”That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? That’s what it’s always been about. Gifts, gifts… gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts! You wanna know what happens to your gifts? They all come to me. In your garbage. You see what I’m saying? In your garbage. I could hang myself with all the bad Christmas neckties I found at the dump,” says the Grinch.
The children’s picture book How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss was first published in 1957. Despite being essentially a criticism on the commercialization of Christmas, the book proved to be very popular and would lead to the creation of an animated TV special in 1966. Directed by Chuck Jones, the half-hour short became an instant Christmas classic and is still shown on TV every year. The popularity of the book and the TV special grew over the years, leading to the green light of a live action feature-length film adaptation. With Jim Carrey signed on to play the Grinch and Ron Howard in the director’s chair, it was going to be an interesting film. I actually got to see Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas on the big screen during its original theatrical run 15 years ago, and it was a fascinating experience to see Carrey bring the Grinch to life. It was better than I expected and quite enjoyable.
2000’s Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas follows a green, Christmas-hating creature called the Grinch who is lured down back to Whoville by Cindy Lou Who, who hopes to reconcile the Grinch and the townspeople during the Christmas season. After a prank by the mayor (who had been the Grinch’s childhood bully), the Grinch returns to his mountain cave and plots to strip Whoville of its Christmas spirit by stealing all of the gifts and decorations from the town. Howard brings together a wonderful cast that includes Carrey (as the Grinch), Taylor Momsen (as Cindy Lou Who), Jeffrey Tambor (as Mayor Augustus May Who), Christine Baranski (as Martha May Whovier), Bill Irwin (as Lou Lou Who), Molly Shannon (as Betty Lou Who), Clint Howard (as Whobris), Mindy Sterling (as Clarnella Who), and Anthony Hopkins (as the Narrator). Carrey is delightfully over-the-top as the Grinch, bringing loads of meanness while maintaining some sympathy underneath. Momsen is fine as the young Cindy Lou, bringing eagerness and a good amount of naivete to the role. Tambor revels in his role as the bullying and corrupt Mayor, while Irwin shines as Cindy Lou’s father.
Howard brings order to chaos that is the unique world of Whoville and stages some entertaining slapstick and light action sequences. The screenplay by Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman adapts Dr. Seuss’ children’s book, greatly expanding upon it by giving the Grinch a backstory that creates a more complex character than Seuss originally envisioned (an expansion that mostly succeeds). Dr. Seuss’ commentary on the commercialization of Christmas is carried over to the film and explored through the eyes of Cindy Lou and her family. Donald Peterman’s cinematography pops with the Christmas festivities in Whoville and is appropriately darker with the Grinch (the mountain shots with the sky in the background are among my favorite shots).
Rita Ryack’s Oscar-nominated costume designs go hand-in-hand with the Oscar-winning makeup by Rick Baker and Gail Rowell-Ryan in creating unique identities for each and every Who in Whoville as well as the Grinch. The Oscar-nominated production design by Michael Corenblith and Meredith Boswell creates such a unique world in Whoville (the Grinch’s cave being my favorite set), and James Horner delivers a memorable, Christmas-themed score that emphasizes action and comedy. Howard’s film may not be a great film, but it is a fine adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ famous tale and can be regarded as a minor Christmas classic in the coming years.