Wayback Wednesday: How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

On Christmas Eve, I don’t get any rest. When it comes to live-action cartoons, this movie’s the best.

One of my favourite things about the Christmas season, much like Halloween, is that it’s basically a month-long binge of all the movies you adored as a kid. Like most people, the list of Christmas movies I re-watch every December is a mile long. Every year I seem to only add to it, but one movie that’s remained firmly on the list for as long as I can remember is How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000). I mean, probably because I was four-years-old when I first saw it and have watched it literally every Christmas since. Fun fact, I saw this movie in theatres and was TERRIFIED. I happily munched on popcorn and pleasantly sat through The Mummy (1999) with wide eyes, but How the Grinch Stole Christmas? A pure horror show for me.

Screen Shot 2019-12-15 at 11.37.48 PM
Credit: imdb.com / Universal Pictures

Based on the 1966 TV special of the same name, which in turn is based on the classic children’s book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas follows the titular Christmas-hating character. As the holiday approaches and his loathing of the citizens of Whoville intensifies, the Grinch plans to steal all the presents, lights, and decorations from the town of merry and festive Whos.

Though many are loyal to only one version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, I have enough space in my heart for both. Although, there definitely isn’t any space for the 2018 Benedict Cumberbatch version. Sorry Sherlock, two Grinches are more than enough. Both versions top my Christmas movie binge list, although I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that I could watch the live-action version at least once a month. The animated special is iconic, delightful and you should absolutely watch it if you need a reminder on the true meaning of Christmas. If you’re in need of an outrageously funny, super campy, slightly bizarre story that somehow still manages to get across a beautiful message of what Christmas is about, absolutely watch the live-action movie.

If there’s one thing the early 2000s loved, it was live-action adaptations of famous cartoon characters. The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (2000), Scooby-Doo (2002), Garfield: The Movie (2004)…I think the breakthrough in CGI really inspired studios to start cashing in on nostalgia. As far as live-action adaptations go, I can say with certainty that How the Grinch Stole Christmas is one of the more successful attempts. I think part of that success is due to how well the filmmakers nailed the design of this movie. Truly, it feels like one of Dr. Seuss’ classic illustrations have come to life.

From set design, to props, to make-up and hairstyling to score, the movie really captures the look, feel and yes, even sound of a Seuss setting. Which must have been a demanding job because if you think about it, they had to build and design every set piece, prop and costume from scratch. There was no way you could borrow anything found in How the Grinch Stole Christmas from another movie! I can only imagine the hours of work that went into this movie because the attention to detail is phenomenal. You can say a lot of things about How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but you cant say that it didn’t earn its Oscar for Best Makeup and Hairstyling.

In the title role, Jim Carrey is a marvel and a delight. I mean, who better than Carrey, who is already essentially a living cartoon character, to bring this iconic creature to life? As always, Carrey is a comedic juggernaut. In every scene he appears in, which is about 90 per cent of the movie, Carrey delivers a flawless performance. I don’t think he gets enough credit for how great his range is. Naturally he’s wonderfully wacky and comically over the top, but for as big and loud as Carrey is able to get, he’s able to get just as small and reserved. There’s a duality to the performance. Carrey is able to get you to laugh at (and with) the Grinch, but he’s also able to get you to care for him as well. He plays both sides of the character tremendously well but honestly, the comedic scenes always have been and always will be my favourite. That one scene where he’s talking o the echo of his own voice? So simple yet so hysterical! It really makes me wonder how much improvisation Carrey did on set. My guess is enough to fill Santa’s sleigh.

Speaking of great performances in this movie, let’s talk about young Taylor Momsen as Cindy Lou Who. Like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone (1990) – check out my review here! – this is a really solid and endearing performance from a child actor. Momsen is a talented actress and it’s her earnest portrayal that injects an extra dosage of heart and hope into this Christmas tale. Elaborating on the relationship between the Grinch and Cindy Lou, also making her an actual character, is hands down one of the best additions from the live-action movie. That and the Queen of Christmas herself, Martha May Whovier. Sorry, Mariah.

One thing that 2000s live-action adaptations of popular cartoons loved to do was hide a ton of adult humour and innuendos in their movies. I don’t know if that was meant for the parents dragged to theatres, but I do know that the many one-liners that went over my head as a kid now leave me in stitches. Sure, there’s a fair amount of low-brow humour in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but there are also a surprising amount of sharp, witty lines thrown in there as well. Plus, the jokes are flying so fast, frequently and effectively, you don’t really care how smart they are! For all the modern updates and crude jokes, I’m happy to say that How the Grinch Stole Christmas still boasts the message of the original special which makes it a success in my book.

Aside from “A Christmas Carol,” I would say that How the Grinch Stole Christmas is the story that best gets across the true meaning of the holiday. The Yuletide message rings strong and clear without needing to hit audiences over the head: “maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more.” Like its animated counterpart, the live-action version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas is the perfect mixture of holiday heart and humour. A timeless classic that will continue to be beloved for years to come, Christmas stories don’t get more iconic than this. Finally, let me leave you with some of my favourite lines from this highly quotable movie:

  • “Even if I wanted to go, my schedule wouldn’t allow it!”
  • “That’s it, I’m not going.”
  • “Honey, the baby’s here! He looks just like your boss…”
  • “BETTY. HIIIIIIIII”

Are you a fan of How the Grinch Stole Christmas? What are your favourite Christmas movies?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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