I don’t feel like I really need to explain the story of the Grinch at this point but for those who may not have heard of it, it’s about a nasty, mean-spirited creature called the Grinch (Jim Carrey) who lives at the top of a mountain and spends all his time hating the Whos, the people of the village below. In this particular version of the story, however, we get to see why the Grinch is the way he is and delve further into his past through the eyes of Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen), a little girl Who who feels that the Grinch is really just misunderstood.
As you can tell from that synopsis, there’s a vital part of the Grinch story that’s treated as a side note: The whole movie is takes place during and talks about Christmas a lot, but the Spirit of Christmas really isn’t felt anywhere. This movie just doesn’t get me in the mood for the holidays and I think it’s not just because they focus more on trying to humanize the Grinch, but also because so many little aspects of the story are satirical about Christmas. How the Grinch Stole Christmas is about how there’s more to Christmas than all of the commercialism and yet the characters, all of the characters mind you, spend the entire movie focused on everything but the true meaning of Christmas. it sort of fights against their moral, which is just shoved into the last five minutes of the movie rather awkwardly.
But if you’ve looked at my rating already you can see that I don’t hate this movie. Why? Jim Carrey. I love him in this movie. He’s a great choice to play the Grinch and gives exactly the type of performance I love to see from him. I can totally understand why this would irritate the hell out of some people but to me he’s great. There is a little bit of hit-and-miss but it’s almost all hits. He’s completely insane, literally bouncing off the walls, and it’s entertaining. But it never forgets to let you know that the Grinch is, well, a grinch. He’s just mean to everyone around him, causing mayhem everywhere he goes, and watching that is enough to recommend the film. The rest of the characters are okay I guess, but they don’t leave any impact whatsoever.
What does leave an impact, however, is the brilliance of the design. The sets, the costumes, and especially the makeup are really breathtaking. The Grinch’s makeup, mixed with the fact that Jim Carrey is a living cartoon character, makes him feel otherworldly while still not being unsettling (well, except for the baby Grinch puppet/animatronic that looks like some sort of hellspawn). The streets, buildings and other structures of Whoville are wacky and all over the place, and the costumes are bizarrely unique. Unfortunately, there are a lot of cheap tricks throughout the film that sort of ruin it to an extent. There are lots of unnecessary sound effects, trying to make it more cartoonish, but it just makes it more annoying, and the camera never stays leveled throughout the entire film. Every single shot is at an angle and I just wanted to throw a tripod at director Ron Howard the whole time.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a hard film to recommend because, as I mentioned, I can totally get if somebody hates it. The Christmas spirit is lacking and Jim Carrey gets on some people’s nerves, but if you’re a fan of his sillier roles and you just want to watch him go nuts for an hour and a half, then by all means check this one out. If you’re looking for something to get you in the mood for Christmas though, the original Chuck Jones short from the 60s is my number one favorite Christmas special.