Now playing-How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Posted: Sunday, November 19, 2000

While all the Whos down in Whoville await Christmas morn', all of us at the theatres are feeling, well, torn. To call this flick super would seem such a cinch, but, so sad, the truth has me feeling not unlike the Grinch. "It wasn't too bad" I can say that, at least. It simply is lacking, like who-pudding, without the roast beast.

Ok, so I'm no Dr. Seuss. Unfortunately, neither is Ron Howard. This movie had a lot of potential. It looks good. The wacky Seuss-ian architecture, the vaguely rodent like Whos, and especially, the hulking, hairy Grinch all hit the mark. There's just something missing. Or is there too much? The How the Grinch Stole Christmas that most of us know and love is really just the last 35 or 40 minutes of this movie. The rest of the time is filled with a cumbersome back-story for the Grinch, and a needless fleshing out of some of the more prominent Whos. The great thing about Seuss was that, while the settings were complicated, the stories were simple. Mean Grinch lives overlooking peaceful Whoville. He steals Christmas. They don't care and have fun anyway. Grinch turns good and everyone's happy, end of story. But that's not enough to fill up a two hour movie. So, we get the mayor of Whoville, who's really the bad guy because he's intolerant. We get the Grinch as a child (very bizarre; almost disturbing) persecuted by the mean children. We get Martha May Whovier, the Grinch's true love. It is too much.

The Whos simply didn't interest me. We're supposed to really feel for them, but it's hard when they're just so square. They're so white. I mean, it's no wonder the Grinch doesn't want to have anything to do with them. The Grinch, on the other hand, is pretty cool. Jim Carrey has once again proven to be better than the movie he's in. He plays the Grinch with a bit of zany panache; with a kind of flippant, manic style. The parts of the movie with just the Grinch are mostly entertaining, if sometimes a little frightening. Here, too, they've added a lot to the character, but it didn't bother me as much, because it all kind of made sense. Maybe because they kept all the familiar parts, from his ridiculously overloaded sleigh to the ever-faithful, ever-abused Max, who has to play reindeer and pull it.

We sympathize with the Grinch when the eer-so earnest Cindy Lou Who nominates him to be Holiday CheerMeister because, "he needs it the most!" He is clad in a blinking sweatshirt that reads, "I Love X-Mas!", and paraded through the psychedelic Whoville in the Chair of Cheer. The Grinch gets to be both victim and aggressor in an all-out yuletide onslaught.

One of the concerns about this film was whether or not it was going to be too frightening for younger viewers, causing them and their parents to stay away. The Grinch is a little scary. His lair is dark and weird, he yells a lot, and he has creepy yellow eyes. On the other hand, he's pretty funny, and much is made of the fact that he can't scare little Cindy Lou Who. I would have to say that, while it is scary, I don't think it's too scary, depending, of course,on how susceptible your child is.

In fact, scariness factor aside, I think this will be a big hit with kids for several reasons. One, it's colorful, funny, and action packed. There's a real frenetic pace that kids love. Also, kids will like it because, unlike most of us, they have little, if nothing invested in the story. I haven't seen the cartoon on TV in years, and, since there's no Sega version (yet), many kids don't really know anything about it. I think part of the reason I was disappointed was that I grew up with the Grinch. It was going to be just about impossible for them to get it right, according to my standards. A lot of these kids won't have that standard, and will probably like the movie a lot. This is one of those movies that seems like it was made to work on two levels; the adult and the kid. The kid level, at least, is pretty successful.

The main question I have is whether this movie should have been made at all. Dr. Seuss did a fine job of bringing his characters to life in his books without actually having to bring them to life. It all just made me tired and by the end I was ready to go home. I know the Grinch's heart grew three sizes that day, but mine remained basically untouched. Grade: C+

How the Grinch Stole Christmas is rated PG for scariness and cartoon violence.

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