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IN SHORT: <shudder>. [Rated PG for some crude humor. 103 minutes]
And, before we get to the review on this one, we've got downloads galore on Grinch. In addition to the poster above, you can download the "teaser" poster or any number of wallpapers and wallpaper tiles. Click away.
Normally, we don't put dollar ratings on kidflicks. If you surf over to our review of Rugrats in Paris, you'll find a big explanation of the reason why and a dissection of the three kinds of children's movies we consider to fit that non-ratable category. None of 'em star Jim Carrey, which is why we bite the bullet on this one. Biting said bullet blew half of our brain away but the pain that caused was nothing compared to the pain caused by sitting through this movie.
The Grinch is filled with a dozen, perhaps two dozen, extraordinary moments in which Jim Carrey aptly demonstrates why he is the only comic actor on the face of the Earth truly capable of portraying Dr. Seuss' classic creation. The Grinch makeup, which took up to eight hours to install, fits the man like a second skin, a Mask if you will, and he uses it to the utmost . . . when he is given a chance. When he is given that chance the directorial instructions -- and we happen to be a big fan of director Mr. Ron Howard's previous work-- seem to have been this:
The town called
Whoville, in the shadow of Mr. Crumpit
He's a mean one,
Mr. Grinch is, all hairy and green
That's about as close as we'll go to mentioning the half hour long animated version of Dr. Seuss' book, a fondly remembered staple of television viewing every Christmas for thirty plus years, in which the evil Grinch stole all of Whoville's presents until the innocent eyes of kidlet Cindy Lou Who warmed the frozen niblet that passed for his heart. That Grinch, a very simple story crunched into half an hour and limited to three characters and a narrator was a perfect fit for a much simpler century.
That was a century ago. Now Whoville looks like a candy colored Department store window Christmas display, bustling with res-Who-dents cramming the streets, arms filled with packaged presents reaching up to the sky. Everybody is happy. Everybody is crazed. Everybody looks like a 1950s j.d. with a bad nose job and everybody is jolly except for Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen), a wee tyke who hasn't grown into her nose. Cindy Lou doesn't understand the frenzy and wonders about the true meaning of Christmas.
The second unhappy Who is The Grinch (Jim Carrey), a nasty, smelly, rude and obnoxious green furred outcast from Whoville since age eight, who stares down on the annual Whobilation festivities from his dump on Mount Crumpit, thinking of ways to annoy the merry Whofolk below. Junk phone calls. False summons to jury duty. Occasional sabotage of machinery. Nothing heavy duty, and all of it at about the level of an eight year olds prank.
It all makes innocent Cindy Lou wonder why The Grinch hates Christmas so much. She does research. She interviews fellow Who-vians and when it is time to nominate a new Cheermeister to oversee the 1000th Whobilation festivities, Cindy Lou nominates the Grinch. Mayor Augustus May Who (Jeffrey Tambor) tells 'em all that this is a bad idea, but the mournful looks of the big eyed child -- all fit for a black velvet painting -- win the day. With a little prodding from Cindy up on Mt. Crumpit, The Grinch does come down from the Mount to take his long lost place in the community. And, rather than stealing Christmas and ruining the festivities, the Grinch utterly and inadvertently pulverizes the celebration, almost destroying the town. Inadvertent is the key word here. This Grinch is not flat out evil. He's just got some psychological problems, girl problems if you will, to work out.
When that fails to destroy the Christmas spirit, the Grinch decides to make like anti-Santa and steal all the presents. And thus we return to our original story, narrated by Sir Anthony Hopkins. . .
Filling out the story are Cindy Lou's parents, Lou Lou (Bill Irwin) and Betty Lou (Molly Shannon); Lou is the Postmaster General and Betty Lou is involved in a down and dangerous competition with rich neighbor Martha May Whovier (Christine Baranski) to see who (sic) can put up the best Christmas light display on their homes.
The Grinch works fine for the single digit kidlets who will be enthralled by the production design, which is beautiful. The comedy, from the adult level, is scattershot. When it's good it's dead on funny but more often than not those welcome surprises are few and far between. The entire first hour attempts to come up with additional background story and the visual gimmicks of Whoville put roadblocks in the path of those efforts. Carrey looks great in the makeup but his Grinch was a different character every time we see him and too emotionally shallow --- he and Cindy Lou never do make that all important friendship/relationship link.
The Grinch goes down in flames with grossly underdeveloped supporting characters. Trying to flesh out the story with the family units mentioned above only gets in the way and slows things down to a crawl. Just slow enough that all the cosmetics and Production design effects call too much attention to themselves. In short, this Whoville isn't very interesting. And the origin of the Grinch along with the reason he doesn't like the holiday is weak, too. How did Monty Python put it? "Beautiful plumage"
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Grinch, he would have paid...
If you've got single digit kidlets, they'll be enthralled. You'll wait desperately for the next Carrey gag. You'll all be better off renting.
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