DR. SEUSS' HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS!
Widescreen Collector's Edition
Review by Michael Jacobson
Jim Carrey, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Molly Shannon, Taylor
Momsen, Anthony Hopkins
Director: Ron Howard
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1 (Full Frame version also available)
Features: See Review
Length: 105 Minutes
Release Date: November 20, 2001
honey, the Grinch isn’t exactly a Who…he’s more of a…a…”
face it…the Grinch has become as much a part of the Holiday season as Santa,
Rudolph, Frosty, and Charlie Brown’s pitiful little tree.
Dr. Seuss’ classic book with its rich, vibrant illustrations has
enchanted children for decades, and so has the Chuck Jones animated television
special, which is arguably the most regularly watched Christmas program year in
and year out.
took a leap of faith to bring this classic to the silver screen in live action
form, even if the casting of Jim Carrey as the Grinch was a radiant stroke of
brilliance. Producer Brian Grazer
and director Ron Howard didn’t shy away from the task, and the resulting film,
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, is a visually inventive take
on the classic tale, which, like the Grinch himself, manages to shine through
with a true holiday spirit despite the façade of meanness.
order to make the rather short story fill out a feature length film, we learn
some background information on the Grinch we never knew before.
Blown in on a strange wind as a child, he was ridiculed for his green
skin and for having a beard at only eight years old.
He had a schoolroom crush on Martha May Whovier (played by Baranski as an
adult), but kind of wrecks his chance with her via a bad shaving accident.
the Grinch grew up to hate the Whos and hate Christmas.
Leering down on them from atop a mountain of garbage, he angrily makes
his plans to stop the holiday from coming.
the original story, the Whos were the embodiment of true Christmas spirit.
In this screenplay by Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman, they actually
have a lot to learn about the meaning of the season as well.
Christmas for them is a time of joy, but a time of busy commercialism as
well. Little Cindy Lou Who (a
wonderful young Momsen) even wonders “Where Are You Christmas?” and
doesn’t understand why even a Grinch should be outcast on the happiest of
picture meanders a little bit for its first hour, but then, we get into the real
meat of the story…how the Grinch stole Christmas.
Carrey, despite heavy makeup, projects everything the Grinch stands for
in a performance of wild exaggeration and complete unrestraint.
His manic energy, set against the astonishing visuals and effects, makes
the movie what it is.
humor is mostly visual, and like one of Universal’s earlier productions, The
Flintstones, a lot of it is derived from seeing live action versions of
pieces of animation we all know so well…the way the Grinch crawls around on
his fingers and toes, for example, or getting stuck in the chimney.
Others are new and welcome surprises.
My favorite bit is an inside joke when the Grinch dons Ron Howard’s cap
and begins “directing” his dog Max in his motivations as a reindeer!
sets, which covered an amazing eleven sound stages, are incredible, and really
bring the wonderful, weird world of Dr. Seuss to life.
The film looks like a colorful version of an Expressionist’s good
dream. The colors and visual
energies are part of what gives the picture its sense of holiday spirit, despite
some of the darker scenes and the early nastiness of the Grinch.
The film was enough to get me ready for Christmas, and made me forget
that it’s still a long ways off! Bah,
narration of Anthony Hopkins gives the text a classical air, but doesn’t quite
come close to Carrey’s own rendition of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”.
Who among us grownups doesn’t know THAT tune by heart?
in all, there’s much more about the film that works than doesn’t…a little
economical trimming might have brought it closer to highest grade, but no
matter. Dr. Seuss’ How the
Grinch Stole Christmas has enough charm, humor, spirit and visual wonder to
become a modern holiday classic. You
can even let your kids sit back and enjoy it while you carve the roast beast.
a film that relies heavily on its visuals, nothing less than the best possible
DVD transfer would do, and that’s what Universal gives it with this top
quality anamorphic offering. The
picture is a cornucopia of colors that sometimes flow and sometimes clash, but
every one is rendered beautifully and accurately, with its own distinct hues and
no containment problems. Detail and
sharpness is incredibly good throughout, as not a bit of visual information
seems lost, distorted or compromised, either in the foreground or the deep
backgrounds. I noticed no grain or
shimmer, nor compression artifacts of any kind, and darker scenes play with as
much clarity and integrity as lighter ones.
A full frame version DVD is also available, but trust me…widescreen is
the way to go here. This one’s
reference quality all the way!
5.1 soundtrack…choice of Dolby Digital or DTS…is an impressive mix, as the
film boasts many scenes where front and rear stages open up to accommodate a
plethora of action. Crossovers are
smooth, as are pans, and there’s plenty of lively dynamic range created by the
best action sequences. There are
stretches of quieter scenes, where the rear channels and the subwoofer lay
dormant, leaving the dialogue, music and action on the front stage, but
there’s always another big sequence around the corner to liven up the audio
again. High marks.
Collector’s Edition discs are always loaded, and this one boasts quite a
package. The featurettes are the
best part. The Spotlight on
Location is like a quick summary of the others…if you want detail, you can go
to the short pieces on the Who School (visually realizing the original book),
the wonderful makeup by Rick Baker, the sets, and the special effects.
There is a music video by Faith Hill for “Where Are You Christmas”,
an original trailer (but not the teaser, which was a classic in my book),
production notes, and talent files. There
is also a DVS (Descriptive Video Service) track for the visually impaired.
remaining features are pure fun. There
are some Who recipes for you to try, a collection of “By the Numbers” facts
and figures on the making of the film (45 makeup artists working together on the
busiest days…whoa!), a promo for a Grinch game, some DVD ROM extras, six
deleted scenes (some uncompleted, with blue screens still visible) and a three
minute gag reel. The “Grinch’s
Special Offer” is a short promo for Universal Studio’s theme parks in
Hollywood and Orlando.
Finally, just for the kids, there’s a section called Max’s Playhouse. Go there and take part in some sing-alongs and read-alongs with Max the dog, or help create some poems in “Rhyme Time”, or even dress the Grinch in a variety of funny costumes! There’s even a feature to teach kids how to work the DVD remote so they can play along.
addition, there is a Deluxe Limited Edition DVD Play Set available, which treats
you to the disc and all its features, plus a three dimensional pop-up play set
with three locations from the movie, the Grinch’s lair, the Whoville post
office, and Whoville Square. There
are plenty of doors and windows for your kids to look through, and even a
countdown-to-Christmas wheel. It’s
a unique DVD packaging that will sure to bring smiles to the little ones’