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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.

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 with all 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 above all, 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 he does not account for: the sweet little Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen).

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

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 in the classic cartoon, but Jim Carrey very much made this role his own, and he did so like few others could. He brought all of his energy and comedic flair, and he also played the role with a surprising amount of emotional depth. On the surface, he hated Christmas, but deep down the character was lonely and he 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 as entertaining as it was compelling.

Jim Carrey made this role fun, while also giving the role a lot of heart. He was also able to do all of that under an insane amount of makeup, which understandably could have hindered the actor’s ability to portray the character’s emotion. The Grinch was the titular character, so 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. The character was written well, but few could have brought this character to the screen as effectively as Jim Carrey 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 bought it even less as an adult. The issue 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 did 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.

Taylor Momsen is now the talented lead singer of a successful rock band called The Pretty Reckless—a band I very much enjoy—but when she was just a kid, she played 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 heart of this story. 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—wow, writing that last part just made me feel old.

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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 thought the story worked just fine if this backstory was taken out, and I actually thought the story would have worked better if the Grinch was just a mysterious outsider who 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 thought 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 they 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, and all of the Grinch’s interactions with his dog. There was 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 had plenty of heart as well.

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, they 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 was pleasantly surprised to see the filmmakers gave this story as much heart as they did.

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Con: Predictable (-4pts)

I liked this story. It was entertaining, and it had heart, but it was also really predictable. You will know—pretty much as soon as this movie starts—how the rest of the movie will go. The Grinch hated Christmas, he hated Whoville, he hated all the Whos who lived there, and the Whos had always treated him as an outcast, but then Cindy Lou Who came along. You will most likely know how this story goes without even having to see it. It was not a bad story, but it was just one that was really 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, as he brought an energy to the role that few could match, while simultaneously giving the character a surprising amount of depth. Then there was the young Taylor Momsen in the role of Cindy Lou Who, who effectively carried the weight of being the emotional heart of this story. It was a movie that was full of fun, and it was a movie that had a lot of heart, but it was not without its flaws.

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

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