PG Dir: Ron Howard | Universal | 1h 45min
Plot: What’s it about?
Until last year, if you were to think of Jim Carrey with green skin, you might think of 1994’s “The Mask”. Well, now you have two roles to think of him in (and judging by the success of both, maybe we could see a trend emerging)? A bit more on Carrey, though…one of my favorite actors, he is trying desperately to bridge the gap between slapstick comedy and being a very dramatic actor. That’s a tough act to do, no pun intended. While his more serious roles have included “The Truman Show” and “Man on the Moon”, he has found his most success with comedy. “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” launched him into superstardom and he followed that up with the aforementioned “The Mask” and one of my all-time favorites “Dumb and Dumber”. One does have to wonder, though why he wants to be taken as a serious actor? I suppose you can only talk out of your rear end (literally) so many times and not feel a bit guilty taking home $20 million dollars. It was with his latest endeavor, “The Grinch” that Carrey found his way back on top and his highest-grossing movie to date. And we’re all familiar with the classic tale of Dr. Seuess’ tale of the furry green monster who steals Christmas; this is the live-action version.
The Grinch (Jim Carrey) lives at the top of Whoville. He feels rejected and is an outcast…and he likes it that way! Unlike the animated version from 1966, we do learn a bit more from his childhood and see why he is the way he is. Now about the town of Whoville. A small, yet happy town, the citizens of Whoville are anxiously awaiting the Christmas season. It’s getting closer, but they seem to have forgotten (just like us) what the true meaning of Christmas is really all about. Concentrating on decorating their houses in feeble attempts to outdo their neighbors, buying loads of presents at discount prices–the town of Whoville seems to have been swept up in what Christmas isn’t. While material goods and turbo-charged house decorators (you’ll have to see that to see what I mean) are fine for most, Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen) seems to be the only one in town who sees that Chrismas may be about a bit more than the presents. As The Grinch has made his way into town to cause some mischief, he meets Cindy Lou Who and manages to frighten her into a box sorter. As she screams for help, he does manage to save her, only after wrapping her up like a present. It’s at this time that Cindy Lou Who tends to think that The Grinch isn’t quite as bad as everyone thinks he is. We’re introduced to a love interest for The Grinch as well. Dating back to his childhood days, Martha May Whovier (Christine Baranski) has had a crush on him, but The Grinch has always been too much of a recluse to do anything about it. And, as it turns out, the Mayor (Jeffrey Tambor) intends to make Martha May his wife (the plot thickens). In an attempt to make her Christmas special (this is when they were kids, by the way), The Grinch makes her a Christmas present only to get laughed at by the whole class after shaving his beard. This is the basis for his hatred of the season.
Quite a little bit more than a retelling of a classic children’s tale, this new and updated version features a few more bits of information. You have to add some, if you want to make a movie out of a 60 minute cartoon! I never saw The Grinch when it came out last year, and the wait has been long indeed. I was very surprised to hear the voice of Sir Anthony Hopkins as the narrator, too. A bit of a word on Ron Howard. While Howard’s resume is indeed impressive, I feel (and I’m not alone in this opinion) that he was miscast as the director. He seems to be overdoing it and all in all, it just didn’t feel like a Ron Howard movie. Carrey, on the other hand, is perfect as The Grinch. It’s obvious that he was given free reign to improvise the part and I’m basing the success of the movie on Carrey alone. How’s that for a bold statement? Much like Robin Williams’ voice stole the show in “Aladdin”, Carrey does the same here. Though unrecognizable under Rick Baker’s makeup, it’s all Jim Carrey, and he’s hamming it up big time! While the movie got horrible reviews for the most part, I found it kind of funny at times. It’s obviously geared for kids, and they should be quite entertained by the show in general. There’s not much else to say except “Bah, Humbug”…but that’s the wrong movie!
Video: How does it look?
It’s been a while since I’ve watched this film, but I remember being very impressed at the standard DVD when it first came out. This has been “newly remastered for improved HD picture and sound” according to the back of the box. Ok, I’ll be the judge of that. And they were right! The 1.85:1 AVC HD image improves upon what I didn’t think need improving. The colors seem very natural and the black levels (used extensively for The Grinch’s lair) seem dead on perfect. I noticed no artifacting, no compression errors and no shimmering. The picture is amazing and I really can’t find more words to convey my message.
Audio: How does it sound?
A new DTS HD Master Audio mix is the second treat here (the first being the new HD transfer) and it again improves upon what I thought sounded good before. Dialogue is very clear, you can hear each snicker of The Grinch and the surrounds were used sparingly, but cleverly. One scene that I can think of involves moths eating stockings. As they fly around the room, they travel from your front speakers to the surrounds. Very good use of those here. Very little bass effects were used, but as mentioned above, there are a few explosions that make good use of the LFE.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio Commentary – Director Ron Howard gives us the skinny on the production as a whole, “dealing” with Jim Carrey and bringing this Christmas classic to life. Howard’s commentaries are pretty informative and informational so fans will get a kick out of this.
- Spotlight on Location – Clocking in around 8 minutes. While not offering much more insight into the film, it seems contempt to be a precursor to many of the discs other features.
- Deleted Scenes – Six deleted scenes are included as well as a longer version of the opening scene which shows The Grinch spreading marbles about, thereby making the people of Whoville fall. Hold me back…no commentary accompanies these, so we can assume that they’re out for a reason.
- Outtakes – A Jim Carrey movie with outtakes? You must be kidding.
- Who School Makeup Application and Design – Academ Award winner Rick Baker is profiled here. He mentions how he followed Seuss’ original plans to keep with the “realism” of the movie and shows us the magic of makeup.
- Seussian Set Decoration – This short features Mrs. Dr. Seuss who has a few words to say about the set design and the extravagance of it all.
- Visual Effects – Kevin Mack is the only person on screen, as he is the Visual Effects supervisor. Digital Domain is responsible for most of the work and it’s amazing to see exactly what is computer-generated and what is actually real in the land of Whoville.
- Music Video – Faith Hill’s “Where Are You Christmas?”
- Theatrical Trailer
The Bottom Line
A decade and a half later, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (is it me or did it used to be known as The Grinch?) still manages to entertain. This is Jim Carrey at the height of his career and he simply embodies our green, furry holiday-ruining friend. This new version does feature a new transfer and a new sound mix, both of which are an improvement over the previous versions. Most all of the supplements from the previous versions seem to have made the cut, so if this isn’t a part of your collection yet – make it so.