How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

I feel like a bad Canadian for even thinking this, but the truth is, I don’t like Jim Carrey. Well, to be fair I’ve never met the man; what I mean is, I don’t like his schtick. I don’t like his over-the-top, cartoony performances. And since he’s playing an actual cartoon character in this, How The Grinch Stole Christmas never really had a fair chance with me, never mind the fact that it skewers a venerated classic film that I grew up idolizing.

Jim Carrey plays The Grinch. He’s green, he’s hairy, and he’s very very mean. Except a little Whovillian named Cindy Lou (Taylor Momsen) sees the good in him – wants to see the good in everyone – and nominates him to be Christmas cheer captain. He is coaxed down the mountain to accept his prize and things actually go fairly well – he gamely stuffs his face as Fudge Judge, wins a potato sack race, and is submitted to carol after carol after carol. But there’s at least one Whovillian who can’t quite accept his presence: Grinch’s childhood bully and current mayor of Whoville, Augustus Maywho. Maywho gives him a gift meant to humiliate and remind The Grinch of what caused him to flee up the mountain in the first place. With plenty of Whovillians joining in the laughter, The Grinch is once again flooded with shame, and this time he vows revenge. Just one catch: little Cindy Lou isn’t quite ready to give up on him.

Tim Burton was attached to direct this for a long time but eventually the studio settled on Ron Howard, who does his best to deliver something Burton-esque. It’s not nearly as dark as Burton would have gone (in fact they got out of their way to establish The Grinch as a sympathetic character) but Howard steps out of his comfort zone in terms of visual style. Whoville becomes a smorgasbord of Christmas cheer; there’s eve a machine gun that helps Christmas be vomited all over town. It’s an abundance that’s hard to ignore: production counts over 8000 ornaments, exactly 1938 candy canes, 152 000 pounds of fake snow, and 6 miles of styrofoam used to create sets. Sean and I actually saw some of these sets on the Universal backlot tour, just behind the Bates Motel from Psycho. During production, Jim Carrey put on a dress and grabbed a knife and ran screaming from the house, scaring the pants off a bunch of tourists who failed to recognize him at the time. Otherwise his days were pretty miserable, spending 2 hours to get into costume, and another hour just to get out. The latex suit was covered in yak hair dyed green. But when you watch the movie, you’ll appreciate just how many other character underwent extensive hair and makeup routines. This movie actually has the most extensively make-upped and costumed cast since The Wizard of Oz – 443 costumes were created by wardrobe, and on busy days, 45 make-up artists were working at once. So if I’m not exactly giving Jim Carrey credit for a job well done, I do think production design (art director Michael Corenblith and set decorator Merideth Boswell) deserve some accolades, along with costume designer Rita Ryack, plus hair stylist Gail Ryan and make-up artist Rick Baker who received his 6th of 7 Oscars for this film

Eddie Murphy, Tom Hanks, Jack Nicholson and Tim Curry were considered to play The Grinch, and I think we should all spend at least 10 minutes today thinking about what those movies would have looked like. The truth is, Jim Carrey is probably a good choice for the role. Who else could pull off a costume that essentially has The Grinch running around “naked” a lot of the time, his private area conveniently covered by a suspiciously large tuft of hair. Jim Carrey and Ron Howard both wanted to make a very kid-friendly movie but thanks to studio interference, there’s a bit of raunchiness in the film that may surprise you. The love interest between The Grinch and Martha May (Christine Baranski) is surprisingly sexual. In fact, it’s safe to say that those Whos are pretty pervy, generally speaking. But there’s lots of base humour and visual gags to get you through, and very small children probably won’t pick up on lots of the adult-oriented stuff. Still, it may be hard for those of us familiar with the original made-for-TV movie to really embrace this one. How The Grinch Stole Christmas is probably best left to the kids.


26 thoughts on “How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

  1. The Butcher

    I personally don’t like how we transposed Dr. Seuss’ stories. They lack their magic and in certain moments they can be really vulgar. Also this film has some silly jokes and the trick of the inhabitants, despite being faithful to the book (where there were drawings), it is terrifying. In many of Dr. Seuss’ films there is very little of Dr. Seuss. And someone who appreciated this film as a child says it and now he can’t quite look at it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Christopher

    After reading Beowulf I thought of The Grinch as being like Grendel: an assholish monster who doesn’t like other people having a good time, although a little less violent.
    Not that I’m opposed to complicated backstories, but giving The Grinch one, including fair criticism of the Whovillians for their materialism, undermines his final transformation.
    And I’m not Canadian but I also feel bad for usually not liking Jim Carrey. Mostly, though, it’s because I love Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind so when I see him being goofy I think of how genuinely talented he is.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. leendadll

    The Who’s were loving and cooperative in the original. I would have liked them to have remained that way in the remake. I don’t watch the movie but I watch the tv special or listen to it on CD (the entire special, not just songs!) every year!


  4. EclecticMusicLover

    I too got tired of Jim Carrey’s shtick, but I love his political cartoons that relentlessly attack the venal Donald Trump, his corrupt administration and the spineless GOP. I saw an exhibit of his drawings in L.A. last year, and they were wonderful.


  5. Todd Russell

    Good review! Jim Carrey is best when he isn’t so weird (which is rare). Liked him Liar, Liar but that’s because Maura Tierney was there to reel him back in (constantly). Hated him The Cable Guy. He was just so-so in this film. I’m not sure how he’ll fare as Dr. Robotnik in Sonic next year.


  6. Anonymole

    Two. Different. Films.
    Same stories.
    Two. Different. Films.
    I actually memorized the script for the first — entirely. (Tony the Tiger, we love you.)
    The second is a cherished holiday diversion.
    Just as there will never be another Robin Williams, so goes Jim Carrey.

    Oh, and Candy-Cane Girls — yum!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s