Friday, December 16, 2011

What's Green, Mean and Wildly Obscene? (How the Grinch Stole Christmas)

That's right, it's that time of year again. When a mixture of amazing Christmas classics and truly terrible specials make their appearance. But try as I might, I simple can't hate my TV during this time. Even if 9 out of 10 movies and specials make me want to grab the writers and shake them until they tell me why they wanted to try ruining Christmas. The few gems that we find are entirely worth it and keep me browsing my guide for those yearly pleasures that make me feel like a little kid again. I've already mentioned how much I love the movie "Elf" and how it's become a Christmas tradition for me. Today, I'm going to review another Christmas film, because hey, why not? 'Tis the season after all.


Okay, so without further ado, today I'm going to review "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". And just to clarify, I'm not talking about the original animated childrens' classic. I'm talking about the live-action film starring Jim Carrey as the Grinch. 


Now I know immediately some people will be put off by the mere mention of Carrey, but personally I believe that he can be funny if you don't look into his roles too seriously and I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks that. He can be a little over the top (perhaps an understatement) but sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn't. It depends on his particular role (though I know they are usually pretty similar) and the plot of the film. For me, Carrey will always be a comedian, pure and simple. I know he's done other work, like his role in the thriller "The Number 23" (which I have seen- perhaps a review for another day?), but, in my opinion, he sells because of his overacting and when he tries to be serious there's very little demographic for it. His fans love his exaggerated portrayals and that's what they want to see when they go to one of his movies. Non-fans probably dislike his acting style and won't see any film with him in anyway. And everybody else just puts up with him. So, when we have a film that doesn't cater to any of these people then it isn't likely to be that successful- unless it's an absolutely amazing, change your life kind of film.

Whoo, so onto the actual review. "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" is obviously an adaptation of the original Dr. Suess picture book. So already most people will know the story and the demographic it's aiming at, ie. younger viewers. Though I do think that Christmas movies or books from an individual's past are never going to be disliked by them- if only because of the nostalgia factor. I personally did grow up with the Dr. Suess book and original 1966 TV special version, and so I went into this movie already knowing what the plot was and what I wanted out of the film.

Anyhow, the film was made in 2000 and directed by Ron Howard. For those of you who don't know the basic plot, the film is about the citizens of Whoville and the ex-whovillian outcast, the Grinch. Obviously, the film is set at Christmastime, when all the Whovillians are getting ready for yuletide celebrations. The film is told from both the point of view of the Grinch and also from little girl who, Cindy Lou. So we have on one hand, a cruel and mean prankster, the Grinch and on the other, the innocence and kindness of Cindy Lou. It's a nice little contrast, especially since the Grinch is so hard to dislike. Maybe it's because we can tell he's not so bad at heart or because (in this film at least) we get a little background info on the Grinch, and find out why he hates Christmas and all the Whovilles in the city. Basically, the Grinch tries to destroy Christmas, while Cindy Lou tries to get people to understand the real meaning of the holiday and make the Grinch happy by getting the Whovillians to accept him.

In terms of the Grinch's background, it was neither here nor there for me really. I don't think it really added anything to the film, but nor did it really have a negative affect either. It was just part of the plot. One thing I really did enjoy in this film was that the narrator and the Grinch together quote the book throughout the movie. I'm not sure if it's the whole book (I think it is), but it's definitely a hefty chunk, just wound into the story really nicely.

I also think that (especially considering this film was made 11 years ago) the makeup and effects are very well done. When you actually pay attention to all the little details, you start to realize how much time and effort must have gone into it. All the actors have prosthetics on (in the form of their noses and teeth) and of course, Jim Carrey is covered head to toe in the Grinch costume. Then all their hair and outfits. There was a point in the film where I noticed that Cindy Lou's father was wearing a bowl of actual eggnog on his head and both her mother and herself were wearing teacups of eggnog. I'm not sure if it was a sealed container, or whether they had to keep refilling the receptacles, but there was definitely liquid in them. And it's these little details that make the film so fun to watch. You notice something new all the time.

If you can't tell by now, I do like this film, not gonna lie. Of course, there are some criticisms. Carrey as the Grinch does work well. Considering how much prosthetic he has on his face, it was definitely necessary to have someone who could still get all the facial expressions across- and who better that the over exaggerated Jim Carrey. However, sometimes it can be a little much. But it doesn't happen that often, so it's easy to ignore. Another issue I have is actually the songs. Sometimes they just appear and just seem added in last minute a bit. But then you think that there's only one original song and I guess they had to add more to make that one fit in better with the film and, let's face it, you can't really out-write Dr. Suess' original "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch", which does make an appearance in this film, sung by Jim Carrey- who is actually a pretty good singer and does it very well. I really enjoyed his version.

There is a weird little love triangle sub-plot that goes on throughout the film and ties in with the back story, and is kind of fun, but basically irrelevant.

Overall, I do like this film, but there are others out that I enjoy far more. If it was on TV (like it was tonight) then I'd watch it, but it's not at the top of my list. Given the choice between the two, I'd have to say I prefer the original 1966 2D version. Maybe it's just because that one was just an animated version of the book and nothing more and this version tried to have more of a story. It's not that the story didn't work, there's just something more charming about the original. For anyone wondering, I'd also prefer to watch "Elf" than this film. I just find it more enjoyable. 

"How the Grinch Stole Christmas" is worth at least one watch though, and it is only on once a year. Overall, if I were to rate this film, it'd get 6 and 3/4 of a star out of 10. I want to say 7 out of 10, but I feel like it's not quite there. It's not really that memorable in it's own merit. Obviously, you remember the basic story and a few jokes, but a lot of them are just background. If this puts you off this movie, let me just say I laughed a lot while watching this film and so did the rest of my family. So even if it's not an incredible Christmas classic, it's most definitely a fun one to watch and worth a try. 

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