Though he doesn't exactly steal Christmas (he just borrows it for a while), the mean green grouching machine is here with Hollywood's latest cup of holiday cheer. Actor Jim Carrey (as the Grinch), director Ron Howard, producer Brian Grazer and their all-star production team have done a spirited job of transforming The Grinch into a feature length live-action film nearly worthy of the flawless half-hour animated television version (1966) based on Dr. Seuss's book (1957).
T. Momsen as Cindy Lou Who, J. Carrey as the Grinch|
The film's script expands wildly on what many would consider a sacred text, but enough care is taken to preserve Seuss's theme of love triumphing over greed that liberties such as the Grinch motioning for all of Whoville to kiss his big green butt can be forgiven. What the Hell, it's Christmas. Carrey's version of the Grinch manages to elicit more laughs than the Scrooge-like creature of the original. Adults roped into a family outing are bound to get a couple of chuckles from the actor's crazed take on a middle-aged Grinch who's beset by excess water weight, treasures toxic waste and careens into Whoville on an overloaded sleigh screaming "Get out of the way, I don't have insurance!"
A few pooh jokes are a puny price to pay for preserving a fable that could easily be considered too old fashioned for today's "sophisticated" tastes. The film even won the approval of Seuss widow Audrey Geisel. No doubt, the extraordinary effects, make-up and costumes and an accomplished cast (most notably new tot-on-the-block Taylor Momsen as town-conscience Cindy Lou Who) all helped.
To recap for those who grew up in a cave, or under heavy dosages of Ritalin, the Grinch is a foul smelling, furry-muzzled misanthrope living in self-imposed exile atop Mt. Crumpit, which overlooks the toddling town of Whoville. Following an introductory narration by Oscar-winner Anthony "Hannibal" Hopkins, the Grinch is first seen grimacing over the holiday hubbub down in Whoville. Not content to merely observe the capitalistic cacophony down below, Mr. G hits Who-town incognito to raise a little holly Hell of his own. While ransacking the town's post office, the Grinch first meets Cindy Lou Who and, in an uncharacteristic moment of warm heartedness, rescues her from the bone crushing clutches of the postal-sorting machine before disappearing back to his snowcapped lair.
Convinced that the Grinch isn't as evil as the town folk particularly Mayor May Who (Jeffrey Tambor) would have her believe, Cindy Lou nominates the Grinch for Cheermeister and tries to bring him back to Whoville where for once everyone can be united in the true spirit of Christmas. After much soul searching, the Grinch puts aside his schedule of self-pity and loathing, dons some gay apparel and hits Whosburgh. He hopes to pick up his award, maybe a bonus check and hopefully rekindle a grade-school romance with Martha May Whovier (Christine Baranski), who's now fully grown and renowned for having the brightest X-mas lights in Whoville, much to the dismay of Cindy Lou's mom Betty (Molly Shannon). Obviously all this subtext is a ton more than the good Dr. Seuss had originally intended his plot to contain, but no one said stretching a twenty-two minute television show into an hour and forty-five minutes was going to be easy.
Meanwhile back at the Who-ranch, things don't exactly go as the Grinch had planned at the award ceremony. The Green One again retreats to Mt. Crumpit where he schemes his most diabolical dream of all: dressing up as Santa, tying antlers to his dog Max and barreling back into New Who City on Christmas eve to steal all the presents, trees, food and whatever else he can get his furry fingers on. It would seem the Grinch hasn't been keeping up with his anger-management tapes. While he does get away with his sleigh full of loot, the Grinch is then puzzled to the point of soreness when those damned Whos still find reason to join hands and sing even without benefit of jingle bells or bellyfuls of Who pudding. It's at this magic (or tragic depending on whose side you're on) moment that the Grinch's heart size increases thrice fold and he heads back to town yet again, only this time to return his plunder, say he's sorry,
win back the heart of Martha May Whovier and kick back with a nice plate of roast beast.
All right, so it's not quite as good as the original and this holiday movie with the non-commercial message is bound to have more advertising tie-ins than Batman, Star Wars and Pokemon combined. An extra dish of Who pudding is still due Carrey, Howard and Co. for their amazing job of bringing to life a fantasy world that previously only existed on the pages of Dr. Seuss's classic children's book and the animated cells of Chuck Jones' equally pristine Christmas special. Despite its handful of foibles, the new Grinch is bound to be whimsical fun for another generation of wee ones, teach 'em a lesson or two about acceptance and forgiveness, and even entertain their parents in the process. Which makes one wonder what the big studios have in mind for next year's Yuletide, Tim Burton's version of A Charlie Brown Christmas perhaps? Good grief!
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