Saturday, August 23, 2014

Movie #266: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a film adaptation of the book by Dr. Seuss, and, of course, the classic Chuck Jones animated special. It stars Jim Carrey, Taylor Momsen, Jeffery Tambor, and Christine Baranski.

So, obviously, we have to have a bit more story because the book doesn't stretch to fill two hours. I accept that. What we get, then, is that the Whos down in Whoville are nuts about Xmas. Their Xmas celebration, however, is very much the white, secular, upper-middle-class celebration - it's entirely centered around decoration, buying everything in sight, and making merry.

Which...OK. I mean, I see the point they're clumsily trying to make. But one of the big problems with that version of Xmas is that it only works if you've got the money to make it work. But money is no problem in Whoville - there are no poor Whos, apparently, and most of the Whos find Xmas works just fine for them. Only Cindy Lou Who (Momsen), a lovely little blond Who-girl, finds herself unfulfilled by all the schmaltz.

Meanwhile, up on Mt. Crumpit (which serves as the trash dump for the whole civilization - it's just the one city, apparently) lives the Grinch (Carrey and several pounds of makeup). The Grinch hates the Whos, hates Xmas, and hates himself in equal measure. He sneaks down to the village and causes general mayhem, and in the process meets Cindy Lou, who views him as a weird kindred spirit - he's the only other being around here that doesn't like Xmas. So she has him named Holiday Cheermeister, he accepts and all goes well until the Mayor (Tambor) trolls him with painful childhood memories-

Oh, yeah. We get to see the Grinch's childhood. He was always green and hairy, and suffered for it, eventually running away to Crumpit.

Anyway, after the Cheermeister incident, he does his famous "dress up as Santa and steal Xmas" routine, has his change of heart, and returns everything, but by this point the movie has dragged on for so long and we know that part so well that it just puts you to sleep.

The movie is pretty terrible. It spends way too long letting Carrey just vamp like it's 1992 and we still liked him. He doesn't show a moment of genuine emotion; even the transformation at the end feels forced. And the story elements that were added feel like they might have somewhere to go, but the only real effect is that everyone is kind of horrible. The Whos, far from the joyous, selfless people they are in the cartoon, have a greedy, avaristic society that the white Americans among us might recognize, but there's no moment of redemption for them, really. In the book/cartoon, the Grinch brings back their presents not because the presents themselves have value, but because it's the right thing to do (the Whos don't really care about the things, they care about the love). In this movie, the Whos are devastated that the Grinch took their shit, which means the Grinch's plan worked, which means that the Whos have to undergo the same moment of epiphany...bleah. It's muddled, it's boring, and it paved the way for more terrible Seuss adaptations.

My grade: F
Rewatch Value: IINSIAIFWT

Next up: How to Train Your Dragon