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How The Grinch Stole Christmas

You Better Watch Out!

"Deck the foyers with boughs of holly, fa la la la la, la la la la. Christmas is here. But to ensure a longer cinematic life for the film version of Dr Seuss's classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the seasonally specific part of the title has been jettisoned. The film, which has broken US box-office records, is called simply The Grinch.

As everyone knows (though until three days ago I'd quite forgotten), the brief 1957 book takes five minutes to read and is about a green creature, a combination of Scrooge and the Abominable Snowman, who lives on a mountain above the jolly town of Whoville. A miserable recluse, he seeks to make its citizens miserable by stealing their Christmas presents, only to discover that they're even happier celebrating the festive season without them.

There was a cartoon version of the story in the 1960s, based on the original illustrations, the verse text beautifully spoken by Boris Karloff, that even with added songs didn't last much more than 25 minutes. Ron Howard's film, scripted by Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman (the authors of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) and narrated by Anthony Hopkins, stretches it out to 105 minutes.

They build up the character of Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen), the little kid who gets only a couple of lines in Seuss's text. They provide a long flashback to motivate the Grinch's malevolence. And they give Jim Carrey his head (and indeed every other part of his anatomy) in the title role. The result is much more complex story.

In this screen treatment Whoville, a cross between Oz and the Christmas grotto at Macy's, is in thrall to mindless consumerism, an approach to life challenged by idealistic Cindy Lou, a saccharine Pollyanna creature played by a little actress with front teeth like megaliths carved of ivory. Her giant heart goes out to the outcast Grinch and, believing that the best is Yeti to be, she persuades the people of Whoville to elect him as the Christmas cheermeister instead of the town's venal mayor.

Seuss's Grinch is a character of unmotivated malevolence. In the movie, we find that he was traumatically humiliated in childhood at Christmas time by the future mayor, and went into exile up the mountain. Moreover, as the recipient and recycler of Whoville's refuse, he despises the town's gross materialism. He and Cindy are thus brought together like Beauty and the Beast as joint redeemers of the community. As she's a little young to provide romantic interest, he's paired off with Martha May Whovier (Christine Baranski), his childhood sweetheart.

Fortunately, the real redemption in the film is provided by Carrey's splendidly antisocial performance as the gleeful, unreformed Grinch, going about his troublemaking ways, accompanied by his dog Max. Apart from Scrooge and the Yeti, there's a touch of the Cowardly Lion in his performance as well as something of the green-faced master of misrule he played in The Mask.

He's an explosive bundle of mischievous energy; his behaviour will appeal to children, his lines will amuse their parents."

(Source: Philip French, The Guardian)

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Directed by: 
Ron Howard
Running Time: 
104 minutes
Country(ies): 
USA
Year: 
2000
Language: 
English
Starring: 
Jim Carrey
Taylor Momsen
Jeffrey Tambor
Christine Baranski
Screenplay by: 
Jeffrey Price
Peter S. Seaman
Based on the book by Dr. Seuss
Rated: 
PG

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