Ever since I started blogging, I wanted to try out different review formats. This ranged from long to short reviews, first impressions and even a Manga review. While game reviews (and more importantly, Indie Game reviews) are probably going to stay in focus for me personally on Indiecator, I’d like to try the occasional odd one here and there with a book, show or, like in this case, a movie review. Today I wanted to talk about one of my favourite Christmas movies: Dr Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000).
The movie is about the Grinch who lives just outside of Whoville on a remote trash mountain and who hates Christmas. While the Whos are full of anticipation for the upcoming Christmas holiday, the Grinch is out for revenge instead.
Starring Jim Carrey, Taylor Momsen, and Jeffrey Tambor, among others, this is basically the Dr Seuss book turned into a full movie. The rhymes and sentences from the children’s book got adapted into the movie well although slightly changed at times while story elements (like Cindy Lou Who being turned into the main character) have been changed to make up for the short source material. All in all, I feel like it’s a good adaptation although it struggles here and there to make full use of the concepts and ideas it touches on.
The narrator, Anthony Hopkins, initiates the story with the words “Inside a snowflake, like the one on your sleeve, there happened a story you must see to believe”. The Whos are a jolly kind of seemingly-pig-snouted people that live in Whoville and are eager to celebrate their favourite holiday. Marching with a band and swarming into the stores, everything seems to brim with life and joy. The only one who questions the mass of presents that people are buying is Cindy Lou Who, a young Who that not only likes Christmas but also ends up asking the important questions.
As time goes on, she begins to question whether the Grinch is truly mean and evil and if there’s more to the story. As we find out, the Grinch was raised like any other child but always seemed different, hating Christmas and having a beard at the age of eight. Being the target of bullying scarred him for life which is why he now spends his time in solitude with his dog, Max, on a garbage mountain – dreading the upcoming 1000th Whobilation!
Jim Carrey is truly shining in his role as the Grinch, bring the titular character to life. He’s taunting and sneaking, sneering and snorting, dreading the day of Christmas and really seems to be this mean-spirited mind that just seems to be there to ruin other people’s days. All of this is directed well and while I love his acting and the expressions that Carrey is able to pull off, I’m not entirely sure if it really was that important to focus more on his demeanour. Like, I get it. The Grinch is supposed to be this bad green guy living alone while everyone seems jolly and cheerful in the city. The contrast is established well and it works. But as time goes on, I would have loved to see some change. Instead, the movie focuses on the mean parts of the Grinch (and his backstory) whenever they show the Grinch… but the Grinch doesn’t get all that much screentime to really add depth to the character.
Most of the movie, after all, revolves around the Whos and most importantly, Cindy. While she’s adorable in her role and always curious about people’s intentions and feelings, I just feel like the movie has not done enough with its characters. Cindy feels like more of a plot device than an actual figure in a story, let alone the main character.
The Whos of Whoville, adults and children alike, are all endazzled and charmed by Christmas anticipation. They all just follow tradition and follow their leader, the antagonist of the story played by Jeffrey Tambor. Nothing seems to change, everything is the same and it gets boring. The characters of the story shouldn’t be as tolerant with the status quo. If I was a Who and if I was looking forward to the big day like that, I’d want to make it the best Christmas ever. I’d want to make it even better than before.
The only character with intentions like that is Cindy who joyfully nominates the Grinch as the Cheermaster for the 1000th Whobilation! The audacity! I like it!
While it’s an interesting twist in the story, it seems as if Cindy is only there so that the story can move forward. Without Cindy, the Grinch wouldn’t have come down over Christmas. Without Cindy’s goodwill and intentions, the Grinch wouldn’t have been driven to the point where he’d steal the Christmas presents. Without Cindy, the Whos in Whoville wouldn’t have understood that Christmas isn’t all about presents and spending money but rather about spending this great holiday with the people you love and appreciate. Cindy’s a great character, don’t get me wrong, and Taylor Momsen did a great job bringing life to this pig-snorted girl… but there could have been more. There could have been a change in the people at an earlier time in the movie. When the Grinch finally arrives to get his award, the Whos are frightened by his appearance and his manners… but all of a sudden they just flick the switch and they accept that he’s just as much a Who as everyone else.
Being a kids movie, I understand that the gags and gimmicks, the jokes and little sketches, and all of that are important to fill out air… but I feel like the movie could have had so much more than just that. There could have been more change, more on the topics of “What is Christmas about?” and “What makes a good Who a good Who?” but instead… it just falls flat. Adults will enjoy the occasional innuendo or dark joke here and there, that completely went over my head when I watched it ages ago. Christine Baranski, playing Martha May Whovier, really adds a… different flavour to the movie. But personally speaking, while I love the movie and the characters, I would have wished for more. I would have liked it if they went more in-depth with how the Grinch, the titular character, feels and changes, but they ended up merely touching on it instead, leaving much to desire for boring people like me.
The plot itself works, though. It’s a great movie. It made me chuckle plenty of times and the occasional song here and there really made it all the move enjoyable. The world of the Whos and the Grinch is wonderfully Christmas-y and glim and bright but while red is one of the main-colours, it’s not as bright and shiny as Santa’s clothes… but rather dark and muddy, showing that there is more potential for this Christmas to become better and showing that there lies more under the wrapping paper and mistletoes.
All in all, a great movie to watch with your loved ones in this wonderful time, despite the criticism that I had at the depth of the topics and subjects that the movie touches on. I’d really recommend it to ya if you’re still searching for a great movie to watch. It’s twenty years old at this point and, believe me, or not, Ms Magi hasn’t seen it until last Saturday and she loved it to bits.
Finishing post-review thoughts:
I haven’t really thought about how to write movie reviews before. I would have thought that it works the same as with game reviews where you start at one point, start writing, look into your notes, and just end up finishing it up eventually. Movie reviews are different as you need to be more aware of spoilers and what you can talk and cannot talk about. With Christmas movies, you basically know how it’s going to turn out anyway, so that’s a different story, but personally speaking, I’m not entirely sure if my thoughts on it aren’t potentially too analytical or if they maybe even go too far into the interpretation.
After writing it up, I wanted to see if Peril has written about this movie in particular yet but apparently, there is no post on it available just yet. As far as other reviewers out there go, I don’t really like the style of many others and hence just didn’t check on other bloggers, but I’m sure there will be plenty of critics out there, just waiting to give me feedback on my first-ever movie review. I’d appreciate that a ton. In hindsight, this post turned out quite well. It doesn’t really feature any spoilers and while it doesn’t go too in-depth on the movie’s score and the graphics and all of that, I feel like it’s still a solid review. Maybe straying away from the visible and audible was a good choice after all, though, as I have no clue about componists and that kind of stuff.
And yes, I criticised the story somewhat… and I referred to the Whos as pig-nosed characters… But I feel like you can criticise something and still like it… and the Whos do kind of look like they’ve got inverted pig-snouts on their faces… I mean, they’re adorable… but also kind of weird, which is great.
Anyways, I hope you’re having a great time. Stay safe and healthy and regardless of what’s going on and how 2020 has been, I wish you a few happy holidays, a merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!