Sunday, March 31, 2013

Movie Review: How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: Looks great, Jim Carrey's Grinch
Cons: The story doesn't work on any level.
The Bottom Line:
Simple story stretched
But the new parts add nothing
Original best

Looks Great, Less Filling

I've been a fan of Dr. Seuss's book and the Boris Karloff TV version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas my entire life. I'd have the book read to me year round. In fact, at one point, I had it memorized. When I first heard about this movie version, I was skeptical yet hopeful. As I saw pictures, I became encouraged. Maybe it would actually be a great movie to add to my list of holiday traditions. But then I saw it.

The citizens of Whoville love Christmas. Actually, love isn't a strong enough word. Their entire world revolves around Christmas - Christmas decorations, Christmas cards, Christmas presents, Christmas clothes. If it has something to do with Christmas, they love it.

The Grinch (Jim Carrey) does not share their feelings. He hates Christmas, the whole Christmas season. But please ask why because I think I know the reason. See, The Grinch was abandoned as a child in Whoville. Since he looked different from the other citizens, he was teased as a kid. Friendless, Christmas was especially bad. And he has come to hate everything associated with the holiday.

But this year, he's had enough. This year, he will ruin their Christmas. All he needs is a terrible, awful idea, a costume, and his dog Max. Will his plan succeed?

Now, before I start trashing the film, let's discuss the good, because there is some good here. Dr. Seuss had an unique drawing style, and the movie captures it perfectly. The movie won an Oscar for makeup and was nominated for art direction and costume design. It should have won in all three categories. I was able to forget I was watching humans and truly believe I was watching a Dr. Seuss story brought to life.

I have a love/hate relationship with Jim Carrey. Sometimes, I love his films. Sometimes the previews for them send me running in another direction. Here, he is perfect. His over the top antics really bring the Grinch to life. And his more serious moments are perfect as well. I can't imagine anyone else making the part work. Equally good is Taylor Momsen as little Cindy Lou Who. She brings the right mix of sweetness and determination to the suddenly pivotal character. The rest of the cast is fine, although no one really stand out.

So what when wrong? The story. Think about it. The original book is a kid's picture book. It takes maybe ten minutes to read if you read very slowly. That was stretched into a 25 minute cartoon which works. But now you're going to take that source material and make it into a ninety minute movie? I don't think so.

Producer/Director Ron Howard tried to get around this fatal flaw by giving the Grinch a back story and a reason for hating the Whos and Christmas. I get the need to expand the story. But it just doesn't work. The original story is really about the commercialism of Christmas and a reminder that Christmas is about more then that. Now, the story is suddenly about revenge and not treating people poorly based on how they look. Don't get me wrong, that's a great message. But it's not the message of this story. In the original, the Whos have never truly forgotten what is important about Christmas. Here, they have. Guess this makes me a purist, but that's not in keeping with the spirit of the original and just rubs me the wrong way.

And the movie ruins the story without being entertaining. The best part of this movie is the 30 minutes that sticks to the original story or the cartoon version. Until then, I was actually bored waiting for the Grinch to start stealing Christmas.

My recommendation? Skip this movie and get the Boris Karloff cartoon. Or better yet, read the original book. Either would be a better Christmas tradition then this disappointing movie.

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