So a while back we got a trailer to Illumination’s next film, their second stab at Dr.Seuss (the first one was awful) The Grinch, based on the famous Christmas book. To say I didn’t like it is an understatement, I hated it. It looks lazy, filled with recycled material (look at the color palate of the Grinch’s new home and every other Illumination home) a toned down Grinch (so is he just the grump of the town this time?) and Illumination has the worst track record in recent animation (name a good movie from them that isn’t the first Despicable Me). It didn’t surprise me that the reception was negative, but I did notice something that caught a lot of people off guard, people expressing disappointment that it wouldn’t be as good as the live-action take.
If you read my reaction to the trailer, you’d know I actually do think the live-action film is fine, not great just fine, which is unpopular I’ll admit, though it seems it no longer is, why? The obvious answer, which I assume the people who despise the Jim Carey version will run with, is that it’s all just nostalgia. I can’t argue that much, I mean I saw it when I was 7 and I know plenty other fans who saw it as children, but I’d argue there’s a little more there than you’re giving it credit for. Everyone can, and will, be more forgiving to the things they enjoyed as kids, it’s natural, it made you happy when life was simple, why wouldn’t it be good? Well, it’s not that simple, growing up changes things, including tastes, I remember hating the Disney Alice in Wonderland, now I love it, on the opposite end, I remember watching Street Sharks (don’t bother) and Bonkers, two shows I can barely tolerate now that I enjoyed back then. My point is, my enjoyment of How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) isn’t because I saw it as a kid, it’s because there is something there, which may in fact be true for a lot of its fans.
For those of you ready to move away from this, no, this isn’t an article trying to tell you that you’re wrong for disliking the movie, I get it, it’s not perfect, I just want you to understand why so many people do. I remember thinking the cartoon was better before having seen the movie and I can’t argue much differently now, but I can argue that the live-action take does add some nice interesting elements. Adding a backstory to the Grinch sounds stupid, and admittedly parts are (the love story stuff just feels like too much), but some things actually work well enough. In the original story (and cartoon) the Grinch hates Christmas because it annoys him and he thinks it’s all superficial, seeing the Grinch as a child, experiencing that first hand is a neat touch (which Illumination looks to be repeating) because as time goes on, we’ve kinda realized he’s not entirely wrong. There are plenty of superficial people around Christmas, just look at a returns line the day after Christmas at your local store; seeing a young Grinch face this first hand, creating his hatred over the day is actually a good idea, even if the movie doesn’t execute it perfectly by adding in a broken heart, along with bullies. I feel that if they wanted to keep those aspects, what they could’ve done is made the girl trash the Grinch’s gift after the bully gives her something he bought, adding to the Grinch’s belief that Christmas is about buying selfish people junk, rather than giving love. It’s not perfect, but I appreciate the effort provided to make the film feature length.
Another addition for the film is the expansion of Cindy Lou Who,while she’s barely a factor in the cartoon, here she’s one of the leads. At her worst she’s singing a pointless number, but at her best I felt she was expanded in a way that made sense. In the original cartoon, Cindy encounters the Grinch as he is stealing, his reaction, while intending to cover his misdeeds, is to pretend to be Santa, it not only convinces her, but it is foreshadowing that the Grinch can not only be kind, but will eventually bring the gifts back. The film take on her makes her the innocent voice of reason, the one Who that wants to befriend the Grinch, which makes sense as a choice, as well as allows the Grinch to feel human in a longer story, he’s a bad guy, but did anyone ever try bringing out the good in him? Maybe that didn’t make much sense when the story was conceived, but given how the Grinch was an outsider in Whoville, while coincidentally the only green person around there; I get and actually enjoy the idea having the Grinch gain an innocent child friend who is too naive to get that he’s acting like a jerk, but innocent enough to want to help him be kind. The big downside to Cindy Lou’s expansion, is that the Whos of Whoville have to now learn the meaning of Christmas through her, it’s interesting, just a bit odd. I like seeing a modern take tackle how cynical Christmas feels to so many of us now, in fact I say this is more of a plus than a minus, having The Whos be superficial and realizing their own errors is a fine idea, the problem is that in making them realize this at the last moment and only because of Cindy can be seen as an insult to the original’s “surprise” reveal of the Whos not caring. What I think could improve this, is if instead we saw a montage of characters waking up, seeing the worst had happened, only for them to realize that family and friends is what really matters, you still get the superficial subplot, but now you have various characters realize what matters (or for some they already knew) giving a bit more heart to the resolution.
Putting aside all that though, let’s be real, the element that makes or breaks this film for you is Jim Carrey, and whether you love or hate this, admit it, he definitely put effort in the role. He’s not just in (pretty amazing) makeup, he is the Grinch, maybe not the version of the cartoon, but you can believe this guy earns that name, he’s rude, crass and a complete jerk. Admittedly not all of his jokes work, but even when they don’t I appreciated the passion in the role. I’m not even surprise people in my age range love this take, many of us ARE this guy, the weird outsider (sometimes because of race, other times for interests) mocked by society (great, another article complaining about my existence as a Millenial), which leaves us to say/do random things that can be seen as rude, in fact going by the film’s depiction, he’s a bit more sympathetic to me because a lot of the ways the Whos treat him is reminiscent of racism, he looks different from them, therefore he is bad. Again, it’s no masterpiece but the performance and depiction did leave an impact on me beyond the “I saw this as a kid, therefore it’s good” belief that many might assume I have for liking the film.
As mentioned earlier, I write this not to explain why you should like this film, but for you to understand why it’s connected with enough people to make the hate of the new version trend, even if the ideas weren’t perfect, it tried. Jim Carrey’s version is oozing with passion and style, knowing Illumination and what we’ve seen, this new version won’t have that. It’s a shame regardless, but as someone who thought that even the live-action one tried, even if not always succeeding, this new Grinch film just feels even more insulting. Come this Christmas,don’t be surprised when most people stay at home to watch the original or live-action takes, they at least had passion in the material.
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Written by Octaviano Macias
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Written by Octaviano Macias