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How the Grinch Stole Christmas

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Starring: Jim Carrey, Christine Baranski
Director: Ron Howard
Rated: PG
RunTime: 102 Minutes
Release Date: November 2000
Genres: Comedy, Kids, Christmas

*Also starring: Molly Shannon, Jeffrey Tambor, Verne Troyer, Bill Irwin, Jim Meskimen, Taylor Momsen

Review by Jerry Saravia
No Rating Supplied

The pure enjoyment of any of Dr. Seuss' books is the heartfelt magic he brought to them, including "Cat in the Hat" or even good old Grinch. Chuck Jones's animated classic short from 1966 certainly had that in spades. Ron Howard's dull live-action version is a bland, overstuffed souffle, more likely to make you yawn than laugh. I've always been skeptical about a live-action version of the story since the animated short always did it so well in such a short running time. At 102 minutes, director Ron Howard is plowing all over the map with nothing to say.

Jim Carrey is the Grinch, the lovable, sneaky, clever, furry, green-eyed being who lives atop Mount Crumpit, essentially an elf-shoe shaped peak atop garbage mountain overlooking Whoville. The Grinch hates Christmas, and he hates all the cheery Who denizens who live in Whoville (they even hold an annual Holiday Cheermeister award). The Whos live for Christmas, and they love to shop for gifts spending copious amounts of money (is there a message here about consumerism in America?) The Grinch hates these people so much that he takes a maniacal glee in trying to destroy their holiday spirit. In fact, I almost agreed with the Grinch's mean efforts. These Whos are joyless, frenetic people with pig snouts and no personality, and the flashback on how the Grinch became such a grouch entitles him to far more sympathy than probably intended.

The film has no visual imagination whatsoever. Every shot is in close-up and it makes all the surroundings feel cramped and busy. The production design and art direction is washed-out at best with little sense of space or even any vivid colors - Whoville is so dully imagined that it reminded me of the colorless world from Barry Levinson's atrocious "Toys." No wonder the Grinch is so grumpy - his messy, dank domicile has more character and personality than anything in Whoville.

Jim Carrey is fairly tolerable but his manic brand of humor and one-liners robs the film of any heart or soul and quickly proves tedious after awhile - I will say his final scene where he realizes what Christmas is really about proves what a good actor Carrey can be. Christine Baranski as Martha May Whovier, the Grinch's former childhood love, delivers a little pizazz but she hardly snares much screen time. Taylor Momsen as Cindy Lou Who, the only citizen who believes the Grinch is not as mean as he may look, has some tender moments, but most of the cast seems lost in the film's frenzied style.

What was needed for "The Grinch" was the impressive imaginings of Tim Burton, considering he created the story of the fabulous "Nightmare Before Christmas" back in 1993, a more comical take on the nature of Christmas. The original "Grinch" had style, flair and a sense of magic. This modernized version feels cold and dreary, like a soiled stocking left outside of Grinch's Mount Crumpit home.

Copyright 2000 Jerry Saravia

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