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Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Theodore Geisel, aka, Dr. Seuss had two extremely different experiences with adaptations of his novels. He hated the 1950s adaptation of The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T, but loved Chuck Jones' 1966 version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. With good reason too, since this classic animated version is the perfect translation of Seuss' work from the book to the screen. Seuss believed that there could be no further improvement, and in light of the new live-action movie, he was right. The new version came about after nearly a decade of negotiating with Audrey Geisel, Seuss' wife. In the end, Ron Howard was to direct and Jim Carrey was to star, with Geisel having the ability to approve the script.

The results are mixed. The look is wonderful, but the story is middling. The main issue is Carrey (Me, Myself, and Irene, Man on the Moon). He has a great talent for physical comedy, but this is not a vehicle for that kind of comedy. His take on the Grinch makes him a manic, joke spewing personality, which quickly becomes tiring. For the most part, the story is familiar. Remember that the cartoon is only half an hour long, and this movie is nearly three times that length. Much of the added material attempts to explain why the Grinch (Carrey) is who he is. There are lame attempts at showing him as a child, rejected by other, more normal looking Whos. Screenwriters Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman (Wild Wild West) have the basic feel of what it is to write like Dr. Seuss, but they are missing the heart. Seuss imbues his books with wonder and awe, something missing from all of the hollow, extraneous filler material. There are a few off-color jokes that have no place at all in this movie.

Once the normal How the Grinch Stole Christmas story kicks in, things get much better. Cindy Lou Who (supernaturally cute Taylor Momsen) is confused about Christmas. To her, it looks like everybody forgot the true meaning of Christmas. Instead, the holiday is now commercialized, with people focusing on buying presents and decorating their houses. It's ironic that this movie opened in so many theaters and with market saturation for advertisements and trailers. Cindy Lou sets out to try to include the Grinch in the Who's Christmas celebration, while the Grinch begins to plan to ruin the holiday for everyone. Seuss' story still manages to rise above the mediocre treatment it gets, and the movie manages to even be a little heartwarming in the end.

Howard (Edtv, Apollo 13) does deserve credit for getting the look of the film correct. He, along with Rick Baker, Kurt Williams, and Kevin Mack bring the Whos and Whoville to life in an intricately created set. The Grinch's cave, backlit with reds and greens, looks suitably ominous and messy. Whoville looks like every child's dream of what a perfect Christmas looks like, and details are everywhere, from small parcels in the post office to the oddly shaped clouds in the sky. Carrey looks completely unrecognizable in the Grinch costume, which contorts amazingly to match Carrey's facial antics. The film looks like it could be real, yet has an ethereal, fairy tale-like quality to it that makes it make believe. Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a visual delight, but, aurally, does not come close to its predecessor. The cartoon is much better, and there is no finding parking, waiting in line, and paying exorbitant prices for tickets and popcorn.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 42 minutes, Rated PG for crude humor.

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