sprinkled throughout the film, but mostly, his performance just alternates on average between amusing and annoying.  True, he’s always been known to have a degree of overacting in his comedic roles, but here, it’s out of control.    Seriously, Carrey seems to scream or talk in a louder than necessary volume when delivering a good majority of his lines.  As a kid, I didn’t have a problem with this but now that I’m older, it becomes grating pretty quickly.

As you can see, Carrey also indulges in too much camera-mugging for my tastes.  He, along with the script, uses a lot of crude humor that just doesn’t fit Dr. Seuss, and seems slightly out of place in a PG-rated movie, too.  Remember the moment where The Grinch’s face ends up stuffed between Christine Baranski’s boobs?  Yeah, because that’s what a Dr. Seuss story needs more of!

However, I will say that I enjoy the production design, even if the colors feel oddly drained at times.  And there are actually a few laughs to be had during the Who-bilation sequence in the middle of the film, and not of the face-to-breasts persuasion.  Or the mistletoe-to-butt kind, either.  Also, I actually Taylor Momsen does a pretty decent job as Cindy Lou.

But the rest of The Grinch feels really miscalculated.  By stuffing pop culture and kiddie humor into the film, as well as altering the Whos’ ideals too much, the filmmakers miss out on what made the book and cartoon so special.  With movies like this and 2003’s The Cat in the Hat, it’s obvious that the worlds of Dr. Seuss are much better off staying where they belong: on the page.

*1/2 /****

  1. Good review. I just saw this for the first time the other day and hated it. Jim Carrey got the mannerisms and voice down, but yes, his screaming over-the-top was annoying. The whole film was a nightmare. I love the animated, 60s version of the film with Boris Karloff.

  2. CMrok93 says:

    This movie is pretty easy to pick on, but there’s a good reasoning behind it, and it’s just because it looks so weird. Carrey is fun to watch, but there’s not much else to this movie that Howard can bring to the table in order to make it a better watch. Good review Michael.

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