While director Ron Howard’s “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is by no means as wretched as “The Cat in the Hat,” it’s definitely a grim sign of things to come for the legacy of one of the greatest authors that ever lived. Typical of the Hollywood factory, the studios take a simple and meaningful story and bloat it to obscene proportions, turning it in to a ridiculous facsimile of the source material.
Truth be told, the cinematic “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is such a departure from the book, it’s not even Dr. Seuss. It’s just something that looks as if it were inspired by that classic book about the green grinch. The Grinch was symbolic of materialism of Christmas, who sought to take everything from the Whos at Whoville, convinced without their presents they were lost. Here he’s… Jim Carrey in a furry outfit! And he was bullied as a young Grinch boy. And he had a crush on a female Who, who lives in Whoville. And… he references Ron Howard in one scene. Suffice it to say, the symbolism is all but lost in the shuffle of gaudy sets, terrible special effects, and flat comedy. Jim Carrey plays Jim Carrey if he were a green monster called the Grinch, and the premise is somewhat in the vein of the classic book.
In this version, the Whos of Whoville are obsessed with Christmas and materialism of the holiday. Which means that the Grinch’s thesis about the holiday is correct. Which make the entire story null and void. But this allows us a chance at goofy antics and hideous storytelling where the most interesting elements of the story are side stepped in favor of the Whos. They’re vapid and competitive, so there’s no reason why we should even care about what happens to them. Meanwhile, Cindy Lou Who who we saw for a moment in the book, is the main character. She gets to meet the Grinch, plays a moral center to the character, and is the only Who that appreciates the deeper meaning of the holiday season. Grinch is given an excessive amount of focus, since he’s basically the main character of the story, once again proving how the studios missed the point of the book.
He has a tragic back story (since he can’t be too much of a bad guy), and he has a somewhat mean relationship with his dog (as opposed to the cruel dynamic from the book), and yes, Carrey is allowed to perform without brakes on. So as the Grinch, there’s mostly just improv and a goofy series of montages, but we never get a sense that the Grinch is anything other than a crabby monster in a mountain. That said, Rick Baker’s make up effects are amazing as always, with Carrey being able to present something of a semblance of the original Grinch, and allows the whos to retain something of the Dr. Seuss essence. But sadly, that’s only a small miniscule portion of the larger awful adaptation that is merely a string of jokes and poorly written sub-plots with none of the emotion of the book, or the morals of Christmas. And Dr. Seuss’ corpse kept on rollin in his grave.