How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) – Ron Howard

I’m very particular about my holiday specials when it comes to television and movies. My treasured titles are very select, and I get very put out when a new one is thrust upon me. I love A Charlie Brown Christmas, Emmett Otter, John Denver & The Muppets, The Muppet Family Christmas (I like my Muppets), Scrooged, sometimes A Christmas Carol (Sims, of course) the stop motion specials from the 60s, and of course the Boris Karloff narrated version of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

So it was with a great degree of trepidation that I dug into the live action adaptation. On the plus side, it’s directed by Ron Howard, has a musical score by James Horner, and makeup/creature effects by the brilliant Rick Baker, and a narration by Anthony Hopkins.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (live action) is the next title in DK Canada’s Monsters in the Movies book as I work my way through the chapter on Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales. And the big question isn’t how adorable is Max the Dog? But how do you make a short story, that rhymes, and has a secured spot in the hearts of everyone thanks to one of the most masterful animated shorts of all time, a feature length story, and worth the look?

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Well, you cast Jim Carrey, who emotes well and cartoonishly through Baker’s makeup and prosthetics, and make the character more subject to viewer empathy by giving him a backstory.

Everybody knows the story, so we won’t revisit that here, I will note, however, that is seems alongside his brother Clint, director Howard gats almost his entirely family into the film.

It’s almost too family-friendly in its portrayal, though a lot of the designs and creations seem very in line with Seuss’ original illustrations. It does not however needs songs, or pop artists recorded songs that then constitutes the need for a soundtrack album.

It’s a little saccharine sweet for me. It may have been Karloff’s voice, but there always seemed to be a bit of an edge to the cartoon. The film chooses, however, to play it safe, and  even when he’s being Grinchy, Carrey’s Grinch is mean-spirited, but funny at the same time, and as Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen) investigates his backstory he becomes more empathetic, and understandable. But it also robs the character of some of his mystery that made the original special so enduring, and entertaining.

And that is the beauty of remakes and updates, you can always go back to the original. Still, now I can say I’ve seen it, and it’s thanks to DK Books’ Monsters in the Movies and I’m ready to settle in for some holiday classics.

So grab some eggnog, and find something fantastical (or monstrous) to watch tonight.

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