Ron Howard's "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" Is the Best "Grinch" Film
2000's How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a live-action film adaption of Dr. Seuss' book of the same name and was the first full-length feature film adaption of a Dr. Seuss book. It was directed by Ron Howard of Andy Griffith and Happy Days fame and starred Jim Carrey as the Grinch.
People have torn this movie down for years, but I have always loved it. It's funny, heartwarming, visually pleasing (I love the whimsical Whoville), and it makes an effort to tell an actual story. For me, the movie really brought the Grinch to life, giving him motivations for stealing Christmas outside of "his heart and his shoes." Also, Carrey's performance was pretty amazing.
The article I linked above does make some valid observations, though. Yes, the original "Grinch" story -- of which I am quite familiar, being an avid Seuss fan -- was a brilliant fable about the evils of commercialism and the bleak capitalist pit we all currently reside in. Slave to money, then you die, etc. How ironic, then, that this message against materialism should be turned into a live-action film created solely from a place of greed.
I'm not sure what else people expect from Hollywood at this point, to be honest. It should be common knowledge by now that Hollywood is run by Satanists, pedophiles, rapists, and Leprechauns. I mean, come on. They actually enjoy taking wholesome, good things with uplifting messages like Dr. Seuss' work and then unapologetically trashing them. It's literally what the Devil enjoys doing: corrupting the innocent.
At the same time, however, I think we can take a positive message away from this film and enjoy it for what it is, minus the hypocrisy of Hollywood's fat cats. Or at least I can. I love this film, and everyone else be damned.
With a new "Grinch" movie out this year, I feel it's time to remind people of just how awesome Ron Howard's near-twenty-year-old classic really is.
After a short little poem from Anthony Hopkins, whose soothing voice narrates the film with lines from the original book, the film begins with Drew Lou (Jeremy Howard) and Stu Lou (T.J. Thyne -- yeah, that guy from Bones), Cindy Lou's brothers, heading up the mountain to harass the Grinch. They are doing this to impress some girls they like -- naturally.
The Grinch doesn't take kindly to trespassers and Cindy's brothers are sent running home screaming.
Sufficiently annoyed, the Grinch then decides to head down to Whoville and play some corny pranks on people. He manages to beat Cindy's brothers back to town by riding down the sewage pipe and is present when Cindy's brothers arrive shouting about the Grinch.
The scene that follows introduces Mayor Maywho (Jeffrey Tambor), who Cindy's father Lou Lou Who (Bill Irwin) seems intimidated by and terrified of. Cindy's father hushes her brothers and grovels before the mayor, then the town goes back to its frantic materialism as they all rush to buy things that Santa is supposed to be bringing anyway.
Of course, Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen) is a curious and intelligent child, so she doesn't buy into the materialism and calls it "superfluous." She also can't stop thinking about the Grinch now that her brothers have put the thought in her mind. She interrogates her father, who struggles to explain what the Grinch is but can't seem to do it.
One thing I like about the movie is that it expands the universe. It gives the Grinch some type of origin, however vague. Cindy's father calls the Grinch a What, insinuating that he either a) just doesn't know what the Grinch is or b) a What is an actual species much like a Who.
I know the answer is probably the former but I like to imagine it's actually the latter.
Cindy meets the Grinch when she stumbles across him screwing up the mail at the post office where her father works (and because this is a federal offense, the Grinch was actually a criminal way before he stole Christmas).
Cindy is so terrified that she falls backwards into the sorting machine. She could die, but the Grinch decides to save his own ass by getting out of there. He is stopped by his dog, Max, who grabs him by the butt and won't let go until he saves Cindy Lou.
Once saved, Cindy Lou is admonished by the Grinch, who quickly leaves her to be found by her father -- who thinks that her being covered in wrapping paper is evidence that she's been practicing her gift wrapping.
Back at home, Cindy continues her sad ponderings about Christmas and the Grinch.
The film has a very beautiful song Where Are You Christmas that I have always loved. Despite the fact that the film was made "purely from a place of greed," it still takes the time to (albeit half-assedly) criticize commercialism and greed through the character of Cindy.
What's great about Cindy Lou Who is that she has an entire story arc of her own. She doesn't just exist to further the Grinch's story -- she is a character in her own right. In other words, she is a Strong Female Character.
Once again, there's nothing wrong with female characters being plot devices. The fact that this is so prevalent in fiction is what makes it sexist. As if women aren't worth writing as fully three dimensional beings.
Cindy Lou feels that Christmas is all about materialism, and the fact depresses her. She tries to reach out to her parents, but they've already been brainwashed by their materialistic society and simply don't listen to her as they rant about petty things like Christmas light decorations and presents.
In helping the Grinch reconnect with the Whos and find happiness, Cindy is seeking to help herself reconnect with the Christmas spirit -- the true Christmas spirit of gratitude and love.
Again, I always thought it was wonderful that she had her own little arc. Also, her hair was really cool.
A determined Cindy Lou decides to track down the women who raised the Grinch when he used to live in Whoville: Clarnella Who (Mindy Sterling) and Rose Who (Rachel Winfree).
Cue adult jokes about swingers and the poor Grinch baby -- having drifted down from the sky in a pumbersella -- being left outside all night while everyone gets drunk. (Geez. No wonder he hated Christmas.)
We are then treated to a scene with a very adorable baby Grinch biting the head off a Santa cookie plate.
According to a series of flashbacks, the Child Grinch (Josh Ryan Evans) already had an unapologetic disgust for Christmas long before he became an outcast. We see him scrawling colorful depictions of Santa's sleigh going down in flames, then rolling his eyes about having to give someone a Christmas gift at school, and his disgust for the holiday is unquestionable.
His adoptive mothers credit him with being a good child, even though the very next sequence hilariously shows him breaking many precious heirlooms to build a present for his crush, Martha May Whovier (Christine Baranski as an adult, Landra Allbright as a child).
It is pretty clear by the flashbacks -- and by Martha's own blurting it out -- that Martha May had a huge crush on the Grinch. As a child, she comments flirtatiously about his green fur, inspiring jealousy in Augustus Maywho, who then mocks the Grinch for being hairy.
If you pay attention to Martha May Whovier's behavior in the film, it's kinda obvious why she and the Grinch are drawn to each other: Martha is an asshole. She is an asshole with a secret heart of gold, whereas Mayor Maywho is just an asshole.
We see her unapologetically showing off her Christmas lights and other doohickeys to Cindy Lou's mother, Betty Lou Who (Molly Shannon) in a very in-your-face way. Later in the film, we see the Grinch do the exact same thing when he behaves like a sore winner, shoving actual children out of his way during a potato sack race and laughing in the mayor's face toward the end of the film when Martha May chooses him over Maywho.
The Grinch and Martha both share this sort of childlike, gleeful mockery of people they consider to be losers, and it's this common nee-ner, nee-ner trait that draws them to each other. At the same time, however, they are good people deep down: at the end of the film, the Grinch gives back everything he stole, while Martha May makes an attempt to be nice to Betty Lou after years of childishly competing with her.
Child Augustus Maywho leads the other children into laughing at the Grinch, who takes the mockery to heart. And why wouldn't he? He's an outcast. He's green, yellow-eyed, covered in hair, and is surrounded by people who aren't. Why wouldn't he, a child, feel weird or ashamed or alone? Every child wants to fit in, and that's what the whole "Christmas shave" thing was about.
The Grinch tried to shave himself so that he could look nice for Christmas and butchered his own face. When the children at school laughed at him, he flipped out, throwing the Christmas tree and tearing the school apart.
Sure, it seems silly that this would be the reason for the Grinch to hate Christmas and run away from home, but this is a kid's film. A lot of children can relate to a story about being mocked at school. It's the reason why Rankin and Bass' Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer remains so popular after all these years, despite all the insufferable characters in the film.
I think we also have to keep in mind that the Grinch lived with the Whos for at least eight years. That's eight years of being treated like a weird outcast every single day. The Christmas shave incident was probably the last damn straw.
And given how creative and inventive he was, the Grinch was likely a grumpy asshole because he was so sensitive and had to put up with Who discrimination everyday. Sensitive people always flip the **** out like this. It makes perfect sense to me.
So after we learn about the Grinch's backstory and why he's such a grumpy jerk, the movie takes us back to the present-day Grinch, who -- after about twenty years during which he could have gone on a spiritual journey to deal with his demons -- is still standing outside his cave, hating the Whos.
It's endlessly hilarious to me that the Grinch is reading their names from a phone book and hating every single one of them "alphabetically."
In case it didn't hit home before, the following scene underscores what a complete bastard Mayor Maywho is. When Cindy bravely nominates the Grinch to be Holiday Cheermeister, the mayor tries to use the Book of Who to lie and say the Grinch can't be nominated.
It immediately becomes apparent that Mayor Maywho not only wants to keep the Grinch away, he also wants to be Holiday Cheermeister himself, and has been stealing the position every single year out of pure narcissism.
It goes to show what a hypocrite the mayor is. Holiday Cheermeister was a special reward meant for the person who needed it the most during Christmas -- maybe a homeless person or a poor person, one of the flask-drinking bums we see throughout the film. Instead, the mayor has been selfishly stealing the reward every Christmas.
It's clear that Mayor Maywho doesn't care about the Book of Who. It's simply a tool he uses to abuse his power and get his way, making up lies and adding and removing laws as he pleases.
Cindy insists on nominating the Grinch, and her parents look very proud of their daughter's kindness and bravery. Cindy Lou -- a little girl -- is the only one in town brave enough to stand up to the mayor and suggest that maybe someone else should be Holiday Cheermeister for once.
Yes, Cindy was a remarkable secondary protagonist. It never ceases to amaze me that little girls can be written well in fiction as Strong Female Characters, but never grown women.
While the Grinch is trying to drown out the sound of celebrating Whos down in Whoville, Cindy arrives to invite him to the Whobilation. He immediately attempts to scare her, blubbering on and on with "How DARE you enter the Grinch's lair!!!" in a hilarious rant that only makes Cindy giggle.
The jig is up. Cindy isn't afraid anymore because she already knows the Grinch is not a scary mythical being -- he's a person. He's a person who can hurt and cry, he's very alone, and she wants to help him.
The Grinch eventually realizes he can't frighten Cindy off and rudely asks her what she wants, while stomping naked through his cave and eating random garbage. Cindy invites him to the Whobilation, and after fretting over what he'll wear for about an hour, he agrees to come.
The Whobilation goes relatively well, until Mayor Maywho decides to be an ass and gives the Grinch a razor for Christmas. He does this with the intention of triggering rage in him, as if he were silently saying, "You don't belong here. Just go back to your cave."
For the Grinch, this is a reminder that he'll never be a normal, hairless Who and that he'll never really be welcome, and that the Whos are only being nice because it's Christmas. In essence, the Grinch is all alone.
To make matters worse, Mayor Maywho makes the ultimate dick move when he proposes to Martha May Whovier in front of the Grinch.
It's apparent to me that Martha is only single because every guy who showed an interest in her was probably run off by the mayor -- those guys brave enough to dare the mayor's anger by approaching her, that is.
Martha doesn't seem to have an interest in Mayor Maywho whatsoever, and yet he doesn't take "no" for an answer. He has to coerce her into a marriage with a shiny new car, a huge engagement ring, and promises of riches. It's all very rapey, to be honest. If you have to coerce someone into marrying you, they ain't into you, bruh.
As a flustered and clearly miserable Martha stammers out a response to all the desperate pleas of a man who can't just accept that she doesn't owe him shit, the Grinch interrupts with a grouchy anti-capitalist rant that is supposed to embody the true message of the original book and cartoon,
That's what it's all about, isn't it? That's what it's always been about. Gifts, gifts... gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts. You wanna know what happens to your gifts? They all come to me. In your garbage. You see what I'm saying? In your garbage. I could hang myself with all the bad Christmas neckties I found at the dump. And the avarice... 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!"
He then finishes up his fantastic rant by waving a sprig of mistletoe over his butt and telling Whoville to kiss his green ass in a very Ace Ventura-esque manner.
After his rant, the Grinch goes on to destroy Whobilation, tearing down the Christmas tree and sending Whos running in terror while he makes corny jokes.
Mayor Maywho yells at Cindy for inviting the Grinch and makes a small child feel bad.
Meanwhile, back on the top of Mount Crumpit, the Grinch decides to steal Christmas and to hell with the Whos.
Jim Carrey -- Mr. Grinch Song
Jim Carrey then sings his own brilliant rendition of the Grinch song. I was surprised when I learned that was him singing because some parts didn't sound like him at all!
I just loved it. And I love the original version too.
I've only ever known one person who ever hated the Grinch song (a crazy teacher I had in high school). If you hate the Grinch song -- any version of it -- I just assume something is the matter with you.
So the Grinch goes on to steal Christmas, and there's a hilarious moment where he interacts with Anthony Hopkins, asking him to narrate more quietly please.
Eventually, we get to the movie's rendition of the scene from the book where Cindy Lou Who catches the Grinch stealing her family's Christmas tree. It's hilarious when Cindy insults the Grinch, calling him "mean and smelly and hairy" and he slouches sadly behind the tree. But then she asks "Santa" not to forget him and he puckers up.
This isn't enough, however, to stop him stealing Christmas. He tells Cindy a lie, pats on her the head, and sends her to bed -- then immediately goes back to stealing her last can of Who Hash.
The next morning, the Whos awake to find all their Christmas presents (and food and decorations) are gone. Mayor Maywho throws a tantrum and yells at Cindy, blaming a little girl in front of the entire town and turning everyone's anger toward her.
Cindy's father finally gets a spine and stands up to the mayor, telling him that Cindy is right and to back the hell off his daughter. It's a wonderful moment.
Lou then reminds everyone what Cindy's been trying to say from the start: that Christmas doesn't come from a store. It's gratitude and love and choosing joy and happiness.
The Whos then gather 'round and start singing in gratitude, and up on Mount Crumpit, the Grinch hears them singing and has an epiphany: love and joy is real and he can have them. If he chooses.
This is probably one of my favorite parts of the film. It has so many hilarious lines, like this gem,
"The presents! They'll be destroyed! And I care! What is the deal???"
The Grinch then decides to return everything he stole but isn't strong enough to stop the sleigh from sliding down the hill.
It isn't until he notices Cindy has climbed up on the presents (wishing to be with him for Christmas) that he musters the strength to lift the sleigh and subsequently saves her life.
The two of them ride back down the mountain to Whoville, where the Grinch is forgiven for stealing everything and Martha May Whovier finally declares her feelings for the him.
The Grinch made the choice to let go of his bitterness and anger, to finally love himself and embrace love, and the second he did that, everything fell into place for him. This is more than mere fiction: it is a lesson we should be applying to our everyday lives.
Regardless of the reasons this movie was made, regardless of the "poor" special effects or the "bad" makeup, the film has a pretty good overall message that doesn't diminish the original moral of the original book.
At least it doesn't to me.
© 2018 Ash Gray