WHAT DID THE “GRINCH” STEAL?

CRITIC DOCTOR EXAMINES: Chris Gore (filmthreat.com), Robert Horton (film.com), Stephanie Zacharek (salon.com), Owen Gleiberman (Entertainment Weekly), Eric D. Snider (ericdsnider.com), James Berardinelli (reelviews.net), Ed Johnson-Ott (NUVO Newsweekly), Jay Boyar (Orlando Sentinel), Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), Nell Minow (moviemom.com) and John Anderson (newsday.com)
* * out of 4 stars (PG)
I made three attempts to go see “Dr. Suess’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas.” Each time it was SOLD OUT. I was as mad as the Grinch himself, but I finally got a ticket. I discovered Christmas wasn’t the only thing that got stolen in this movie.
Director Ron Howard brings us a new “human” version of “Dr. Suess’ classic tale from his children’s story book, which was later made into a cartoon by Chuck Jones. Now Jim Carrey is cast as The Grinch – a green, ugly, hairy beast that simply hates Christmas and all the Whos in Whoville.
Chris Gore (filmthreat.com) commented on Jim Carrey’s acting, “The funnyman’s performance is mostly out of control and not very funny. It’s all wacky and disturbing, kind of like Carrey’s idol, Jerry Lewis.” (Read Gore’s Grinch F.A.Q. for the whole story.)
Uh, Chris. This movie would have been a total flop if it had not been for Carrey’s remarkable performance as the Grinch. Most movie critics admired Carrey’s performance:
-  “He’s brilliant.” Robert Horton (film.com)
-  “Behind those sadistic yellowy eyes and that rangy green fur, he gets the facial tics, and the precise, slippery mannerisms, of Jones’ Grinch just right.” Stephanie Zacharek (salon.com)
-  “This is Jim Carrey’s show, and he just about wraps the movie around his spindly green middle finger.” Owen Gleiberman (Entertainment Weekly)
-  “Jim Carrey is extraordinary as the Grinch.” Eric D. Snider (ericdsnider.com)
-  “Carrey enables Ron Howard’s version of the classic story to come across as more of a welcome endeavor than a pointless re-tread.” James Berardinelli (reelviews.net)
 Stop! Hold that last quote. This movie “is” a pointless re-tread, James. Granted – Jim Carrey was the tread that moved this film along, but even he couldn’t navigate the slippery roads in Whoville. Howard made a big mistake by trying to reveal who the Who people really are. This humanized a story that was supposed to be magical and heartwarming. Even the Grinch was given a ridiculous history as a mere plot device.
Ed Johnson-Ott (NUVO Newsweekly) said, “Changing the Whos from idyllic sprites into clones of us is a bad idea. It taints the film, adding bitter where before there was only sweet.” Jay Boyar (Sun Sentinel) adds, “One of the best things about the Seuss and Jones versions is what they choose not to tell you. This oddly heavy-spirited movie version is clearly two sizes too big.”
Indeed! In the 1966 animated story by Chuck Jones, he keeps the meaning and story intact with the original text of Suess’ book. The Whos are a mystery to us and the Grinch just plain hates Christmas. No rhyme or reason to it. He just hates Christmas. And you know what? The story worked!
Now we have filmmakers who created a Whoville city, which looks like a theme park packed with adult themes, where hideous looking people with rat-like faces live and are consumed by consumerism. This was more like Wantville than Whoville. The original story was not depicted like this at all. Now it’s the Grinch that changes people’s hearts, not the Whos.
Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) said, “What is strange is how the inspiration of his drawings has been expanded almost grotesquely into a world so unattractive and menacing.”
It’s almost kind of creepy for a Christmas movie. Perhaps Suess’ vision only works well in the cartoon world. Regardless, this movie’s story was backwards and confused. In Howard’s version, the Grinch was right all along about the Whos.
Nell Minow (moviemom.com) said, “Audiences will feel like their own hearts are two sizes too large at the end of this wonderful sugarplum of a movie.”
Sorry, Nell. I think you have too many sugarplums dancing in your head. It was that artery clogging, buttered popcorn that made hearts feels so big. John Anderson (newsday.com) got it right, “What they forgot to budget for was heart.”
Ed Johnson-Ott (NUVO Newsweekly) summed the movie up best: “As much as I enjoyed Jim Carrey’s performance, I’ll take ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ in its 22-minute animated form, where the Whos remain innocent, the story remains uncluttered and Whoville looks like a magical village instead of the set for an expensive grade school play.”
Listen up, people. Whoville does not exist. It’s pretend. In the story, we knew nothing about the Whos nor did Dr. Suess want us to. Whoville, however, is really a place in our hearts – and there lies the magic of the holiday season. If only Howard and the gang had figured that out. I left this two-star movie, a movie three times too long, with my heart (and my wallet) still two sizes too small.
The Grinch did steal Christmas. But it was the filmmakers who stole the magic of the message, which was the heart of this holiday classic.
–CRITIC DOCTOR




Posted on December 18, 2000 in Features by
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