“How the Grinch Stole Christmas” stars Jim Carrey, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Bill Irwin, Molly Shannon, and Taylor Momsen. Released on November 17, 2000, the film is about a grouchy and egotistical creature who plans to ruin Christmas for the people in Whoville.
The film was directed by Ron Howard, who also directed films such as “Splash”, “Parenthood”, “Apollo 13”, and “A Beautiful Mind”. It is based on the 1957 story of the same name by Dr. Seuss. Ah yes, the imaginative world of Dr. Seuss. Something that I will never ever forget. Known for his creative mind, Dr. Seuss (aka Theodor Seuss Geisel) created numerous children’s books that inspired both kids and adults for generations. Some of his books have spawned a multiple amount of adaptations, including television specials and feature films. The best example is “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. Using its rhymed verses and its clever take on the true meaning of Christmas, “The Grinch” became one of the most popular books that Dr. Seuss has ever created since its publication in 1957. In 1966, Looney Tunes animator Chuck Jones adapted the book into a half-hour Christmas special with Boris Karloff voicing the Grinch and the narrator, which became a holiday cartoon classic. Years later, Hollywood decided to make their own version of “The Grinch” as an attempt to bring the world of Dr. Seuss to the big screen via live-action. A strategy that tragically ended with the release of the live-action adaptation of “The Cat in the Hat” in 2003, three years after the release of “The Grinch”. Despite its mixed reception, the film became a box office success and earned an Oscar for Best Makeup. I guess the troublesome process of turning Carrey into a Seuss character really paid off. When it comes to “The Grinch”, the only two versions that I remembered fondly during my childhood were the 1966 animated special and the live-action version. If I were to pick which one’s the better version…well, that’s something that I still need to think about because I remember liking both of them for different reasons. This weekend, Universal Pictures is taking another crack at the “Green Meanie” with the help of Illumination Entertainment, the animation company behind the “Despicable Me” franchise, and to celebrate its upcoming release, I decided to revisit the Grinch’s big-screen debut and see if it’s as good as I remembered. So yeah, consider this my early Christmas-themed review.
Narrated by Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins, the story follows the same narrative as the source material and cartoon with some extra material added in to fit the feature-length criteria, including the title character’s backstory and the expanded role of Cindy Lou Who (played by Momsen). Assuming that you never heard of the source material, let me describe the film’s plot to you in a few simple words: grumpy green creature steals Christmas items. It’s Seuss logic. I enjoyed watching this movie during my childhood, which always got me into the true spirit of the holiday. Looking back at it now as an adult, I still have a soft spot for it. Yeah, as crazy as it sounds, despite a couple of flaws, I still find it to be a suitable and well-paced adaptation of the book. Similar to the other live-action adaptations of beloved source materials, the way they portray this short and simple Christmas story in feature-length form has its own share of hits and misses. Focusing on the hits, I thought the Grinch’s backstory was nicely executed because it added a bit more empathy into his character like he has a logical reason why he became a jolly-hating, grouchy outsider in the first place. The extra material also helped in emphasizing the source material’s central theme, which is, of course, the true meaning of Christmas. It may sound a bit corny, but it’s also true. Do not deny the true meaning of Christmas! However, this strategy alone can lead to some pretty weird stuff in the process. I can only describe this film as a live-action cartoon in terms of the physical comedy and the set designs. Whether it’s a good thing or not pretty much depends on your level of tolerance. It had plenty of comedic moments that’ll get the kids and their parents ho-ho-ho-ing, but it also had moments that may go over kids’ heads or, at some points, tarnish the charm of the source material. Luckily, Ron Howard was able to balance this type of humor with the film’s holly-jolly charm that made both the book and the cartoon so likable without going a bit too overboard with its jokes, unlike the other live-action Seuss adaptation. Jim Carrey did a remarkable job at portraying the Grinch. If you watched Carrey’s other comedies in the 1990s, then you’ll know exactly what you’re going to expect out of him in this film, which is Jim Carrey being…Jim Carrey. Energetic, fun, and extremely convincing. Those are the three descriptions that I used to define his performance. The other cast members also offered some decent performances, including the young Taylor Momsen, who I thought was absolutely adorable as Cindy Lou Who. Even Jeffrey Tambor was enjoyable as the Mayor of Whoville even though the character is somewhat of a jerk. I would also give the film credit for the makeup design created by Rick Baker and the costume designs, especially the design of the Grinch himself. The film nailed the likeliness of the Dr. Seuss character and made Jim Carrey completely unrecognizable. It’s almost like they took the design of the animated Grinch and splashed him with a can of live-action paint.
Overall, Ron Howard’s take on “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” can be a bit cartoony and weird for those who are unfamiliar with the source material, but it’s a charming and humorous Christmas-themed film that’ll always have a place in my heart. Jim Carrey was amazing as the title character, the makeup and set designs were top-notch, and its story, while a bit mean-spirited and predictable for Seuss followers, offered enough heart and soul to add a bit more depth in its characters. Some people may or may not agree with my feelings towards the film, but all that matters to me is how much I enjoyed watching Jim Carrey steal Christmas. As the first live-action Dr. Seuss adaptation, the film did its job at honoring the source material pretty well. Too bad it couldn’t continue the streak with the other live-action Dr. Seuss adaptation, but that’s the review for another time.