How the Grinch Stole Christmas

The real Grinch who stole Christmas
Guest Review by Mike Flores

The works of the late great Theodor Seuss Geisel translate well to animation. From the 1940s and 1950s cartoons, and the original The Grinch Who Stole Christmas with the voice of Boris Karloff, the best versions of his work have been animated. The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T came close, but was marred by musical numbers that truly stunk. Every time a song would come on, the film ground to a painful halt. However, the reverse is true of the new live-action Grinch movie. The songs, the few there are, aren’t really bad; it’s the rest of the film that’s excruciating.

The real-life Dr. Seuss is said to have hated kids, but he channeled his dark side into wonderful, bizarre worlds that delighted young and old alike. Disdainful of the marketing that Disney and Warner Brothers did with their characters, Seuss resisted the pressure to exploit his creations. But when he met a younger woman and began an affair, his wife (and collaborator) committed suicide — at Christmas. Seuss subsequently withdrew from public life and comment, letting his new bride handle it for him. After his own death, there was nothing to stop his widow from demolishing the fragile universe he and his first wife had created, and an outpouring of the most horrid and tasteless items one could imagine followed.

Parents, however, don’t care about any of this. Any parent who had to sit through Pokemon is happy if the little brats shut up and the film isn’t unwatchable. How else to explain why this film has become a holiday hit?

It isn’t a love for Dr. Seuss. Anyone who sees the film will recognize it as a betrayal of the original book. Anyone who sees the Grinch postmark the post office is using, the sheets and bedspreads, the toys and tie-ins, or who even remembers the language the original characters spoke will feel angry. The Doctor’s original vision of the story, of Christmas being about more than gifts, is lost in the maelstrom of marketing.

Hey, I like Jim Carrey. I do believe he is a comedic genius. Since director Ron Howard decided at some point not to direct him, however, this is one of the most inconsistent portrayals I have ever seen. One scene, when the Grinch is trying on clothes for a quick trip to Whoville, is wonderful. But after all of one minute, we are quickly returned to inconsistency and a dialect that changes almost scene by scene.

Visual overkill replaces the simple elegance of the original illustrations. In the book, Whoville is just a bunch of huts. The set here is a baroque mishmash of modern and post-modern “architecture”, cramped and impossible to focus on. Oh, why go on?

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