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TOP 100 MOVIES in 2008!
HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS
Starring Jim Carrey, Taylor Momsen, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Bill Irwin and Molly Shannon
Based on the book by the famous Dr. Seuss. Inside a snowflake exists the magical land of Whoville. In Whoville, live the Who's, an almost mutated sort of munchkinlike people. All the Who's love Christmas, yet just outside of their beloved Whoville lives the Grinch. The Grinch is a nasty creature that hates Christmas, and plots to steal it away from the Whos which he equally abhors. Yet a small child, Cindy Lou Who, decides to try befriend the Grinch.
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While many critics pan this holiday live action adaptation of the classic cartoon, I love it. I think Jim Carrey knocks it out of the park as the Grinch and there are great performances by the supporting cast and a film production value that makes it all worth watching.
The Story: Now, I can admit, this isnít the best story adaptation Iíve ever seen. They had to transform a 60 minute cartoon into a two hour movie. Easier said than done. For what itís worth, they had to cut out a significant amount of the narrator, add dialogue to the Grinch and expand the story. Thatís quite a task. But they pull it off by adding more to the supporting castís history as well as the Grinchís. Now, it may not be the most interesting of backstories, but itís one that many little kids can relate to. Picked on by class peers, unable to blend in and impress the girl heís crushing on. The truth is, itís not particularly compelling, but on the other hand you wonít be bored to tears either. Most of all, kids will be able to connect with it and thatís really where the story lies.
Acting: Itís Jim Carreyís show from the word go, but that doesnít stop the supporting cast from stepping up their game. Even Molly Shannon, whom I donít particularly find all that interesting or funny does a great job. All of the actors are able to bring their game to a certain level of grandeur and campyness without being super annoying. Hell, theyíre not annoying at all. Jeffrey Tambor does a great job as the antagonistic mayor of Whoville and Taylor Momsen is just downright adorable. For a child actor, sheís pretty overlooked in this film.
Directing: Itís Ron Howard. He does know how to tell a great beginning and a great end. Itís usually in the middle where I hit a little lull in his films, but he manages to make it worth it every time. The most praise should go towards his technical decisions on using costumes, makeup, production design all over CGI. It pays off because the film becomes that much more authentic in the end.
Cinematography: Shot on 35mm and lit accordingly Ė the colored gels arenít too much to turn you off from watching. They actually work FOR the production. Usually reds and greens and blues are so out of place, even in kids films. Done for the sake of doing it. Here Ė the gels are just great and they help set the tone and mood of the film throughout. It really is a lesson on when to use colors and when not. The shot design is also pretty well done. Everything is subtle enough that you can enjoy the mystique their creating but also obvious enough that kids will understand it too.
Production Design: Itís shiny and brand new and all that other stuff Ė much like many of the films Iíve seen. Itís polished and primped Ė yet, with the grain of the film and the dirt of a realistic fantasy world that has been created it blends in beautifully. The make up design on the Whoís is also top of the line. Yes, itís very stylistic, but it matches the book nicely and doesnít look too fake on screen.
Editing: It comes in at around 104 minutes and even thatís kind of long. I felt like a lot of the flashback stuff draws out in the middle. The start and ends are pretty tight but once again, the middle has some lulls. But it works because chances are youíre watching this movie at night or cuddling up with someone and itís that kind of ďlullĒ where you can watch and still be entertained.
Score: Great stuff here. The actual score and the soundtrack. Faith Hillís ďWhere are you ChristmasĒ has become a Christmas classic already. James Horner does a great job of making a Christmas score that makes you all warm and fuzzy on the inside. It could be a Christmas CD all in itself. The choir songs are even spot on for the film.
Special Effects: Already talked about the make up design so I guess it really comes down the color correction and obvious bane of my existence CGI. Theyíre both extremely limited in how much they draw attention to themselves. Howard knows to keep the focus on the story and the characters, not as much the world around them. And it helps keep things fresh and my feet grounded.
In closing: While this isnít a great Christmas Classic in many peopleís eyes, it is in mine. I find some joy even in the boring parts of the film. Jim Carrey does one of the greatest jobs Iíve ever seen bringing a cartoon character to life and injecting a persona into him that makes him original and enjoyable. Granted, itís just Carrey doing his thing Ė but itís still fun to watch if youíre into his brand of comedy. Aside from that, the film is a technical masterpiece and it has a nice bit of heart in it with itís story, characters and score. You may not love it, but Iím sure your kids will.