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Movie Review: "How the Grinch Stole Christmas"

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Theatrical Release: 11/17/2000

Theatrical Release: 11/17/2000

Synopsis

Christmas is the biggest night of the year in Whoville. The Whos fill Whoville with lights, and Christmas joys. Then Santa brings gifts for all the Who girls and Who boys. On Christmas night, all the Whos in Whoville gather around their grand Christmas tree, which is where they join hands to sing about their Christmas glee.

However, there is one who does not share the Christmas spirit of the Whos. The Grinch (Jim Carrey) lives alone in a mountain outside of Whoville. He hates everything about Christmas. He hates the songs, the lights, the presents, and he even hates the joy. Yet every year he is forced to endure the Christmas excitement from his annoying neighbors in Whoville. This year will be different, however. This year, the Grinch hatches a plan to ruin the holiday for the Whos, but there is one little Who that he does not account for: the sweet little Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen).

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

The ProsThe Cons

Jim Carrey & The Grinch (+8pts)

Martha May (-3pts)

Cindy Lou Who (+5pts)

The Grinch’s Backstory (-3pts)

Comedy & Drama (+5pts)

Predictable (-4pts)

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Pro: Jim Carrey & The Grinch (+8pts)

The Grinch was never silly or over-the-top, but Jim Carrey very much made this role his own, and he did so like few others could. He brought all of his energy, but simultaneously played the role with a lot of emotional complexity. On the surface, he hated Christmas. However, deep down the character was lonely and felt excluded. As the story progressed, that was brought more and more to the surface, and Jim Carrey brought that to the screen in a way that was equally entertaining and compelling.

Jim Carrey made this role fun, while also giving the role a lot of heart and dramatic depth. He was also able to do all of that under an insane amount of makeup, which understandably could have hindered the actor in this role. The Grinch was the titular character, so—if this movie was to work at all—this character needed to work. Thankfully, Jim Carrey crushed this role by making it his own while very much maintaining the essence of the character. This character worked so well in this movie and Jim Carrey deserves a ton of credit. The character was written well, but few could have brought this character to the screen as effectively as he did.

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Con: Martha May (-3pts)

This was an aspect of this story that I just could not buy. I did not buy it when I was a kid, and I buy it even less as an adult. The issue that I am referring to was Martha May’s ridiculous view of the Grinch. Having her be sympathetic toward the Grinch would have been fine. The story set that up in a way that would have made complete sense. However, the magnitude of her feelings toward the Grinch were just too much, and I did not buy it.

Fortunately, Christine Baranski played it in a way that made it work comedically, but from a plot perspective, it made absolutely no sense. That all being said, this was supposed to be a silly, light-hearted kids movie, so it was fine for a character like this to be over-the-top and ridiculous. It does not end up hurting the movie too much. It was supposed to be a silly movie, and while the character made no sense, she was certainly silly.

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Pro: Cindy Lou Who (+5pts)

As you would expect, Cindy Lou Who played a big part in the Grinch’s story. While the Grinch was in denial of his emotions and displayed only hate and anger, Cindy Lou Who saw right through him. She was the emotional core of this movie, and the role needed a young actress that could pull it off effectively. Taylor Momsen did just that.

She is now the talented lead singer of a rock band called The Pretty Reckless— you should check them out if you have not heard them — but when she was just a kid, she showcased her talent as an actress by playing Cindy Lou Who in this movie. I am not saying that this was the most demanding role a young actress could take, nor am I saying that this was anywhere near the most impressive performance that you have seen from a child actor. What I am saying is that Taylor Momsen did well with what she was given. She played the innocent and naive nature of the character, her chemistry with Jim Carrey was strong, and she carried the weight of being the emotional center of this story well. I am a big fan of what Taylor Momsen does now, and I thought she did a pretty good job playing Cindy Lou Who twenty years ago as well.

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Con: The Grinch’s Backstory (-3pts)

Seeing the Grinch integrated in Whoville as a kid was not something that I thought was necessary for the character. I think the story would have worked just as well if this backstory was taken out entirely, and I actually think the story would have worked better if he was just a mysterious outsider that had a strong hatred for everything that the Whos stood for. There were some funny moments in this backstory, so I am a little forgiving of it, but I still think the character would have been better off by not explaining where he came from in so much detail. Seeing him being bullied, seeing him working on a project for school, and seeing him as a baby were all things that were done to make the character more relatable, but I do not think they were necessary and instead think that showing them ruined some of my interest in the character.

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Pro: Comedy & Drama (+5pts)

This was a fun movie that was filled with plenty of great comedic moments. There was the Grinch frantically yelling at Cindy Lou Who, the echo scene, as well as all of the Grinch’s interactions with his dog. There were also the general silliness of Whos, and the fun sleigh building montage that came with the “You’re a Mean One...” song. There were all of these fun moments, and so much more, but the movie also had a lot more heart than I expected it to.

The story of the Grinch was a relatively short one before this movie. The filmmakers added to it by exploring what kind of person— or Who, or Grinch —could live by themselves on a mountain, hating everything about a holiday that is supposed to be about joy and unity. Such a character would be an outcast, and would be lonely, and this movie explored what would drive such a character to turn out this way. It was an entertaining enough story, but I credit the filmmakers for giving it a lot of heart as well.

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Con: Predictable (-4pts)

I liked this story. It was entertaining, and it had heart, but it was also predictable. You will know—pretty much as soon as this movie starts—how the rest of the movie will go. The Grinch hates Christmas, he hates Whoville, he hates all the Whos who live there, and the Whos have always treated him as an outcast, but then Cindy Lou Who comes along. You will most likely know this story without even seeing it, and it pretty much goes exactly the way you would expect it to. It is not a bad story, but it is one that is just incredibly predictable.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: B- (83pts)

How the Grinch Stole Christmas was a live-action version of the classic Dr. Seuss story. Jim Carrey was brilliant in the role of the Grinch, and brought an energy to the role that few could match, while simultaneously giving the character a surprising emotional depth. Then there was the young Taylor Momsen in the role of Cindy Lou Who, who carried the weight of being the emotional center of this story well. The movie was full of fun, and it was a story that had a lot of heart, but it was not without its flaws.

First, there was the incredibly ridiculous Martha May storyline. Then there was the unnecessary backstory to the Grinch, which ruined some of what made the character interesting. Then there was the fact that the story was incredibly predictable. Nonetheless, I think that this movie’s strengths outweighed its weaknesses. There was plenty of room for improvement, but it was a decent retelling of a classic story.