– Summary –
Director : Ron Howard
Year Of Release : 2000
Principal Cast : Jim Carrey, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Bill Irwin, Molly Shannon, Taylor Momsen, Kelley, Clint Howard, Mindy Sterling, Jeremy Howard, Jim Meskimen, Josh Ryan Evans, Anthony Hopkins.
Approx Running Time : 104 Minutes
Synopsis: High on a mountain lives the cruel and nasty Grinch, who plagues the village of Whoville. One year, in spite, he decides to steal Christmas.
What we think : Occasionally dripping in treacle and simpering “holiday spirit”, The Grinch is a tour-de-force from Jim Carrey and his prosthetic-enhanced rubbery mug. Singing, dancing, whimsy and charm, The Grinch will cheer all but the heardest of hearts come Christmas time.
Delightfully cheerful comedy/fantasy film, narrated in wonderful verse by Anthony Hopkins, and starring Jim Carrey in the title role as the grouchy, nasty Grinch, who tries to steal Christmas from the local village of Whos. Directed with a great deal of fun by Ron Howard, The Grinch is a wonderful Christmas film, filled with typical Carrey humour and overacting, as well as a sense of cheerful insanity, as the story unfolds.
The Grinch, a frosty, nasty, grouchy creature living high on the top of a mountain overlooking Whoville, hates anything fun and sweet. Especially a cheery, holy holiday like Christmas. Carrey plays the Grinch with absolutely no holds barred: he’s a full bore comedy show by himself, surrounded by a top-line cast doing their best to keep straight faces. Carrey’s spectacular Grinch makeup covers his entire body in green fur and latex, none of which is actually appealing, yet manages to by so realistic you tend to lose Carrey in the role by the time the film ends.
Howard has managed to create a thoroughly enjoyable world based upon the original Dr Seuess children’s book, complete with all the large teeth, pointy nosed, slightly gangly Whos you could want: the book, in this case, literally, comes to life. The streets of Whoville are a blanket of colour and design. There’s not a patch of screen time that isn’t filled with some wonderfully creative design processes: the trees, the houses, the costumes, the very world they Whos and the Grinch live in is a literal vision of cutesy-wutesy, the bent and the warped facades all directly pulled from the original illustrations of Seuss’ books. No expense was spared on the massive Whoville set, which is an eye-wateringly dazzling blend of colour and movement, a cornucopia of reds and whites, greens and blues, all vying for your attention. It’s often hard to know where to look, and it’s a credit to the production team not to make things overly garish and ugly. With that much value in the production of the film, you’d have figured the film would have a great story to go with it, right?
The problem with Suess’ original book, however, is that it was never going to translate onto the big screen easily. For instance, the story contains almost no character development save the Grinch, who grows his heart by the end of the tale. This wouldn’t do well for a filmed version, as audiences crave this kind of thing. So, screenwriters Jeffery Price and Peter Seaman fleshed out the original tale into a wonderfully cliched fantasy adventure, replete with homages to various films and Seussian references in high frequency. Outside of the central Grinch character, the filmmakers fleshed out the citizens of Whoville mroe than Suess had done, with a mayor, a constabulary, a school and even the local Cougar, Martha May Whovier, played with great panache by a wonderful Christine Baranski. Ron Howard’s predisposition to cast his own family members in his films meant that Clint Howard (the directors brother) was put into a low-key role of the Mayoral advisor. There are other Howard’s in the minor cast roles, too, for those who watch the end credits! Nepotism abounds, even in Hollywood, it seems.
Jeffrey Tambor has a great time as the inflexibly buffoonish Mayor of Whoville, his temper and attitude towards the Grinch used as a foil for Carrey’s flair and screen charisma. There’s even a little love triangle in the film, which is used to great effect.
But the star of the show here is Carrey, as the mugging, slouching, costume loving Grinch, beset with things like Anger and Guilt and perhaps even a smidgen of Jealousy towards the Whos. Carrey reels off the one-liners like a machine gun, his natural comedy timing ensuring that, while he’s hidden behind a mountain of incredible makeup, you can still tell it’s him… to a point. Carrey bring the Grinch to life in such a way that he is alternately annoying and utterly lovable…. he’s got a heart of gold really, it’s just that you can’t see it beneath the green fur.The glint in Carrey’s eye leaves you with the reassuring belief that, by the end, the Grinch will have changed his ways regardless of what he says and does. To me, this remains one of the most complete and hilarious of Carrey’s comic oeuvre.
Perhaps the weakest part of the film is the casting of Taylor Momsen as Cindy Lou Who, the young girl who befriends the Grinch (or, at least, becomes his acquaintance…. the Grinch doesn’t have friends!) and invites him to share Christmas with the Whos in Whoville. Momsen is cute, to be sure, but she lacks the natural charm on-screen that would have served the film better in terms of keeping things kid-friendly. Not only does she lack any sort of actual acting ability, but Ron Howard also inflicts her singing skills upon us, in one particularly hollow and Disney-esque rubbishy song, “Where Are You Christmas?”, which has to go down in history as one of the most Godawful “Christmas” songs ever created. Momsen carries her role off the least successfully of anybody in the film, which is perhaps not her fault… after all, she is a cute kid, and that’s probably the reason Howard and Co cast her.
Still, Momsen aside, The Grinch remains a perennial seasonal favourite here at fernbyfilms.com headquarters, with one of the single greatest lines ever uttered by Jim Carrey in a film: “It’s not a dress, it’s a kilt!… Sicko!!” which, at the time, made me laugh hysterically for about an hour afterwards. I’m even laughing about it now, truth be told.
The Grinch is not a serious film, nor should it be watched with a mindset that it’s a faithful rendition of the Suess classic. It isn’t, and if you can get past the Hollywood-isms in place and fatuous production design, you’ll have a wonderful time down on that little snowflake, basking in the Christmas joy and wonderment of the holiday season. The film never once touches upon the religious ideology of the holiday, yet it manages to retain the warm fuzzy feeling you get around this time of year. In this way, perhaps, it’s more accessible to those who don’t necessarily believe the story of Christmas, which, if it gets people to love one another and have a happy holiday season, then it’s a success regardless.
Here’s how I’d sum it all up:
There’s the rhyming, the singing,
The anarchic humour to boot.
The main cast all have fun,
Yes, they all have a hoot.
The film is not too long,
It’s actually quite short
And the best part about it
Is that it’s still rather good. (doesn’t rhyme, so sue me!)
The camera glides across the
Expansive sets with relative ease,
Jim Carrey gurning and mugging
How he does it, is hard to believe.
There’s singing and dancing
And often an explosion or two
But the kiddies will be able
To sit and enjoy this film, with you.
So embrace it, believe it,
for the sake of your kids.
Coz when Christmas comes around
You’ll be so glad you did.