Saturday, December 26, 2009

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Day 360 - 12/26/09 - Movie 360

BEFORE: Another silly holiday movie that I don't want to carry into the New Year... Of course, I'm already familiar with the old animated TV special, which contains some of my favorite TV trivia. The original Grinch special was narrated by Boris Karloff (most famous for playing the Frankenstein Monster and appearing in other horror films) and the famous song "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" was sung by Thurl Ravenscroft, who also provided the voice for Tony the Tiger in all those old Kellogg's Frosted Flakes ads...

THE PLOT: The Grinch is a nasty creature who hates Christmas, and plots to steal it away from the citizens of Whoville.

AFTER: There's something that makes this version interesting, and it's not just Jim Carrey's mugging as the Grinch. In the old TV special, Whoville is portrayed as something of a perfect society, with perfect little Whos celebrating Christmas in a perfect little fashion. The live-action film takes a bit of a risk by showing that Whoville is overly commercialized and materialistic, plus not all of the Whos are perfect. There's a competition for who has the best Christmas light display, and the contestants undercut each other, and are jealous of each other's success -plus the mayor fixes the competition because he's got a crush on Martha Whovier (I suppose calling her Jackie Whovier would have been a little too on-the-nose?)

So the Whos seem to have lost the true meaning of Christmas, and the Grinch hates Christmas because of the way he was treated during Christmastime when he lived in Whoville - yes, the Grinch now has more of a back-story, probably because the filmmakers had almost two hours to fill, and had to stretch out a 5-minute children's book and a 30-minute TV special into the space provided.

Fortunately, a little girl named Cindy Lou questions the mores of society (atta girl!) and nominates the Grinch as the Whoville "Cheermaster", pointing out an obscure rule that says that the Cheermaster should be the person who needs Christmas spirit the most. This seems like a nod to "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", in which Quasimodo is nominated as the King of Fools, and the one person who lives outside of society is temporarily made part of it. And at first it seems to work, with the Grinch participating in holiday sack-races, egg-nog drinking contests, and so on.

However, the Mayor proposes to the Grinch's old love interest in the middle of the ceremonies, and that sets the Grinch off. All the progress is undone, and he's back to his old ways. This sub-plot leads back into the familiar scenario where the Grinch steals all the presents, decorations and holiday food, leaving the town bereft of Christmas cheer.

Or so it seems - when the Whos celebrate anyway, both the Grinch and the townspeople are reminded that true celebration and spirit comes from within, and that the outward trappings of the holiday are just window-dressing (so why is it such a big deal when he returns them?)

From my perspective, we didn't have the time this year to put up a decorated tree at my parent's house, and (much to the chagrin of my aunt) the holiday dinner wasn't perfect. But so what? Maybe you didn't get everything on your Christmas list, or were bombarded with holiday music, or your holiday wasn't everything you hoped it would be. If you spent some time with family and friends, I say you're ahead of the game.

Also starring Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Bill Irwin, Molly Shannon, and Clint Howard. Personally, I thought the best actor in the whole film was the dog.

RATING: 5 out of 10 cans of hash

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