Some movie reboots/re-imaginations are better left alone. Pathetic movies like Yogi Bear, Woody Woodpecker, and The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle are examples of garbage many studios have thrown at us for a quick $$$ snatch ‘n’ grab. It looks like Illumination Studios (Despicable Me, Sing) isn’t above doing that, too.
If you’ve read Dr. Suess’ book, seen the far superior 1966 animated cartoon, or enjoyed the imaginative & hilarious 2000 movie, you already know the story; but in THIS version be prepared for some questionable changes. The Grinch (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) lives with his dog Max deep inside Mt. Crumpet, many miles from Whoville.
While being an extraordinary inventor and suffering pangs of loneliness, he isn’t feared or rejected by the townspeople below. In fact, jolly old Bricklebaum (Kenan Thompson) who obsesses over Christmas decor, considers (never explained) the Grinch his best friend! So WHY does the Grinch hate the Whovians so much? In a super-quick backstory, we learn he was an orphan that was never adopted. I guess that’ll do it, right?
In a side-by-side story we also meet extreme sportster and motor-mouthed little Cindy Lou Who (Cameron Seely) who looks just like Edith from Despicable Me. It seems this year she’s gotta talk to Santa himself because her single overworked mother needs help. She hatches a crazy scheme with her pals to capture the jolly elf on Christmas Eve… and it involves a cookie. Anyway, after the Grinch decides to steal all the Christmas gifts, he goes searching for a reindeer–but all he can find is Fred, a very obese reindeer that only serves as a deus ex machina later on in the movie.
With his incredibly tricked-out stolen sled, a fancy Santa Claus costume, and Max wearing a reindeer-horned helmet, the two set out to rip-off every single Who in town, and that includes Cindy Lou Who, who wakes up as the Grinch is stealing their tree. Gasp! Will Cindy Lou see through the Grinch’s disguise? Will Max get neutered in some bizarre sugar plum accident? Will the Grinch take the rare roast beast and do unspeak-able things to it? Frankly, I really don’t care. . .
In an attempt to make THIS version different, screenwriters Tommy Swerdlow (Snow Dogs) and Michael LeSieur (You, Me & Dupree) decided to make this humorless kids film more about feeling good about oneself and less about fun, goofiness, and fast-paced hilarity. The Grinch isn’t even a threat to the Who’s, thus eliminating any tension. All the action is drawn-out, dull, and mostly centered on Cindy Lou and her antics. And don’t get me started on that lazy dialogue or that insulting hip-hop version of You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch! But, what can you expect from two writers who have never written a kids movie before!
However, I must give kudos where kudos is due: the direction. Scott Mosier & Yarrow Cheney. Mosier, a protégé of Kevin Smith, and Cheney, who worked on The Secret Life of Pets, did some remarkable direction here. Their use of angles, camera moves, and lighting was excellent. It’s a shame the script wasn’t anywhere near as good as the direction. Kids will enjoy the children in the movie (who act more like adults), and Cumberbatch who gives the Grinch a full, rich voice. Just don’t expect big laughs like you get in Illumination’s Despicable Me, Sing, Minions, or even their last Suess offering, The Lorax. Bah, humbug!
How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
Talk about your matches made in Heaven! A kid-friendly Christmas comedy movie starring Jim Carrey at his best, directed by Ron Howard, a loopy, crazy script by Jeffrey Price & Peter Seamen, and music by James Horner? This movie has gone on to become a perennial Holiday classic shown every year on TV… and for good reason!
Taking Theodore Geisel’s (aka Dr. Suess) kids book and expanding it out to a 104 minute movie takes alot of fantastic, out-of-box writing, but this movie pulls it off with two stories that co-exist until they merge. It’s almost Christmas time in Whoville (the story is narrated by Anthony Hopkins) and everyone is going bonkers, loving every crazy moment of the Holiday season. Everyone, that is, but little Cindy Lou (Taylor Momson), who just isn’t into Christmas this year. This perplexes not only her post office father, Lou (Bill Irwin), but the narcissistic Mayor (Jeffrey Tambor).
Meanwhile, the green-furred and feared Grinch (Carrey) who lives on top of Mt. Crumpet, tries to cause mayhem in town, even wrapping up Cindy Lou like a package. Intrigued by the Grinch, Cindy Lou decides to go on a fact-finding tour of the locals to find out about the Grinch’s backstory, and gets more than she bargained for. She even discovers that snobbish, eccentric, and beautiful Martha May Whovier (Christine Baranski) even had the hots for the Grinch in her youth. She decides that, in order to “find Christmas”, she has to get the Grinch to come to the annual Whobalation Festival.
Her plans work but then backfire, as the Grinch (who was about to turn his life around) is publicly humiliated by the Mayor and goes nuts, creating havoc & mayhem. Seething with anger, the Grinch plans on stealing Christmas by robbing all the Who’s on Christ-mas Eve, which he does by building a home-made rocket sled, and using his scared little dog, Max. But when he hears the Who’s singing on Christmas Day (even though they have no presents), he gains empathy and FEELS for the first time ever. Bolstered by love, he returns the gifts, almost killing himself (and Cindy Lou) in the process.
Thoroughly enjoyable, absolutely cheesy, and more than silly, the eye-candy alone is enough just to watch this terrific movie. Made for kids, but having enough jokes and sight gags for adults, Carrey carries the film with ease with his zany, madcap, and brilliant performance that is accentuated by his priceless facial expressions. Momson is adorable, can sing beautifully, and doesn’t have that annoying, over-the-top, ‘movie kid’ cutesy. Look for Ron Howard’s younger brother, Clint, as the Mayor’s suck-up aide, and his little sister, Bryce Dallas, as a “surprised Who”.
No CGI here, people, that’s really Carrey under tons of Rick Baker’s extraordinary latex make-up and painful cosmetic contact lenses. Yeah, Carrey suffered alot during the filming of this movie, that’s for sure, but also ad-libbed SO much of his lines, much to the delight of director Ron Howard and the crew. The movie was even given the blessing from Geisel’s wife, Audrey. Besides winning a handful of awards, it made serious bank at the box office and made even more in VHS/DVD sales later.
Fun Fact: When not shooting on the Universal backlot, Carrey loved to dress up like Norman Bates’ mother (an old dress and gray wig), and terrorize the guests on the Universal Studios tour trams, brandishing a knife. Tell me that wouldn’t have been funny to see!