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In the pretty little town of Whoville, everybody loves Christmas. Everybody, that is, except The Grinch (Jim Carrey). A hairy monster with a broken heart, The Grinch leads a solitary life in a cave above the town, from where he pours scorn on the people of Whoville and their Christmas cheer. When young Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen) invites the recluse to join the festivities, The Grinch agrees. But when Mayor May Who (Jeffrey Tambor), a rival for the affections of Martha May Whovier (Christine Baranski), humiliates him in public, The Grinch vows to take revenge by ruining Whoville’s favourite holiday.

Anyone turning Dr. Seuss’s perennial children’s favourite How the Grinch Stole Christmas into a feature film was always going to face two challenges. One: how to create The Grinch. Two: How to create everything else. So singular was the American author and illustrator’s vision that children from four to forty can instantly recognise buildings, cars, contraptions and creatures as being “Seussian.” Anything—or any actor—not fitting the bill would stick out like green eggs and ham at a gourmet dinner.

It is a testament to the talents that worked on The Grinch that the film captures the look of Seuss’s world so seamlessly. The production design is superb across the board. The Whos that scuttle around the gloriously skewed Whoville look perfect, with piggy noses, rodent teeth and gravity-defying hair. But it is the casting of Jim Carrey that really makes the film fly. Like imagining A.I. without Haley Joel Osment, it’s impossible to conceive of The Grinch without Carrey in the green yak hair-and-Lycra suit. The voice of his pot-bellied and bellicose Grinch be stolen in equal parts from Sean Connery and W.C. Fields, but the face is every inch Carrey’s own--despite the six layers of latex he had to have applied every morning for the three month shoot. Carrey is a human cartoon as a performer at the best of times and here it works to his advantage, infusing the character with the level of hyperkinetic energy the source material demands.

Seuss’s story gets roughhoused a little at the hands of director Ron Howard. The feature-length creature is deemed to need more motivation, hence a clumsy subplot where a schoolboy Grinch has his romantic aspirations dashed. A batch of knowing (and un-Seussianly cynical) gags is added to keep the adults interested and in a sign of the times the kids are even given their daily dose of puerility. I may be remembering the book through the misty haze of time, but I’m sure the good Doctor never had the Mayor kissing a dog’s bottom in his sleep. Anthony Hopkins shows more decorum as the narrator, making Seuss’s tongue twisting text sound as sonorous as Dylan Thomas.

Seuss’s moral message that Yuletide is about more than presents does make an appearance, although it’s odd to hear such preaching from a megabucks movie—especially one being released on DVD in time for the Christmas shopping rush. The film is a good seasonal spectacular, however, and you get plenty of special features for your money.

Five making-of features take us behind the scenes with the crew who worked their magic in pre and post production. Watching Carrey’s Grinchification at the hands of make-up wizard Rick Baker (last seen turning Tim Roth into an ape) is the highlight, although a visit to the gymnasium where the performers from Cirque du Soleil practise walking, cycling, falling and rolling like Whovillians is also fun. The Grinch is a kid’s movie though, and the DVD gives them their own suite of special features. Max’s Playhouse (named after The Grinch’s dog) is pure children’s TV fun, with interactive games, storybooks and sing-a-longs that will keep them amused, if not quiet, for hours. Although if quiet is your aim, there’s a selection of Whoville Christmas recipes for cakes and brownies that should do the trick.
Stuart Whitmore

Published November 29, 2001

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You can buy it HERE - next day delivery within Australia


CAST: Jim Carrey, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Molly Shannon, Taylor Momsen, Anthony Hopkins (Narrator)

DIRECTOR: Ron Howard

RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: November 21, 2001

Widescreen; Deleted scenes; Outtakes; Making of; 4 behind-the-scenes featurettes; Wholiday Recipes; Music video "Whare are you Christmas" by Faith Hill; "Max’s Playhouse" features for children; Theatrical trailer; DVD-ROM features; The Grinch computer game trailer; Production notes; Talent profiles. Languages: English 5.1, Hungarian 2.1. Subtitles: English, Greek, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Icelandic, Hindi, Hebrew, Dutch, Bulgarian, Turkish, Danish, Swedish, Arabic, Finnish, Norwegian.

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