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