The Grinch (PG) (aka Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas)
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This came out in 2000, and I must have first seen it sometime within the first few years of the 2000s. It's based on the 1957 story by Dr. Seuss (which I don't recall having ever read). It was previously adapted into the 1966 animated TV special, which of course I have seen numerous times. The first time I saw this movie, I wasn't particularly impressed by it. But watching it again in 2017 (to write this review), I liked it more than I remembered. Of course I remembered that the Grinch himself was played by Jim Carrey, who was surely the perfect person to play a live-action Grinch... although there were many points in the movie when I thought he was being a little too Jim Carrey, on the whole I thought he did a pretty good job. And I remembered at least a couple of lines. I also remembered that in this version of the story, the Grinch had a potential love interest played by Christine Baranski. And that the character of Cindy Lou Who was every bit as adorable here (possibly more so) as she was in the animated special (though here she was about six years old instead of two). Though looking at the movie credits now, I'm kind of surprised to find that she was played by a then-unknown Taylor Momsen, who as a teenager would star in the TV series "Gossip Girl," though I know her a bit better as the singer in the band The Pretty Reckless. (And speaking of singing, before I watched the movie, I watched one of the bonus features on the DVD, which was Faith Hill singing "Where Are You, Christmas?" which I didn't particularly care for. I mean, of course she sang it very well, and I liked the concept of the song, but the actual lyrics didn't quite do it for me, largely because they didn't feel as epic and grandiose as Hill made the song sound. However, when I actually watched the movie, the song was done in a much more low-key way by Cindy Lou, and I liked it better that way. I think the song really works better as something a six-year-old would sing than something an adult would sing. Another thing I liked about the movie was that the Grinch himself sang the familiar song "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch." That was definitely an interesting twist of self-awareness.) Other than that, I also liked a lot of the self-awareness of some of the jokes in the movie, which I think sometimes lampshaded some of the oddities of the TV special and the original story.
The movie is narrated by Anthony Hopkins (though I didn't recognize his voice). As the story begins, all the Whos in Whoville are busy shopping for Christmas presents. The only one who seems concerned about how commercialized the holiday is, is little Cindy Lou Who. (And it occurred to me that some people might think this differs from the TV special, but really it doesn't. I mean even that makes it pretty clear how much the Whos love giving and getting presents on Christmas. So I thought it was nice that this movie makes a point of that. Not that there's anything wrong with enjoying presents, but damn... they were just going way overboard with it. Which... is probably an apt commentary on the real world.) Anyway, Cindy Lou's father, Lou, works at the post office, which is understandably quite busy, in the days leading up to Christmas. And her mother, Betty Lou... well, she is obsessed with trying to beat her neighbor, Martha May Whovier (Baranski), in the annual Christmas lights competition (which Martha May always wins). (Incidentally, both of Cindy Lou's parents looked vaguely familiar to me, though I couldn't place the actors. Partly that's because the Whos have all been made up to look not quite human, even if they're much closer to human-looking than the Grinch. It turns out Lou is played by Bill Irwin, with whom I'm barely familiar from anything else. And Betty is played by Molly Shannon, whom I know from Saturday Night Live, but learning that surprised me, because I never would have guessed it was her.)
Anyway, Cindy Lou has a couple of teenage brothers, who climb Mount Crumpit with their girlfriends. I gather their generation think of the Grinch as a sort of local urban legend; I'm not at all sure whether they even believed he really existed, until they came upon the door to the cave where he lives, and he scared them away. After that, the Grinch goes down into Whoville to make some mischief. One stop he makes is in the sorting room of the post office, where he meets Cindy Lou. After that encounter, she becomes very interested in learning about the Grinch's origins, so she interviews various townsfolk, including the two old women who had raised him, after he landed on their doorstep as a baby. We see flashbacks both to that time, and to when the Grinch was eight years old. Babies have an unusual method of delivery to their parents... and I think the baby Grinch landed there by mistake. I think he's not even a Who at all (Lou calls him a "What"), and maybe he took the place of some other Who baby that should have arrived in Whoville, but I might be mistaken about that. If he did, it might be interesting to learn what had happened to that other baby. But anyway, it was obvious that the Grinch was never as happy or as sociable as the other Whos. But when he was eight, he had a crush on his classmate, Martha May. And she obviously had a crush on him, too. But all the other Who children were mean to him, especially Augustus Maywho, who tells Cindy Lou, when she interviews him, that Martha May was his girlfriend. (I'm not at all sure whether that was true when they were eight, but it seems to be true in the present, when Augustus- played as an adult by Jeffrey Tambor- is Mayor of Whoville.) Although when Cindy Lou interviews Martha May, it's pretty obvious that all these years later, she's still nursing a crush on the Grinch, even if she doesn't want to admit it. Anyway, we learn that after an incident at Christmastime when they were all eight, the young Grinch finally couldn't stand to be around any of the Whos anymore, so he ran away to live alone on Mount Crumpit. (I do want to mention that, while I kind of recognized Tambor under his Who makeup, there were really only two Whos that I found completely recognizable. One was Baranski, and the other was Clint Howard, as the Mayor's assistant.)
Later, Cindy Lou nominates the Grinch to be the Holiday Cheermeister for the Whobilation celebration, which happens every year on Christmas Eve. She manages to convince the crowd (over the Mayor's objections), and then she climbs Mount Crumpit to deliver the invitation to the Grinch. He declines, but later reconsiders, and actually manages to have a bit of fun at the Whobilation. However, the Mayor ultimately plays a mean prank on him, which all the other Whos (except Cindy, of course) laugh at. So of course the Grinch gets angry, wrecks up the place, and returns home. But that night, he gets an idea to ruin Christmas, by dressing up as Santa Claus (and dressing his dog, Max, as a reindeer), and stealing all the Whos' presents and food and whatnot. (This part of the story is very familiar to anyone who's seen the special. Although we do get a distant glimpse of the real Santa, before the Grinch sets his plan in motion. I thought that was interesting.) On Christmas morning, the Whos are all upset to find everything's been stolen, and the Mayor blames Cindy Lou for having invited the Grinch, but her father stands up for her, which leads to the other Whos realizing Christmas can't be stolen. Cindy then again climbs Mount Crumpit to find the Grinch. Meanwhile, he hears the Whos singing, and his own realization about Christmas happens just the same as it did in the special, including his heart growing three sizes. (One thing I liked about this movie is that it was very obviously painful for the Grinch, as it surely would be if that happened to anyone, in real life. But beyond the physical pain, there was also the emotional pain. The line, "I'm feeling!" is sort of played for laughs, but at the same time, that, along with the sobbing he does afterward, really made me feel bad for him. Because I totally understand how painful having feelings can be, and how much easier it can be to just shut out your feelings, if you can.) Still, he does try to save the stuff he'd stolen from falling off the mountain... but there's another twist that I liked about this movie, which I saw coming before it happened. (And I don't think it was because I'd seen the movie before; I didn't remember it happening, it just seemed predictable.) I don't want to spoil that, but... I thought it made a lot of sense.
Well, the Grinch and Cindy Lou get back to Whoville with the presents and all, and yet another thing I liked happened: the Grinch offered himself up to the sheriff for having stolen everything. Of course he's immediately forgiven, but still I thought it was a nice touch. Because it never sat entirely right with me that his crime was never for a moment treated as a crime, in the special. (Another thing I liked is that he called himself "The Grinch who stole Christmas," and I'm sure I'm not the only fan of the story who has sometimes erroneously thought of or called the special by that title. So I expect that line was a nod to that.) And... I dunno what else to say about the plot. (I've said far too much already, actually.) But anyway, the movie could be pretty redonkulous, but it was also really funny, occasionally clever, ultimately heartwarming, and as I said before, I really liked the self-awareness of it all. Plus I thought Cindy Lou's much expanded role here made for a really great character.