Virgin Movie Review – Jim Carrey’s The Grinch (2000)

Jim Carrey is the grinch
He’s a mean one. Also deranged, and possibly a pedophile.

Holy hell, this was directed by Ron Howard? Normally I love his touch. And as for Jim Carrey, I’ve always been a fan. Not with this. This is the Carrey equivalent of Bill Murrey’s Garfield: a true WTF?

I imagine (and know for sure, based on my own great-niece’s preferences) some people like this Grinch. Maybe they weren’t weaned on the 26-minute 1966 animated Dr. Seuss version like I was, that with even this year still made me cry with happiness. CRYING. TEARS running down my face.

[pullquote]This one? I was confused. I was bored. I had a headache from the non-stop and frankly exhausting Grinchy chatter intended as humor, and came off just weird — the bad kind of weird.[/pullquote] It felt more like a Tim Burton offering. (Which is weirder than ever for me, since I normally am not a Burton fan. But then, I just did a Virgin Review of Tim Burton’s 2001 Planet of the Apes and kind of loved it. It’s clearly opposite week for me.)  😉

Even Max the dog couldn’t save this effort, and I previously gave the 2018  ‘meh’ new Grinch full length animal feature a D+ for cute animal action. This one, sadly, gets only a D, at best, for Whoville’s creative set design, and a nice kiddo as Cindy Lou Who. This Cindy Lou was sweet, and saved the 2000 Grinch from a D- or F+ grade.

By contrast, I gave the old 1966 Christmas special an A grade, and I don’t give that grade away easily. I expected it look old at the seams…but it happily held up through time, and made my own heart swell three sizes by the end.

Back to the 2000 live-action Grinch. I watched it last night with zero foreknowledge and the best of intentions. And for the first time in EVER in Netflixing films, I had to fast-forward over entire sections of dullness. I would have turned this off and picked something else,  but had to watch it through for my review.

Also, I wanted to know why the Grinch was compelled to sound like Sean Connery? Minor note, but it distracted me. [pullquote position=”right”]Jim Carrey normally is brilliant in his vocal and physical humor. Was he directed to filibuster like this?[/pullquote] Is he proud of this film?

There were a few funny jokes landing among the barrage of awkward efforts: I thought the joke about Santa’s reindeer was cute: “On Thrasher and Crasher and Vomit and Blitzkrieg…” <—- heh. Some moments of cleverness stuck, but most felt like film spaghetti tossed at the wall to see what would stick. Robin Wiliams mastered that kind of improvisation, and maybe that’s what Carrey was going for.

Even the songs lacked. I expected a fun delivery of the classic “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”…well, yawn. Then the final “Fahoo Foray” song was merely competent. Moving on.

What about the Whos in Whoville? Here was another cardinal sin:  these townspeople were unpleasant, underhanded, and a little bit creepy. While the Grinch, instead of being merely a cranky, damaged soul, was just deranged. I have no idea why this movie went down the paths it chose. Dark, weird, sinister, yada yada. [pullquote]The Grinch tale at heart is a story about alienation, rejection, and isolation, but it isn’t supposed to make you wonder if predatory sexual advances (with a whiff of pedophilia) are appropriate.[/pullquote]

The Cindy Lou character saved this version me, but expanding her role also undercut the rest of what should have went down that fated Christmas morning in Whoville. I know this is subjective, but one nice child can’t a plot pivot make. I didn’t buy this Grinch’s transformation: I don’t think he did either. We weren’t given a beat to breathe or let the story have any emotional landing space.

A tale of two Grinches
Some Grinch on Grinch action.

Alternatively, the new 2018 full-length Grinch movie didn’t make me cry either. It had nice technical animation and cute critters, but the story was a cup of plain vanilla yogurt.

So here it is: I say it’s time to stop messing with a classic. It’s like when Peter Jackson made that short Hobbit book into three bloated, sometimes off-putting films: like butter scraped over too much bread. If you’re a big LOTR fan, you’ll get the reference.  But anyone who’s had breakfast will get it anyway. 🙂

Movie Grade: D 

Movie Rewatch Review — Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

The Grinch Who Keeps Stealing Christmas

In Defense of the Grinch (1966)

The Weirdest Moments in Classic Christmas Specials

abominable snowman on the year without a santa claus
Turns out he’s not a bad guy. But still kind of strange.

Old Christmas TV specials can be downright bizarre. I grew up watching the animated cartoons like  Frosty the Snowman and The Grinch, and eagerly lapped up the clay stop-motions like Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, and The Year Without a Santa Claus. Joyous holiday fun, right?

Yes. And no. They’re enjoyable shorts, but as an adult I’m noticing really strange beats, weirdo songs, and odd, almost off-putting characters. Some of these things resonate through the years: we’ve learned to use the term Reindeer Games to signify human pack behavior that’s intended to be more clique-ish than inclusive. And among those experiencing “outsider status” alienation, the concept of The Island of Misfit Toys really hits home.

Here are some of the best wacked-out characters and songs from decades ago that we still love, probably because of their strangeness.

The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974):

Remember the Heat Miser? There’s also a Snow Miser, but nobody remembers him. The Snow guy seems too nice, but the “Heat Blister” is the king of strange. If you’ve ever seen this, the lyrics come flooding back. (He’s too much…da da da duh…)

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966):

I can’t go any further without mentioning the beloved song, You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch. What great about this song is there are so many additional lyrics as the song reprises over the course of 26 minutes of cartoon runtime. It’s really creative and each set gets wilder and weirder. I love this. Between The Grinch and the Heat Miser, it’s like grumpy geek nirvana.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964):

This is the cutest one in the holiday lineup, with a whole lot of adorableness and a great message about tolerance, compassion for others who don’t fit the societal role, and the kind of understanding that leads (if we’re really lucky) to friendship. Everyone in this special is damaged goods in some way, even Santa himself, who has to stuff himself unhealthily to fit the “image” of a fat old man. But the real strangeness award has to go to the Abominable Snowman, who’s only cranky because his teeth hurt. Enter the elf who wants to be a — gasp! —  dentist. It all comes around, and Rudolph’s deformity saves Christmas. I hope the other reindeer invite him to play their games and he tells them off. Although, I guess, that’s defeating the spirit of the message.

The Island of Misfit Toys also qualifies as weird. There’s a birdfish, a crying dolly, a Charlie in the Box, a train with square wheels…all toys probably made by elves on crack. The toys believe no child would ever want them. In reality — our reality — there are kids who’d love them instead of getting the boring same-old toys: these are unique. And remember, even in this day there are children who’s families can’t afford any gifts. They would CHERISH these toys.

Those who are different don’t have to be outcasts, or think of themselves as broken. Apparently Santa doesn’t even bother to save the toys in the original, as LifeNews reports in an excellent article (well worth a read — angry letters from children saved the day).

And that’s all I’m going to say as I put my soapbox away. Here’s the brightly, sprightly song the lonely toys sing, at strange odds with their predicament — they truly have no hope for themselves. It’s remarkably subversive, and I love it:

In sum, I’d posit that strange is memorable and fun, sticking to the nooks and crannies of the brain moreso than taking more expected  route. Look at the new (1918) Grinch movie. It’ a marvel of animation, but boring. Really, really boring.

Have I missed something noteworthy and odd from your favorite holiday specials? Do you prefer the Grinch song or the Heat Miser? Please add your comments below!

In Defense of the Grinch (1966)

The Grinch Who Keeps Stealing Christmas

Movie Review – The Grinch (2018)

 

 

 

In Defense of the Grinch (1966)

To start with, the Grinch doesn’t seem all that bad. He doesn’t like a lot of dissonant noise. That’s hardly a crime. I don’t know why he seems to hate Roast Beast, but maybe he’s on a diet. And he’s never directly mean to anyone. Look how sweet he was to Cindy Lou Who. He gave her a cup of water and patted her head and practically tucked the tot into bed.

He’s also a pet owner.  He owns a dog! This is a creature he feeds and looks out for, and probably gives him company while he schemes in his lonely cave. Honestly, I think this guy has probably a big history with rejection.

I didn’t like him whipping Max all the way up to the top of Mount Crumpet, but this was in the 60s, and people might have been less sensitive about this kind of thing then.

I also noticed he’s quite domestic. He sewed up a nice red Santa coat with a treadle sewing machine, and hand stitched white cotton onto his hat.

His stealing techniques were masterly creative. He used a cane like a pool cue on the Christmas balls, walked the wind-up toys into his sack, and drove the choo choo train off its rails. He was having a lot of fun. He’s probably be a hoot to hang around with a few beers in him.

And he comes through in the end. He hears the Whos singing,  realizes that one’s thoughts determine their reality, and saves the day he worked so hard to steal. He goes from loser to hero over the course of one life-affirming moment, and best of all: the Whos accept him to their hearts and their table without fuss or complaint. In this moment, everyone who’s been damaged by rejection can also heal, even a tiny bit, and feel hope again.

Not bad for 1966 children’s cartoon special.

The Grinch Who Keeps Stealing Christmas

He's still a mean one.
He’s still a mean one.

With the newest incarnation of The Grinch in theaters this year, we thought it was time to take a look at the history of this mean green creature, who is both dastardly and oddly sympathetic.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas  (1957) – The original kid’s book by Dr. Seuss is beloved, and for very good reasons. It started it all, showing us a grumpy Gus who hates the holiday (shades of A Christmas Carol). He steals, he lies, he abuses his dog Max, and breaks Cindy Lou Who’s trust…but eventually hears the joyous music and comes through in the end. This is an allegory for humanity, in a real way. [pullquote]We can be mean, we can hurt others to hide our own miserable loneliness…but if we open ourselves — just a crack — to others…well, we might learn to belong after all.[/pullquote] Who hasn’t known this kind of profound alienation? Who doesn’t secretly dream of being accepted despite the petty crimes we’ve committed? The message hits us right in the feels. Dr. Seuss knew it. This is among the three top stories he gifted to generations of children. (Along with The Lorax and The Cat in The Hat. Can’t argue with those.)

How The Grinch Stole Christmas –  A faithful and rousing rendition of the Dr. Seuss book, the animated 26-minute special from 1966 is definitely something…yes, special. Growing up with this, it was a traditional treat to rewatch it every year, as a child. I still watch it now to herald the holiday season. Good animation, great songs (I still sing the refrain), and a story to make your heart grow three sizes in the end. A-level work.

The Grinch (2000) – The live action version with Jim Carrey dropped on the scene to a mostly poor reception. (It seems Carrey doesn’t always have the magic touch.) I recently watched this for the first time, and found it lacking. Middling, dank, arbitrary, and a bit sour. Ron Howard himself directed, and usually produces great films. What happened to the color, the joy, the fun? Not everyone panned it, however. The Wikipedia reports, “Despite mixed reviews that often compared the film unfavorably to the 1966 special, it won the Academy Award for Best Makeup, and was also nominated for Best Art Directionand Best Costume Design.”

Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch (2018) – [pullquote position=”right”]Did we need ANOTHER Grinch? Why reboot this one; it’s been done enough, surely? [/pullquote]In spite of my fears, every time I saw the new animated trailer in theaters I smiled and giggled in spite of myself. It looks a world of better than the live action version. I think they might get it right! I’m not the kind of critic who wants to see the same darn themes rebooted every few years, but agree Pixar knows how to craft a film. The trailer looks charming and fun: I’m all over it. If it doesn’t suck, it might put this story to bed, finally. NOTE, after seeing the 2018 movie: it didn’t. Here’s my Grinch-like review.

Watch The Grinch Trailers, to get you in the proper mood for the Mean One this Christmas: 

The Final Grinch Trailer:  

In Defense of the Grinch (1966)

In Defense of the Grinch (1966)

Movie Review – The Grinch (2018)