Written by: Jeffrey Price & Peter S. Seaman
Starring: Jim Carrey, Taylor Momsen, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Bill Irwin
When you have a short that perfectly captures the essence of a story through economical storytelling, delivers an emotional gut-punch, and succeeds tremendously, turning it into a feature film makes little to no sense. All it does is drag out the story with unnecessary plot points, which certainly no one cared about when watching the short. This occurs with How the Grinch Stole Christmas and how the filmmakers insist we wanted to know more about how the green man was bullied as a child.
In Whoville, the inhabitants love when Christmas arrives every year, except for one named The Grinch (Jim Carrey). Due to his mistreatment by the other members of Whoville since his childhood, he lives on top of the overlooking mountain hating how these citizens care for the holiday mostly for the materialistic aspect. He devises a plan to ensure they have a Christmas they will never forget.
Whenever thinking of this film’s existence, I have to pinch myself to truly believe this movie got the backing to be made and stars actually agreed to sign on for the project. Such an ill-conceived feature that takes a lean and mean simple story and adds so much unnecessary bloat for no reason whatsoever. Based on the original story by Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas had its first TV special released in 1966 lasting about 26 minutes, narrated by none other than Boris Karloff, and hits every note of the story perfectly regarding anti-materialistic beliefs. How in the world do they think this could be topped by trying to explain why The Grinch has a grudge against people in Whoville? This feature tries to answer questions no one cared for and only serves as nightmare fuel.
Analyzing this film begs the question of what it brings that could not be experienced in the book or the TV special. Well, this film gives a backstory of The Grinch’s childhood and how he was teased as a child, and how he experienced bullying. Yes, that would make it understandable why he would, in turn, despise something that makes his tormentors so happy. It also provides The Grinch with a love interest propelling him to turn good in the end. Then you have a singular antagonist in the town mayor, Augustus MayWho (Jeffrey Tambor). All of these aspects of the story give more reasoning when none of it was needed. The Grinch in the TV special hates the citizens of Whoville and the venom in his blood for them jumps off the screen in a way that needed no further exploration. If anything, filling in the details does a disservice because it pinpoints specific reasons instead of having almost a petty disdain that made that original animated version a bit biting in its approach to the story. Making The Grinch a completely sympathetic figure just makes it quite boring and unnecessarily trite.
It must be said, at the very least this film did not play it safe in bringing this character to live-action because it truly becomes unhinged from the production design to the bonkers performance by Jim Carrey. This film could have easily been played straight with some lazy makeup on these actors, but they went for it in trying to capture what these creatures would look if taken off the screen and brought into a three-dimensional world. This allows it to have some sort of respect, with Carrey being unrecognizable outside of his iconic voice to an almost concerning degree.
Thinking about Ron Howard directing this feature just elicits giggles from this reviewer all of the time when thinking of his filmography representing typically safe fare. Adapting a beloved children’s book into a deranged 105-minute feature-length film feels incredibly outside of the box and almost makes me appreciate he stepped in to helm this picture. This presentation, as said before, does anything but play it safe and he has a big part to play in it. He certainly receives quite the doozy of a script by Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman, who mostly has some funny lines regarding observations about Christmas. More than the movie itself it would be fascinating to see the actual script of this feature and whether or not it matches the nightmare fuel that eventually appears on-screen.
All joking aside, How the Grinch Stole Christmas feels like one of the most unnecessary films ever made considering what it wanted to adapt. Everything it added to the story elicited a big shrug because none of it really matters when trying to decipher the simple reason why this character exists. Sure, letting Jim Carrey play an unhinged character can always be appreciated but putting him through the gauntlet of makeup for this character could have been avoided. Some jokes certainly land as the dialogue adds its curious moments, but the production design and cast cannot make up for what feels completely misguided.