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"How the Grinch Stole Christmas"

Directed by Ron Howard.
Written by Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman.  Based on the book by Dr. Seuss.
Starring Jim Carrey.
Release Year:  2000 
Review Date:  12/11/00 

Folks-- 

I go to visit my dad up in Rochester--or, as I like to call it, Snowchester--every so often and whenever I do, I try and see at least one family-oriented movie with my kid sisters Cate and Sydney, aged 12 and 11.  Along with that, however, I try and go to lunch with them at their school if I am in town with them during the work week.

I enjoy these trips to my yesteryear in part because of all the rehashed memories that I get to enjoy for the second time.  Much like sleeping with someone in a twin-sized bed, school lunch periods bring back hilarious memories and, in my mind, it helps keep me real in this period of PDAs and the cellular telephone.

So, you can imagine the grin on my face when Cate takes me into the cafeteria for her lunch period and while we are standing in line, no less than ten other seventh graders stroll up to us and inquire who "that guy" [me] is.  Their first seven questions, in order (remember that I am standing *right next to Cate* while they are asking):

"Is that your dad?"
"Hey, who is THAT guy?"
"Cate, is that your dad?"
"Who's the old guy?"
"Can I meet your dad?"
"Does your dad have the day off?"
"Gee, Cate, your dad doesn't look anything like you!"

Now, I have a history of people misguessing my age, often thinking that I am older than I really am.  But this got downright insulting!  The best part of the experience was going up to the cafeteria line and, after buying two of those little Dixie cups of ice cream for 25 cents a piece, the lady at the register asked me, "So, little boy, what grade are you in?"

Man.

Luckily, my experience with "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" was much better.  Sure, it is based on the Dr. Seuss story of the same name, but I haven't read that book in so long that I don't remember enough about the original plot to compare the two...except, of course, the ending, where the Grinch steals all of Whoville's presents only to give them all back.  With that in mind, director Ron Howard and Jim Carrey (as the Grinch) have the chance to get creative, since the events that lead up to that ending have to be pretty entertaining to fill up the 90 minutes of screen time before this event occurs.

Generally speaking, it works.  Carrey, in makeup so heavy that you cannot recognize him, is excellent, and portrayed my image of the Grinch to near-perfection.  Because of the cartoonish action and the physics-defying antics of his character, the fantasy can be stretched to infinity and in most cases, Carrey throws this movie on his back and director Howard gives him every funny line in the film.  One assumes that Carrey had room to improvise many of his PG-rated wisecracks, and a good number of them appeal to audiences of all ages.  His character progression from scrooge to saint is believable (considering a rocket-powered sleigh is "believable" in this movie) and the narration that Anthony Hopkins randomly interjects throughout the film lends for some softer moments during the film.

But, it ain't all good!  These softer moments early on slow the film to molasses, especially around the part of the movie where we get to see how it is growing up green, as the Grinch's early years paint the picture of what evil acts are to come.  I know I was about to doze off during this part of the movie, and from looking around the semi-crowded theater, I was not the only one.  Around the time that a young Whoville resident named Cindy Lou nominates the adult Grinch for an award and somehow convinces him to come to town to receive it, the movie picks up steam again, but that is halfway through, and the moments leading up to this were sometimes hard to sit through.

And, beyond Carrey, the performances seem a bit uninspired, and part of that is the obvious lack of depth displayed amongst the third- and fourth-tier actors employed by the production.  The reason for this is obvious:  Carrey ($20 million salary) plus a beautiful, special effects-laden backdrop equals no money left over for acting talent!  Hopkins probably took a small check for his voice-over work, and after that, we are talking Jeffery Tambor in a major role as Whoville's mayor...not exactly a former Oscar winner!  The little girl that plays Cindy Lou is cute, and in a couple of scenes she has great puppy dog eyes.  But, then she mixes up looking like she is having the time of her life the first time she goes through the Grinch's trash chute (sort of like how Batman rides that pole down to the Batcave), then looking absolutely frightened the first time she encounters the Grinch when she reaches the end of the chute.  Maybe this was intentional, but it didn't make any sense.

However, the message at the end of the film is the exact message that I live my life by, in terms of gifts not making Christmas but family and friends making Christmas.  So, I loved the end and thought it made up for some of the film's shortcomings because the writers do such a good job of making the message clear.  This is slightly more good than bad, and it will help remind you what the holidays are all about.

Rating:  Matinee

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09