Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Merry Grinchmas to all! For our final segment of Grinchwatch for this Christmas season, we're going to take a look at the 2000 film Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas, starring Jim Carrey and directed by Ron Howard. This movie was the first-ever Dr. Seuss tale to be made into a live-action film.

Drawing directly from the original story and Seuss' canon (down to the Who world being microscopic and contained deep inside a snowflake), this movie is fleshed out to include some of the Grinch's own backstory. Whoville has begun its usual outrageous and extravagant Christmas celebration, but Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen) is confused by all the excess and feels that the true meaning of Christmas has been lost. Meanwhile, the jealous and angry Grinch (Jim Carrey), a social outcast who lives next to the city dump at the top of Mount Crumpit, is visiting Whoville in disguise and attempting sabotage among the Whos. Through a series of circumstances, these two encounter each other, and the Grinch uncharacteristically saves Cindy Lou from being squashed in the mail-sorting machine at the Who post office. At that point, the film takes off.

Receiving little information from her parents about the Grinch, and deciding that perhaps he is not as bad as rumor has it, Cindy Lou begins to canvas the town, and discovers from various Whos (including Jeffrey Tambor's scheming Mayor Maywho and Christine Baranski's befuddled Martha May Whovier) that the Grinch was indeed a Who at one point, adopted by a kindly couple of maiden aunts. Teased at school for his odd appearance and green fur, Grinch, upon discovering that Martha May likes him, uses his developing engineering skills and builds her a Christmas angel for a present. Attempting to fit in, he tries to shave himself and does such a terrible job that even the teacher cannot help laughing, leading to a destructive tantrum that destroys the classroom and his present and sends Grinch running away to the top of Mount Crumpit, where he has been living ever since.

Cindy Lou decides that bringing the Grinch back to Whoville and involving him in the Whobilation may help her own misgivings about the holiday, and undertakes a brave quest to meet the Grinch and elect him as Holiday Cheermeister. Mayor Maywho, feeling threatened by the Grinch, deviously gives him "the gift of a Christmas Shave," which results in another tantrum and more destruction. As the Whos rebuild their Whobilation, the canonical story is set in motion as the Grinch gets his Wonderful, Awful Idea and begins his plot to steal Christmas.

Seuss' tale of the Grinch has always had a theme of redemption to it, and the added backstory in this film throws this theme into sharp focus. The excesses of the film's sets, costumes and special effects (as well as the excesses
of Jim Carrey, who eschews Boris Karloff's original reading for one of his usual manic performances, which becomes tempered somewhat by his scenes with Momsen) almost ensure that this film will have none of the charm of Chuck Jones' original cartoon, or of Seuss's original story. But director Ron Howard and the cast (which also includes Anthony Hopkins as narrator, Howard's brother Clint as Maywho's toady Whobris, and master clown Bill Irwin and comedienne Molly Shannon as Cindy Lou's parents) treat Seuss's story with love, grace and deep respect for its source, creating an original production of a well-known holiday classic without stealing its thunder and acknowledging Seuss as its undisputed master. We in the Monster Shop do recommend this film for the holidays, but only if you also show the original Chuck Jones cartoon and/or read the original Seuss book.

And so we end our Grinchwatch for this season. There's just two days left to Christmas, so hang with us for tomorrow's Ghoul-tide news on The MonsterGrrls' 25 Days Of Christmas!