Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas
2000, PG, 102 min. Directed by Ron Howard. Narrated by Anthony Hopkins. Starring Jim Carrey, Clint Howard, Taylor Momsen, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Molly Shannon, Bill Irwin.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Nov. 17, 2000
Whoville is a truly great place to visit, although this movie's 100-minute stopover is more than enough time to take in all the sights. Ron Howard's imagining of Dr. Seuss' fantastical creation is a wondrous thing to behold. Filled to bursting with strange and colorful shapes, sounds, costumes, and decor, this film is the kind of immersion one only gets after sliding down the proverbial rabbit hatch. Visually, director Howard and collaborators (among them make-up effects wizard Rick Baker, visual effects supervisor Kevin Mack, production designer Michael Corenblith, and DP Don Peterman) have fabricated a fantasy universe that bombards the senses with its cheery joie de vivre and eagerness to delight. Then there's Jim Carrey who, but for his cast credit, is nonexistent in this film. He so totally disappears into this character that there is ultimately no Jim Carrey here. Only Grinch. The viewer never has that sense of there being a man inside a hirsute or any effects technician flipping switches. The Grinch is a living, breathing, green, and hairy bundle of venom. Unfortunately, that may be part of the problem also. The Grinch is so terribly one-dimensional in his extreme misanthropy. Additionally, the chipper, Christmas-crazed residents of Whoville are single-faceted characters. This lack of character shading makes the narrative aspect of How the Grinch Stole Christmas rather dull and vacant. Whoville has plenty of characters that could have been better developed in the course of, literally, fleshing out this rhyming children's tale. As a whole, the film's narrative feels a bit choppy, as though some reworking of the narrative threads might have occurred (a subplot about a Christmas lights contest is particularly baffling as are the half-hearted staging of a couple of songs). Taylor Momsen, the child chosen to play the central role of Cindy Lou Who; Jeffrey Tambor as the town's foppish mayor May Who; Clint Howard as his obsequious assistant Whobris; and Christine Baranski as the uppity Martha May Whovier are all characters that have more comic potential than comes across on the screen. We never really come to care about or identify with any of these characters or their travails. It's a film that feels padded, an annoyance that pulls us away from the fantasy. How the Grinch Stole Christmas is not likely to become any landmark achievement, yet it's sure to earn a berth among the perennial Christmas film classics. This Whoville is a fun place to visit, but it'll only whet your appetite for more goodies.