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How the Grinch Stole Christmas

  the scary-ass grinch
Taylor Momsen becomes a high-haired footnote in Jim Carrey's career.

2000, Universal
All Rights Reserved

I hate to be a Grinch, but Ron Howard's "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (IMDb listing) is one bad film. It's one of those productions that is so big and so bloated that you wonder why somebody didn't take two steps back and ask the crew "What are we trying to do here?"

A reconception of the Dr. Suess children's book and the 1966 animated special, "Grinch" stars yuckster Jim Carrey as the title character. A mean old soul who long ago developed a bad taste for the holidays, the Grinch reeks havoc on the village of Whoville on Christmas Eve, and in the process learns the true meaning of the holidays. It's a simple story without much added baggage, but to fill out a more exhibitor-friendly running time, director Ron Howard and screenwriters Jeffrey Price and Peter Seaman have not only elected to retell the Suess story, but add a lot more pathos to the Grinch saga. "Why?," you may ask. Because there's money to be made and no theater is going to run a 60-minute film.

It's not easy to blame Jim Carrey for the complete failure of "The Grinch." As the living embodiment of a national icon, Carrey gives it his all. Buried underneath layers of Rick Baker's makeup, Carrey compensates for the loss of his natural, rubbery, face by going completely over the top with the physical comedy. Ron Howard, seemingly unaware of what to do with this performance, settles into an obnoxious style of shoving the camera into Carrey's face. It's more than simple mugging for the camera — it's an aggressive show of force. There are some laughs in Carrey's acting, but nothing remotely close to what I expected from this underrated genius.

Howard, working from the tired script, finds his own way to compensate for the lack of a brain in the story's head. He piles on the noise and special effects. The film looks good, but budgeted at more than $100 million dollars, it had better look good. The main Whoville city looks too much like a Southern California stage and the effects are too busy, making the overall effect of "The Grinch" more exhausting than magical.

There is a danger to the thought of what the good Doctor Suess himself would have thought of this film. I can only suspect that when faced with a "Grinch" that involves spurned lovers, kisses planted on a canine's rear end, and a Whoville citizen with healthy cleavage, that he might have declared the whole enterprise a travesty to his heartfelt work. I can only agree.

Filmfodder Grade: D

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