Saturday, December 1, 2012

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

This is the second time I've seen How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the first being in the theater when it was originally released. That was quite a while ago, but the experience stuck with me: I remember thinking it was a poorly conceived, ill-advised attempt to adapt a near-perfect classic into a full-length movie which resulted in a mess that insulted Dr. Seuss, the viewing public, and common taste.

But it turns out my memory was faulty. When I actually sat down to rewatch this, I discovered it was far, far worse than I was remembering. Calling this a poorly conceived mess is a compliment. This isn't some innocent insult; it twisted Seuss's brilliant designs into grotesque horrors. It doesn't merely mangle his lines: it actually goes out of its way to mock them, without so much as a hint of humor or shame.

For those of you who have never had the opportunity to watch The Grinch or slowly have your hand run through a meat-grinder, allow me to to attempt to discuss a little of the experience you're missing out on. If you ever read the story or saw the original animated special and thought to yourself, "Hey, that was good, but an expanded back story, love interest, and antagonist would make it GREAT," then you most likely produced this movie and don't need me to summarize it for you*. Because no one else - NO ONE - could possibly think any of that would add a damn thing to How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Likewise, expanding the relationship between Cindy Lou Who and The Grinch doesn't help matters.

If these things had been stellar, they could conceivably have felt unnecessary but innocuous. As the writing and direction was utter crap, they instead dragged the brilliant story through the mud. Throughout the movie, they actually drained meaning from the remaining bits.

Then we reached the end, which was heavily reworked to drive home the filmmakers' critique of consumerism, which replaced the far more intelligent and interesting reflections on consumerism at the core of the story they failed to understand.

Also, let me just add that millionaires making Christmas movies criticizing consumerism is seriously pissing me off. That's not subversive; it's sickeningly hypocritical. Hey, Ron Howard: your entire fucking life has consumed vast resources from the moment you were born. I don't begrudge you for taking advantage of your opportunities, but the next time you feel like shitting on the rest of civilization for wanting to put up some lights, maybe you should shut the fuck up instead.

Where were we? How about the Grinch's motivation? Apparently, the filmmakers thought it would be easier to relate to the character if he was reacting against a cruel world that failed to understand him. Needless to say this does not work as well as intended.

But maybe I'm being too hard on The Grinch. After all, this production was clearly more focused on style than substance (nothing intrinsically wrong with that). So, let's put aside the hack job done on the plot, theme, characters, dialogue, and every other element that is meant to appeal with people with long term memory and instead focus on design and visual effect. How are those?

Well, those are just as shitty as the rest of the movie. It's clear that the movie wanted to recreate Seuss's art in the real world, and it's clear that someone really, truly believed they were capable of doing so. But it's also clear they were dead wrong, as every second of this movie is disturbing to look at. If it's any consolation, the music is horribly executed, too, so at least the movie's consistent. Sure, there are occasionally bits of songs from the original special, but the film pretty uniformly finds ways to screw them up or make jokes at their expense.

In summation, this is one of the worst movies Lindsay and I have seen in three years of this blog. Sure, there's a sizable (and growing) list of competitors running neck and neck with this thing, but it's still towards the top. The one joy I got from this was looking over at Lindsay while it was playing and seeing her expression - a sort of mix of horror, disgust, and outright disbelief - and remembering when I saw this for the first time twelve years ago with the exact same look on my face.

Ah, the nostalgia.


*If you are an executive who green-lit this with any notion of what the finished product would look like, (also, Ron Howard and Jim Carrey should pay attention: this applies to you guys, as well) it is my genuine pleasure to inform you that there exists a very special place in Hell reserved for artless hacks who shit all over the works of Dr. Seuss. You'll never guess what they play there on an endless loop.

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