Thursday, December 2, 2010

Another Nail In The Coffin Of My Dislike For Jim Carrey: How The Grinch Stole Christmas

The Good: Sigh, I suppose the Dr. Seuss lines thrown in, that's a stretch. Christine Baranski.
The Bad: Visually cluttered, Unsure of audience, Utterly unfunny, Make-up isn't terribly good.
The Basics: An atrocious reworking of a holiday classic attempts to make more out of the story than there is and fails. Completely. I wouldn't torture my worst enemy with this!

When I first encountered the new medium, DVD, I applauded the merits of the DVD and how I could watch deleted scenes and lament that they were not in the film. I watched the deleted scenes on the DVD of Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas and I was not impressed; they deserved to be deleted. Of course, my one complaint about the deleted scenes were there weren't nearly enough. Given the quality of this film, it should have mostly been presented as deleted clips. The film was quite bad.

Allow me to begin with the single redeeming factor of the film: Christine Baranski is in it. Yup, her presence alone is like a game card that prevents a film from being an utter, complete waste of time. Do you ever shiver when you see talent wasted? I do. In fact, I'm likely to cry when I see someone of incredible talent wasting it. In this case, Baranski is never given the limelight long enough to shine, which she could have done.

It's not Baranski's fault she doesn't get the opportunity, it's the script's. And herein lies the fundamental problem with this film; the script. When one attempts to take a poem that takes five minutes to read and stretch it into a film that must be at least ninety minutes long, one is flirting with disaster. In this case, the effort fails. And it falls hard. This is a spine-breakingly agonizing film to watch.

The script isn't there. That means the story isn't there. The story is the title. This is how the grinch stole Christmas. It's a story that doesn't take long to tell. So, what this film attempts to do is expand that. It builds more of a backstory to the Grinch and has the full day before Christmas for the Whoville celebration and Cindy Lou Who's full quest to understand the Grinch. There are enough inane sub plots, like the Mayor and Martha May Whovier's stories and minor adventures, thrown in to kill time.

Not a single character is interesting. The Grinch isn't interesting and a huge fault of that is in Jim Carrey. Okay, that's not entirely fair. Ron Howard directed this claptrap, so I'll blame him; Jim Carrey is simply himself. He has potential to be funny. On In Living Color, he was funny. Since then, he's been Jim Carrey. Most roles he's hired for he's not being hired for his acting, he's hired for himself. That is, when you hire Jim Carrey, you're not hiring Jim Carrey to play the Grinch, you're hiring Jim Carrey to be Jim Carrey as the Grinch. This involves a lot of flailing and trademark facial expressions, ticks and whatnot that are his standards.

The problem is Ron Howard supports Carrey here and the camera style is nauseating. I mean there are incomprehensible images of things moving quickly that dominate much of the film and a ton of the wipes from one scene to another. It makes the film confused.

And it's a confused enough film. The film doesn't know what audience it wants. There are a lot of jokes that will go completely over the head of children and even those aren't terribly funny to adults. It's not a funny film at all. I didn't laugh a single time. And this troubled me, because I sat down desperate to believe no Christmas film could be as bad as National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Well, Chevy Chase, if you're reading this, congrats! It's now a tie for last place.

So the acting stinks, there's no character development, the plot is stretched so far it's like an overextended piece of Swiss cheese, it fails to make a statement of any sort to people of any age (other than "please laugh because flatulence is funny!" Which is such an old thing that, well, unless you're 12 - in which case half the jokes in the film shall go over your head -, you'll not find it funny.), it has horrible visual effects in simple aspects of directing and it's utterly unfunny. Well, the only component I don't believe I have covered is the design.

Tim Burton is a master. He does big extraordinarily. He does weird expertly. Put Tim Burton and Danny Elfman in a room and have them build a weird, creepy, nightmare and they'll do it. Have them create something of pure wonder and they'll come through. The problem is, Tim Burton didn't create Whoville and Danny Elfman had nothing to do with this project. Nothing works visually. The mountain the Grinch lives in doesn't have character. It looks like someone said, "this is what it looked like in the storybook, make a three dimensional version of it." That doesn't work! It doesn't work to reconceive something and then keep the classic aspects of another. To that end, the interior of the Grinch's lair is simply cluttered. A master at visual effects will make everything have a purpose, Ron Howard's vision was "make everything look like something that can be looked at." It feels like we're looking at a movie set.

I'll close my panning this simply awful film by saying this; critics of this film have been attacked for not having Christmas spirit or such. It's ironic that I argue this position, but I think most of the people panning this film have a lot of Christmas spirit. It's sad when something you want to enhance your holiday detracts so much from it by the lack of quality within it. This film is exactly like that. I watched it with someone who watched the original cartoon when it aired the first time and who would consider that one of the best films of all time (sadly enough, from my perspective) and she loves the book and that original. She was so psyched to see this. She was so vastly disappointed that today when I got DVDs out of the library, she said simply, "I can't believe I sat through that entire film yesterday; it was so horrible." There was a tear in her eye. So, before accusing me of having a heart two sizes too small, let me suggest that the best gift to give a critic is a taste that is equally discriminating all year round. One who has that cannot possibly recommend a film based on easy dazzling effect. And the truth is, seeing this film objectively, they couldn't even possibly be dazzled.

For other Christmas movies, please check out my reviews of:
The Muppet Christmas Carol
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Batman Returns


For other film reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010, 2001 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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  1. This is one of my favorite Christmas movies (the best being "It's A Wonderful Life") and I've been watching it every year for over 10 years. You are one of my favorite critics and I agree with most of your reviews, but you tend to give away a little too much of the plot, so I usually skip to the rating (if I haven't seen the movie) and anything over 6 is a must see. I notice however that we have differing tastes when it comes to comedies, as well as movies that require a little more emotional vulnerability and openness on the viewers' part. Some movies I find I need to just "get lost in the plot" and enjoy it at a less objective and analytical level so as to appreciate its flow, without comparing them to other movies.

    I love Bugs Bunny type humor and I'm a big fan of Jim Carrey (although he has slipped a bit from "Fun with Dick and Jane" onwards). I thought he had one of his best performances in the Grinch and the movie itself was light-hearted, simple, touching and well executed. I still crack up when he's riding the jackhammer or ripping his shirt WWE-style screaming "Run for your lives...". Something about the timing of these skits gets me everytime. I have a feeling your annoyance of Jim Carrey's antics prevented you from seeing the true magic of this film...

    9/10 in my book.

    1. I have a pretty objective set of standards and comedies are a tougher sell for me. That said, I recently rewatched this movie and I stand by my rating; it did not age as well as some of the other Dr. Seuss films.

      Thanks for reading and thanks for the comment!