THN Advent Calendar Day Nine: The Grinch

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The Grinch THN Advent Calendar Day Nine: The GrinchThere have been a few films recently that rely almost entirely on the performance of one performer. A single hander, to use theatrical parlance. Recently we had BURIED and 127 HOURS (both 2010). But did you know there is a Christmas movie relying 100% on a single performance? That movie is THE GRINCH (2000). Of course, it features a large supporting cast of fine comic actors, but let’s face it, this is a one man show.
Jim Carrey stars as the titular Grinch and is barely recognisable beneath the fantastic makeup/costume bestowed upon him, but the voice and movement reveal the Ventura within. He chews the scenery like a Christmas Roast Beast and it’s probably one of his funniest ever performances. Director Ron Howard gave him carte blanche, and he really does go overboard. But then, The Grinch is not an introspective character piece, possibly played by William H. Macy. You have to go for broke or go home, and Carrey nails it. Never before has there been such an example of a movie where you fast forward to the bits with one person in.
That’s not to say the citizens of Whoville are less worthy of your time, there are some lovely performances in there, most notably the great Jeffrey Tambor (HELLBOY, THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW) as the bullying Mayor Augustus May Who and Taylor Momsen as the insanely sweet Cindy Lou Who, the little girl who saw some good in the Grinch. Momsen grew up to star in GOSSIP GIRL and lead her band THE PRETTY RECKLESS, which is nice. Christine Baranski is likeable as Martha May Whovier, The Grinch’s lifelong crush and Clint Howard does what he does as Whobris, the Mayor’s bumbling aid. You may remember Howard from such movies as AUSTIN POWERS (1997) and APOLLO 13 (1995), but most of all, another Christmas classic called SANTA WITH MUSCLES (1996) alongside Hulk Hogan. Look through our Christmas Movie Advent Calendar for more on that festive gem.

The Grinch21 THN Advent Calendar Day Nine: The GrinchPlot-wise, we all know the score. The Grinch is a bad tempered misanthrope who lives in self-imposed exile from the town of Whoville. Because of his nasty nature, nobody there likes him very much and try to ignore him as they get ready for Christmas. But Cindy Lou Who believes there is some good in him, and convinces The Grinch to join them for the festivities. While he begins to enjoy himself, he is once again humiliated and regresses to his nasty ways. To teach them a lesson, he decides to steal all of their Christmas presents and ruin Christmas. But when his deeds are discovered, the townsfolk begin to sing, far from being upset, they focus on the true meaning of Christmas, love and friendship. This revelation causes The Grinch’s heart to swell to three times its original size, and he realises the error of his ways. He returns the presents, is forgiven, and everyone becomes bezzy mates.

Apart from Cindy Lou, who is ripped apart by wolves while the end credits role.
Just kidding! They were bears.
It’s a lovely film, cartoon-like in its imagery, sound, music and overall feel. This is hardly surprising as it was famously adapted by Chuck Jones originally, and is itself based on Dr. Seuss’s now legendary Christmas kid’s book. The thing is, Carrey’s performance overpowers every other aspect of the film. Howard’s kinetic direction, the fantastic set designs and the supporting performances are all over shadowed by the central performance. But you know what? That’s okay. I’m sure Helen Hunt didn’t mind that people only really wanted to see Tom Hanks when CAST AWAY came out the same year. If you look at THE GRINCH as a solo comedy vehicle for one of the most gifted physical comedians since Buster Keaton, then it’s splendid. Just wind on everything else and you’ll be through it within the hour. It’ll be an entertaining and swift experience. Also, skip the narration. Boy, that does nothing to help. Anthony Hopkins phones in the voiceover duties, never for a moment conveying any seasonal warmth. What we’d like to hear is the sound of some cozy, uncle-like figure, sat by a fireplace, telling a festive tale in a warm, inviting voice, stopping occasionally for a sip of hot cocoa. What we get sounds like Hopkins droning over loud-speaker as he chooses a club to slice out of the rough by the 7th hole. It’s apparent that ol’ Dr. Lecter couldn’t give a toss, but if you fast forward past that, then the movie is still a swift and entertaining experience.

The Grinch3 THN Advent Calendar Day Nine: The GrinchIn summary, you should watch THE GRINCH this Christmas, but be sure to do it on Blu-Ray/DVD or Sky+ it. Don’t worry, you’ll still feel all nice and Christmassy as you experience The Grinch’s journey from psychotic hermit to the head of the Christmas dinner table. Jim Carrey is brilliant and ludicrously funny as the eponymous sour-puss, and everything else about the film is just lovely. It’s overly sentimental at the end, but that’s to be expected. Like Ebenezer Scrooge and, er, Hancock, The Grinch is at his best when he’s a jerk and becomes less enjoyable when he gets all goody-two-shoes, so if you stop the movie just as he steals all their stuff, you get a more downbeat and certainly funnier ending. Try it, in fact stop it after he says ‘The avarice never ends! “I want golf clubs. I want diamonds. I want a pony so I can ride it twice, get bored and sell it to make glue.”’ OR watch the film backwards, skipping back scene by scene, MEMENTO style. You’ll see him get nastier and nastier. That may not be What Dr. Seuss intended, but he was a nutter, anyway. Have you ever read his stuff? Out of his tree, I’m not even sure he was a real doctor.