How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Directed by Ron Howard
Written by Jeffrey Price, Peter S. Seaman
Starring Jim Carrey


How the Grinch Stole Christmas

In this season of endless litigation over small things like our presidential election, can we agree to outlaw insulting adaptations of children's classics? And while we're at it, can we also agree to let Jim Carrey play only psychopathic comedians like Andy Kaufman?

It's hard to know where to start the list of things that went wrong with this 'Grinch.' Probably with whoever at Universal thought that turning Theodor S. Giesel's witty little Christmas fable into a full-length live-action film was a good idea, because once that decision was made someone was going to have to write the film and fill out at least 90 minutes of screen time (it actually runs more than 100). And what can you do with a perfect gem that takes less than ten minutes to read out loud to your children? The answer, of course, is that you don't do anything. Some stories don't need blowing up and dumbing down, as has been done here.

The studio poured more than $100 million ( a quarter of that to Carrey) into this dull, boring, meretricious piece of flatulent filmmaking, though what little of it shows on screen is seen mainly in the shape of cheesy, badly designed, poorly lit, ineptly photographed sets of Whoville and of the Grinch's cave atop Mount Crumpit. Even the famous ride back down the mountain with the stolen gifts comes across as a cheap piece of second-rate animation.

And Carrey is obviously out of control in the film. He mugs, he even changes his voice from Grinch to Carrey, as though we would be interested in hearing his asides to the audience, which are out of character and wrench the film out of context. Moreover, although Carrey's face is mobile his body is stiff, and so he is not able to convey the ingenious flexibility Giesel gave the Grinch. Carrey pretends to that freedom of motion, by extending those long green fingers, but his body still looks like a tree trunk.

The writers have given Whoville a mayor (Jeffrey Tambor), a mother for little Cindy Lou Who (Christine Baranski), and even hired the clown Bill Irwin, whose part has evidently been left on the cutting room floor. They forgot to give them any wit or even any humorous business. And Cindy Lou (Taylor Momsen) is the very stereotype of a Hollywood child actress, outdoing even the worst of Shirley Temple in her simpering cuteness.

Saddest of all is that the story's message -- you don't need presents to celebrate the joy of the holiday -- is completely lost in the film. Just the opposite: the film tells us that it's important to the town that their presents be returned in order to enjoy Christmas. Giesel must be turning over in his grave.    

Click here to return to Movies 101