SAN DIEGO, December 20, 2017: In the year 2000, a good director (Ron Howard) and a talented actor (Jim Carrey) collaborated for a movie remake of a charming story, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel).
The bad and good of How the Grinch Stole Christmas
The bad: This was a horrible film, despite the collaboration of talent! Unfortunately, it is now sold in stores every holiday season next to the good versions that it ruined!
The good: At least it left us with a great argument against remakes! Perhaps now, other classic works of art will be spared. After all, who wants to see a mustache on the Mona Lisa?
There are too many bad Christmas movies to count them all. Undoubtedly people will argue over the worst more than the best. That said, let’s focus on this one Christmas movie that I despise the most. The absolute worst holiday movie of all time, the Ron Howard/Jim Carrey remake of the classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
Not Dr. Seuss’ classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas
If I wanted, I could review the title alone: This is NOT Dr. Seuss’ version ofHow the Grinch Stole Christmas. In fact, it could not possibly be more opposite of Dr. Seuss’ version. It is Ron Howard’s version.
The story was tampered with until it could no longer be honestly viewed as the same story. Neither did it have the same message! These are not insignificant points.
Admittedly, most of my hostile reaction to the remake comes from my admiration of the original. I love Dr. Seuss’ book, first published in 1957. I also love the annual half-hour animated CBS television special first aired in 1966.
Geisel himself worked on the television adaptation along with the famous animator Chuck Jones.
But Geisel is not alive and therefore unable to stop Hollywood’s version of WMDs.
It’s not all bad
To be fair, there were a few good things about the film which also featured Bill Irwin, Molly Shannon, Christine, Baranski, and Taylor Momsen.
Visually, it was stunning and fun to watch, simply from the standpoint of eye candy alone. And I suppose if we had to have a real live actor portraying the Grinch, Jim Carey did about as good a job as anyone could. It also had a beautiful song, (Where Are You Christmas? sung by Taylor Momsen) And…That’s it!
I can compliment nothing else! Getting more out of me would be like trying to suck blood out of a turnip. If only they’d released the song alone! But alas, we are dealing with Hollywood, where producers ask themselves only two related questions: “Is this marketable?” And, “Will this sell?”
Seldom (if ever) do they wrestle with enough artistic integrity to raise their hands from across the big, oak, boardroom table and spit out the words, “Say, J.B, should we really do this? Is it really necessary?”
Where did they go wrong on the remake?
How do you take a thirty-minute television special (even less, minus the commercials) and make a one hour and forty-five minute movie out of it?
Obviously, you have to pad the story. In this case, so much stuffing was jammed inside, we can barely taste the original turkey, although “turkey” is certainly an appropriate description for a film that should have borrowed Tim Burton’s title; The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Learn about sensitivity and Political Correctness as flashbacks show us a boy Grinch who grew up in a dysfunctional environment and was picked on by all the other little kids at Whoville Elementary School. Learn about the girl he fell on love with (Christine, Baranski) who wanted nothing to do with him. See? The problem wasn’t in his own nature. Although the film does start with the familiar narration, “His heart was two sizes too small,” it then goes on to prove that his heart actually had nothing to do with the problem.
It was the surroundings, Silly. Didn’t you know?
Any who, the real message comes from the Who’s in Whoville
But I saved the best for last: Check out this new ingredient, something you’ve never seen in a Christmas story before!
The people of Whoville are only into the commercialism of Christmas! They have forgotten what Christmas is really all about! Oh, Howard, you have certainly topped yourself this time! Rarely has such creativity enveloped the wonderful world of winter cinema!
Just imagine, a message about the commercialism of Christmas!
Only one person in Whoville protested commercialism, Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen). You remember her: “Little Cindy Lou Who, who was two.” Only this time, she is not two. She’s old enough to give speeches about greed and other capitalistic invasions into the holidays.
Am I crazy? Wasn’t Dr. Seuss’ entire message that the people of Whoville were not into commercialism? Doesn’t the Grinch learn this when he steals all their gifts, decorations, and food, only to find them singing and celebrating anyway?
So why mess with the Who’s?
When asked why the film studio felt compelled to change everything around, defenders often say,
“They needed more of a story. After all, the original was under thirty minutes and they were making it into a full-length feature.”
And therein lies the very source of Ron Howard’s problem. The mistake was assuming this needed to be made in the first place.
I will close with the irony of ironies: For the sake of money alone, Hollywood turned a beautiful Christmas tradition into a lecture against commercialism!
This is Bob Siegel, making the obvious, obvious.
Bob Siegel is a weekend radio talk show host on KCBQ and a regular CommDigiNew columnist. His novel “The Dangerous Christmas Ornament” is a 2017 “Distinguished Favorite” of the Independent Press Award and the New York City Big Book Award. The book is also listed by About Read as one of the Top 30 Recommended Action Adventure Books for 11 Year Olds!