The GrinchJim Carrey. Directed by Ron Howard
Running Time: 94 mins
The thing I resent most about advertiser's countdown to Christmas is not that it seems to come more quickly every year, but that we are told there so many 'shopping days' until the celebration of this central Christian feast. It is hard to reconcile the birth of Jesus with offensive rates of spending and consumption in a poor and needy world.
Luckily, screen writers Jeffrey Price and Peter Seaman and former Happy Days star and now very successful Hollywood director, Ron Howard share my concern. The Grinch is an anti-consumption parable about reclaiming the essential message of 'peace on earth and good will to all'.
Based on Theodore Geisel's "Dr Seuss' How the Grinch stole Christmas", this charming film is filled with colour and energy.
The mythical citizens of Whoville are at fever pitch buying presents and sending cards for Christmas. The shopping countdown is on in earnest. Behind the idyllic and courteous facade of the town, however, is a scapegoat, Mr Grinch (Jim Carrey). Raised in the town, Grinch was tormented at the Whoville school for his odd appearance and nasty manner. In anger he takes flight from the town on the nearby mountain from where he pours scorn and mischief on the do-gooding Whovillians. The Grinch hates Christmas and tries to stop the festivities by stealing all the town's gifts and decorations. A small girl, Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen), befriends the Grinch, asks what Christmas is all about and saves the day.
The production values in The Grinch are outstanding. The storyboard sets and costumes are a visual feast. The photography sweeps through valleys and hills and Ron Howard's quick cutting keeps the pace brisk. Rick Baker's make up for all the characters, but especially for his creation of The Grinch, is spectacular. Over 60 make up artists worked on this film and there skill shows.
Jim Carrey's work as The Grinch is of the highest calibre. Because there are no surprises in the story the success of the film rests on selling the audience a bitter and twisted character that we can like. Even though he is buried deeply in make up and costume, Carrey's dramatic range, expressive face and extraordinary voice, make it all look easy.
I have only two complaints about this film. The evil Grinch has an identifiable English accent, which, as he becomes a nicer guy starts to sound more American. When will Hollywood stop using this racist stereotype?
The second issue is even more important. Even though The Grinch is redeemed and reconciled in the end, we are told that from his childhood he looked different, was anti-social and mean. No matter how much love he received from his foster mothers, he grew into a hateful person. In this film evil springs from nature, in the form of an outsider. This idea may be comforting to middle class America, but it is not supported by the psychology and theology and it is a lie we should not tell our children.
The Grinch is filled with a good dose of wry humour and is, surprisingly, crude in parts so one or both of these elements will entertain adults who accompany their children.
Richard Leonard SJ