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How The Grinch Stole Christmas (PG)
Universal
Official Site


Director: Ron Howard

Producers: Aldric La’auli Porter and Louisa Velis

Written by: Jeffery Price and Peter S. Seaman

Cast: Jim Carrey, Anthony Hopkins, Christine Baranski, Jeffrey Tambor, Molly Shannon, Taylor Momsen


Rating: .5 out of 5

Alright, I admit I wasn’t psyched about reviewing this film. I figured that this was going to be another over-acted Jim Carrey spectacle that would totally deface one of Christmas’ time-honored children’s classics. After seeing the film, I still hold to my first impressions, yet I do acknowledge the distinctive cinematography and elaborate costume and set design in this movie.

Like little Cindy Lou Who remarked about the superfluousness of Christmas in Whoville, HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS went way beyond that. Twenty minutes in the movie, Cindy Lou stops the story dead in its tracks as she sickly sings off-key. While being subjected to minutes of sheer auditory torture, I began to ponder why Geisel’s widow sold out her husband’s (Dr. Seuss) masterpiece.

The first aspect that struck me about this film was the massive use of canted frames to typify the strangeness of this Seuss-created world. Interesting at first, the tilted shots soon became too much and I started feeling nauseated.

Differing from the TV special, this GRINCH imaginatively explores the Freudian reasons for the Grinch’s hatred of Christmas. Unlike any of the children in grade school, the Grinch stands out in his flamboyant hairy greenness. When his classmates ridicule him after his attempt to fit in (by shaving), the Grinch climbs the snow-capped peak towering above Whoville to wallow in self-pity and self-loathing. This new look into the Grinch's past was actually interesting and added to the narrative value of the story.

Taking a prominent role in this version, Cindy Lou Who (Momsen) makes it her mission to reintegrate the lonely Grinch back into society by nominating him for the eminent position of Cheermeister during Whoville's annual Christmas Eve celebration. After unwillingly accepting the award, the Grinch joins the whole celebration—a farcical, self-indulgent display of Christmas that he actually begins to enjoy. Crossing the finish line with the overdone "Chariots of Fire" theme in the background, the Grinch seemingly overcomes his hatred for the commercialistic Christmas. Yet, the past resurfaces when the Mayor (Tambor) presents the Grinch with a razor, a sign of childhood mockery and insult.

Now, the Grinch seeks to destroy Christmas. Of course we all know that the inner warmth that Cindy Lou wrenches from his heart (that is "two sizes too small") foils his attempts to steal Christmas. In the film's last shots, I was drawn to the beautiful, computer-generated sunrises instead of the actual narrative. Would that the sun had set earlier on this drawn-out (105 minutes) comedy.

Many of the cave scenes were mere stand-up routines for the Grinch (Carrey) and added nothing to the movie. Memories of the long and should-be-forgotten THE MASK flooded my mind. Also, Carrey’s costume, although elaborate, gave him a grossly feminine look with his exaggerated belly and sagging breasts. But, I will give Carrey kudos for amazing facial contortions that allowed Ron Howard to shoot many close-ups. Beside the massive costume and heavy make-up, Carrey had to wear uncomfortable yellow-green contacts that were irritating during snowstorm scenes.

The elaborate sets of Whoville were masterfully erected in the true style of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. No right angles or straight lines are used in this architectural style, just grandiose, curvy, ornate patterns. Yet an imaginative set and beautiful costumes couldn't save this movie. I think Howard tried to do too much with visual effects (cinematography, costumes, make-up, set) and because of that the plot suffered.

Those of you with kiddies—if they beg earnestly and for prolonged periods of time—should submit and take them to THE GRINCH. I wouldn't call this a true family film because, although it did contain some adult humor, it was artificial. In the theatre during the screening, I heard bursts of children's laughter so I think kids will enjoy this movie even if they won't get all the subtext. For all you adults out there or those of you who act like adults, don't waste your money seeing this film. Just tune in to TBS and watch the TV special.

—Jennifer Prestigiacomo

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

It’s worth a full-price ticket.

It’s worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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