A Smelly, Heaping Pile Of Who-Dung

Nov 16, 2000
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Jim Carrey is good as the Grinch -- but given waaaay too much free reign to improvise, the original story is in the middle of this junk somewhere...

Cons:Where to begin? 1 1/2 hours of extraneous pandering to the lowest possible denominator, a completely bogus retelling of one of the greatest Christmas tales...

Do you hear that sound? That thumping? It's not the Grinch's heart growing - it's my beloved Dr. Seuss rolling in his grave. Like everyone, my anticipation for Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas gradually rose month by month this year. I, like so many, was brought up on the sage wisdom, humor and morals of the Dr. Seuss catalog and likewise I fully plan to do the same with my children. My mom used to read this book to me before bedtime alongside other lesser-known classics such as Oh the Thinks You Can Think and Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! and that is why it pains me so much to see the original story - and its wonderful message lost in the worthless drivel that Director Ron Howard presented to me this evening.

Perhaps my memory doesn't serve me correctly. Stop me if I'm wrong, I just can't recall my beloved Grinch putting a mistletoe over his rear-end and telling the citizens of Whoville to "gimme a kiss!" I fail to remember him ever using the phrase "bitchin!", and I most certainly don't remember there every being a silly love interest for my favorite foil of joy and cheer. Why then, Mr. Howard - and more importantly Jeffrey Price (writer of the abominable Wild Wild West), would you turn one of the greatest stories ever told about the value of Christmas into a cheap marketing tool to sell happy meals and toys?

I don't blame Jim Carrey. He was given a script, ample time and what appears to be free reign to re-create (and truly inhabit) the detestable Grinch. In a costume that's perfectly suited for the vile creature who lives above Whoville, Carrey makes the Seuss character come alive with a blend of comedy and puppy-dog sadness that gets to the bottom of the Grinch's tiny heart. Holed up in his cave high above the merry festivities, we get a true glimpse of why the Grinch acts the way he does. Even under a latex mask and mounds of makeup, Carrey embodies a lonely sadness that lets us in on the secret that the Grinch really isn't all that bad, he's just been rejected so much he's turned inward and refuses to let anyone in. There's one scene in particular where the Grinch lays back in his "recliner" going over his daily plans while eating broken shards of glass. His plans are pitiful of course, and the child in me wanted to jump into the screen and give this big scruffy green guy a hug. Unfortunately, Howard left the camera rolling too long in each scene and we're treated to general Carrey buffoonery as he dances about making silly faces. My beloved Grinch never did such things. I also wonder why Carrey chose the particular accent he used - correct me if I'm wrong, but is he using a really bad Sean Connery lisp?

So if Jim Carrey is so solid, what made me label this movie a "smelly, heaping pile of who-dung"? Well, that honor goes to Ron Howard, the director who has essentially sucked any bit of magic and wonder from an enchanting story and given us what boils down to an hour-and-a-half of brainless pandering, and one very good half-hour (the body of the original story). The Who's are terribly annoying and look like half-breeds of the munchkins and our favorite evil clone "mini-me" from the Austin Powers films. To make it worse, Ron Howard's brother Clint (who shamelessly appears in all his brother's movies) takes up almost all the Whoville screen time as an aide to the mayor. That's right, there's a mayor. There's a who named Martha May Who-Vier (Christine Baranski) that the mayor wants to marry. We're told that from a young age (and yes, there're flashback scenes here) there's been a love triangle between the mayor, Martha and the Grinch. A quick aside: every time Martha is within close proximity to the Grinch she gets breathless and appears uncontrollably lusty - I'm not joking. When the Grinch makes one of his first few appearances in Whoville he winds up face down in Martha's cleavage. That sight isn't what I want my child taking away from his/her first experience with the Grinch.

Any given scene - and that includes all extraneous scenes that include the too-cute Little Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen) - in Whoville is given the glittery gawdyness of Las Vegas, and the wink/nudge cinematography that made the original Batman television series so fun. Sideways angles, strange dolly shots that never stop moving… somehow it just seems annoying here, never quite having the effect it was meant to have. Perhaps I was so annoyed with the far-out, completely re-worked and unfamiliar plot line that these things didn't matter all that much.

This film is two hours in length. That's an hour-and-a-half too long. There is absolutely no need for all the backstory - Carrey sums up everything we need to know about the sad and lonely Grinch in a few powerful shots that I talked about before. We don't need the silly jokes with adult themes that truly fall flat. We don't need the twenty minutes of screen time that Molly Shannon (Betty Lou Who) spends worrying about the decorations on her house. We don't need Jim Carrey's rocket-powered sleigh. We certainly could do without the lowbrow scene where the mayor gets a generous French kiss helping of a dog's butt. What WAS truly magical was the original portion of the movie - the virtually untouched heart of the story that wants to break out of the other blockbuster modern-kid-movie cliché's that completely surround it. Why Mr. Howard did you not re-tell the original story in a kind, passionate manner?

Is there a reason studios feel they must appeal to the lowest common denominator? Do kids really need this kind of humor to walk away from the film with a smile on their faces? Absolutely not, and films like last year's holiday masterpiece Toy Story 2 prove it. For all his talent and ability, Carrey is given waaaaay too much license to improvise, and it's amazing to me that Howard didn't leave half of this film on the editing room floor.

Look, I was a kid once - and many will attest that I still am. I didn't need this kind of pap to make me smile. I was happy with a story about a lonely, twisted green guy who came down the mountain, stole Christmas from a bunch of do-gooder's only to find out for himself what the true spirit of the holiday is about. As Dr. Seuss would tell us, the point of Christmas has been perverted - it's not about gifts and material things - it's about love, friendship and giving. Mr. Ron Howard gives us a fifteen second synopsis on this subject at the very end of the film, quickly followed by Jim Carrey doing a booty-shaking victory dance around the mayor of Whoville because he's now loved AND gets the girl.

Your kid is going to drag you to this. If you're a kid at heart you're going to want to see it. Just please take my advice and pull that dusty book off your shelf and read it to them (or yourself) before you even think about stepping into a movie theater and forking over your hard earned pay for this pandering, contrived and cliché piece of rubbish. The spirit of Christmas? You won't find it here.

OVERALL GRADE: F


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