By Christian DiMartino
(Yes, this is a review for the Ron Howard film, not the animated TV special. Though that one is good too).
Ron Howard’s career has been all over the place. Sometimes he makes Oscar-worthy slamdunks like A Beautiful Mind. Sometimes he makes blockbusters like The Da Vinci Code, and then sometimes he does a light comedy, like Parenthood or The Dilemma. Howard has a new film out this weekend called In the Heart of the Sea, so with it being Christmas time and all, I figured I would confess my shameful (though it isn’t all that shameful) love for Howard’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
This film goes two ways with people: You like it, or you loathe it. Personally, I kind of love it. Though I can kind of see the other side. I will never join that other side though.
We all know the classic Dr. Seuss story. A furry green monster named The Grinch (here played by Jim Carrey) lives on a mountaintop outside of Whoville, a town so happy you almost understand why he hates them (he is given a backstory here that gives an explanation as to why he is mad as hell, and isn’t going to take it anymore).
Whoville takes a lot of pride when it comes to Christmas time. They have festivals and it’s just Christmas Christmas CHRISTMAS! So The Grinch devises a plan to ruin, or “steal,” Christmas from those happy pappy bastards. He is going to dress up as Santa Claus, climb down the chimneys, and steal all of their presents.
There is also a story arc here in which Cindy Lou Who (a now slutty Taylor Momsem) tries to cut to the core of The Grinch. She knows deep down there there is a gentle creature in there somewhere, even if he doesn’t. The scene in which she sings that “Where Are You Christmas?” song is… ugh. I skip past it every time.
I see why someone could hate it. The Grinch’s backstory is so-so, and at times, you can kind of get the sense that Howard is just trying to distract the audience with pretty things. Well, call me distracted. Even though this movie gets a lot of hate, I still continue to watch it every year for a few reasons.
It is such a great looking film. Unlike The Cat in the Hat, it is visually stunning, without making you puke out your eyeballs. I also like the score, and the cinematography. Technically speaking, the movie has it down.
I also just love Carrey, perhaps too much. But I am usually quite generous when it comes to his work, and I can’t hold back on this one. He kind of plays a green, hairy version of his other characters, but he kills it here. Carrey’s comedic energy is intoxicating.
Even if you don’t like it, I don’t see how you could sit there with a straight face. Whether it is watching Carrey tamper with the mail (“Jolly duty! Jury duty! Hate Mail! Pink slip!”) or Carrey arguing with himself on whether or not he should sit in self-loathing (“I can’t cancel that again!”), Carrey carreys the movie. I think he knocks it out of the park in every scene. Call it overacting, but to me, Carrey chews up so much scenery you half expect him to spit it out at the audience.
So, maybe due to nostalgic reasons, I am being far too kind to How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Sue me, I don’t care.