Movie Review

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

MPAA Rating: PG for some crude humor

Reviewed by: Bob MacLean
CONTRIBUTOR

Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
10 to Adult
Genre:
Comedy
Length:
1 hr. 45 min.
Year of Release:
2000
USA Release:
_____
Jim Carrey in “How The Grinch Stole Christmas”
Featuring: Jim Carrey, Anthony Hopkins, Molly Shannon, Jeffrey Tambor, Verne Troyer
Director: Ron Howard
Producer: Brian Grazer
Distributor: Universal Pictures

As I observed in another review, it would be better as Christians to stop bemoaning the lack of morals in G and PG movies. We must learn to expect the crudities and lack of integrity from the unsaved world of the cinema. That said, my overall reaction to this movie is that it is not for children. I took my 8 year old niece and spent the rest of the day talking with her about good themes to try and make up for the less savory incidents in this movie.

scene from “How The Grinch Stole Christmas”

I heard Leonard Maltin once reveal the underbelly of film directors by explaining the reason they put gross-out scenes and sexuality into supposed childrens’ films that don’t need them (“My Favorite Martian”, “The Road to El Dorado,” “The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas,” etc.) It is because when they are at parties where much schmoozing and a lot of business is transacted, they must hold up their heads among their peers who want to avoid being seen as trite or conservative. This reminds me of teens who decide drinking and smoking are cool because it seems grown up. As Paul tells us in Romans 1:21, “their foolish minds were darkened… professing to become wise, they became fools.” It seems to me we are going to have to remain more and more vigilent as to what we allow our children to see at the movie theater and be willing to make hard choices.

This movie’s general theme was well meaning, but confused. It seemed to promote kindness in a little girl’s desire to find the truer meaning of Christmas, but falls down in 2 ways. First, it espouses the belief that humans are basically good and can elevate theselves on their own. Second, the terribly blatant rudeness of Jim Carrey’s character, the Grinch promotes rudeness and crude behavoir. Also, the film had too much of a dark theme in it. Somewhat like “Edward Scissorhands” or “Alien: Resurrection.” There are a few uses of the words damn and hell. The general plot is the story of the damage someone can do to themselves and to others if they are ridiculed at a young age. But Ron Howard’s desire to save the Grinch and save us from ourselves falls flat for obvious reasons. Looking to our higher selves for the answers to our innate sinfulness is not why Christ came to this earth. In the Grinch’s progression from sociopath to saved citizen, we must submit to repeated insults and a continuing avalanche of rudeness and a few incidents of outright grossness and several sexually inappropriate scenes. There is innuendo of wife swapping, at least 2 scenes of the kissing of the rearends of people and dogs all done in bad taste. Bosoms aren’t rampant, but one character’s bosom is made too obvious with Carrey falling into it face first.

The scenery and costuming are really mindboggling. They surpass even the lushness of the sets and costumes in “Flinstones in Viva Rock Vegas”. It seems so sad and such a waste that all this talent is for naught in Hollywood.

On the negative side, I personally feel the level of complication and the richness in content we seem to need in entertainment is getting way out of hand. We are jaded it would seem and we are finding it harder and harder to see this development right under our noses. Most significantly, we are raising our children to expect this level of assault on the senses as being normal. On the positive side, although in my opinion not positive enough to save the movie, the camera angles and the costuming brings the 2 dimensional world of Dr. Seuss to life for us.

The characters are simple, but Ron Howard does, as usual, a fine job of making the characters consistent, believable and effective. He paces the film well so there are no dead spots nor do we get lost as to where the plot is going. It should be mentioned that Anthony Hopkins does a fine job of narration. On the other hand, I found the pace of the film and the levels of action to be almost on overdrive in order to compete with one’s need to breathe.

From a moral perspective, the film fails even though the ending is a moral one. I say this because it spends most of the movie insinuating that gross and rude behavior is fine as long as it’s funny and anyhow, since the ending is sweet, it makes up for it. This is the worst kind of lie to foist on children. If we give up on requiring all areas of life to be up to Christ’s standards of kindness yet showing solid judgment of what we allow into our eyes and ears because there are a few good bits in it, we will have bought the enemies great lie that as long as there is a few percent of good in something, we don’t want to throw the whole thing out. I think a movie like “October Sky” is a much better example to show children how to conquer evil.

Lastly, the message of Christmas is portrayed as one of getting along with family with no mention anywhere of Christ’s birth. It reminds me of Easter greeting cards. They now equate Easter with Spring, no mention any longer of God’s gift to us of His Son and His forgiveness.


Viewer Comments
I suspected that the Grinch would mimic the Flintstones films. I thought that the film would twist the “framers intent,” turning a fun and lovable classic into a post modern potty-talk, innuendo-laden devoid of “heart.” I was right. Grinch just plain looses the “heart” of the cartoon. The Grinch in Manic, not cool and collecting like the real Grinch. When you can’t make a film “good” you add special effects to sweeten up the deal. You must also add a little sex-related shot or humor here or there to keep us sophisticated adults “entertained”. Forget it. I spew the Grinch film into the toilet. How’s that for for some Hollywood action? My Ratings: [3/3½]
—Jim Layton, age 38
…Warning: Spoilers below… Read only if you don’t mind… I am a secularian… but if there is one thing I don’t believe in, it’s adding in little profanities or sexuality for the sake of getting a PG rating or attracting the adults. Why did we need to see the keys going into a bowl at the party? …Why does the Grinch fall onto a woman’s shirt right at the very top? That’s not all. There’s also some rather disturbing things that I didn’t like seeing… seeing his heart grow two sizes that day. Was there any more disturbing way to show it? Beating heart sounds terrified me as a kid, and I really didn’t need to see the Grinch’s chest expand and contract right at his heart! I especially don’t think the preschoolers in the audience did either. Also, when the Grinch was robbing a house, he left only a crumb too small for a mouse, but then he took the mouse too? Now, what happened to that poor mouse? It was played for laughs, which made it more disturbing for me. I guess you are laughing at the “conservative” non-Christian for freaking out over a cute little “joke”, but I don’t need to see things like that. At least the time he sucked up the cat with a vacuum cleaner, we later saw what happened to the cat (it got sucked onto his face, and he got knocked down). Also, I didn’t want to see termites in the Grinch’s smile. That was gross. Do they live in his mouth?? One more thing: the way the Grinch almost let Cindy Lou Who get smashed by a packing machine, before he finally decided to pull her out. This bit of uncaring on someone who is not really an evil “villian” is the sort of thing I really find disturbing. If the Grinch were some evil person out to destroy the world, I wouldn’t mind him nearly leaving some kid to possibly die, but as he is, a comic “mean guy,” even if he did decide in the end to save Cindy Lou, I still found it disturbing. Oh yeah, some jokes did work, in my opinion: the “kiss this” mistletoe joke, I thought, was pretty clever, and not much worse than what kids already know, anyway. I did wonder a little about the scene with him torching a tree with lit wine, though. Kids might not understand what went on (“how can water catch on fire?”) I liked it, but still felt it was a little out of place. On the Cindy Lou girl, she is now the focal point of the plot, besides the Grinch himself. I didn’t find her to be as annoying as I expected. I was expecting her to use “big words” and talk way above her age. That is the sort of thing about child characters that really sets me off: when they act years above their age. However, I didn’t think she was too bad. Even cute. My final thought is on the “true meaning” of Christmas, as depicted by this movie. Yes, it’s true that the reason practicing Christians celebrate the holiday (Jesus’s birth) was not mentioned at all, but then, it never was in the original book or cartoon. Instead, the Christian kids may have inferred it (I did, as I was raised as a Christian). I think that leaving it that way may have been best—it’s no different than what Suess did with his book. However, the meaning of Christmas not being about commercialism was a bit hypocritical coming from a movie that has Grinch toys, Grinch cereal tie-ins, and several Grinch videogames (one of which I plan to get, btw—the GBC one) kind of throws the message into the garbage, don’t you think? My Ratings: [3/2½]
—Chris G., age 19, non-Christian
After 10 minutes I wished that I had not spent my money and seen the “Grinch.” I have the cartoon video and book for my kids the youngest who is 14. The movie was very dark and cynical and the Grinch is totally scary for young kids. A woman in line to buy theatre tickets mentioned to her friend that her daughter had cried several times during the movie should have tipped me off. There were several questionable scenes for young children and unnecessary to the film. A real disappointment. It should be called “How Ron Howard ruined Christmas.” My Ratings: [3/3½]
—Mary Ullmen, age 49
…Having majored in Children’s Education at college, I was highly interested in an adaptation of a Dr. Seuss story. I, as another reviewer, was a bit concerned with Jim Carrey, considering his terrible works previously. However, I was pleasantly surprised. One reviewer said that there were some “hell”s and “damn”s, but I do not recall hearing one single swear word. I am very conservative in my moviegoing, but even at that I think several of the reviewers are being a little harsh. The scene with the Grinch’s head in the woman’s cleavage was the “most” offensive scene, and it was done so light-heartedly it was only slightly offensive (it was not sensual at all. I dare say you will see more cleavage at church than in this movie.) The Grinch was appropriately portrayed as a miserable loner who can’t stand Christmas because it represents incredible rejection to him. Of course it doesn’t say that Christ is the reason for Christmas! If you were expecting that, you shouldn’t have come, nor should you watch “It’s A Wonderful Life” or “Miracle on 34th Street.” Sinners act like sinners… what did you expect? Obviously, we shouldn’t condone their sin, but at least there was some morality to it, going against the flow of thinking that says Christmas is for getting. There were some very touching moments, enough to pull a few tears out of the eyes of both me and my husband. Also, some very humorous parts and some great special effects made this a movie worth seeing, and one I would have no problem taking my 5-year-old and 3-year-old nephews to. My Ratings: [3½/4]
—Rachel Stark, age 22
Lavish Suessian sets and costumes make for lots of eye candy in this movie that will probably be a holiday classic. Carrey is truly “our favorite human cartoon” and brings his manic intensity to bear as the Grinch. Anthony Hopkins is a wonderful narrator and harkens our thoughts and comparisons back to the sweeter, gentler cartoon version. The movie is heavily padded and I was surprised that a director with the talents of Ron Howard would throw in crude unnecessary humor that was objectionable from a Christian perspective. (The Grinch falls on top of a lady with his head in her bosom. He holds his dog’s rear end up to have the sleeping mayor kiss it. The Grinch holds mistletoe over his own rear end in a crude gesture.) It was a better movie than most for families and we were glad it is on the market. Of course, the true meaning of Christmas is neglected, but all in all it was an enjoyable movie. My Ratings: [3½/3]
—Rex Comer, age 46
I took my seven and nine year old children to see this movie and was sorry that I did. I was very disappointed in Ron Howard. I thought the movie had some very inappropriate scenes for children and was a far cry from the original. There were some very tacky scenes such as the “kissing the dog” scene and the Grinch flying into Martha’s bosom’s scene that were totally unnecessary and could have been done much better. The movie also portrayed the sweet innocent Whoville residents from the cartoon classic as greedy, selfish, and materialistic. Although scenery, make-up and special effects were good, the movie had a dark tone. I was sad to see a classic cartoon ruined by the insensitivity and vulgarity of Hollywood. My Ratings: [3/4]
—Lynne Dana, age 36
Having not seen a trailer, I wasn’t expecting the “Toonville” type setting of the movie. The moral of the story was wonderful, of course, as ushered in by a child. Jim Carrey’s facial expressions and body language was hilarious!! The “stick-to-the-book” script took away from the potential laughs this story could have provided in cinema. It was a pleasant movie that provided me an opportunity to spend time with my 6-year-old, but I was expecting funnier.
—Diane Eannarino, age 44
I have three words for this movie: Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. As a huge Dr. Suess fan, I went to this movie with three of my friends excitedly anticipating a fun adaption of a story I know by heart and is a part of my childhood. What I GOT was a pile of crud that’s not worth the film it’s printed on. I honestly expected more out of Ron Howard, after seeing his earlier, very decent and entertaining work. My three friends and I work with children at a theatre, and sat through the movie constantly saying things like, “Oh, now THAT’S not appropriate for kids” or “I would NOT bring my children to see this.” I’m all for things that might be slightly inappropriate put in movies to move the plot along, but this had absolutely nothing to do with the movie and was just plain obnoxious. I was especially offended by the made-up Suess rhymes and plot additions that didn’t even make any sense. Poor Dr. Suess is probably rolling over in his grave right now. Hollywood should never have tried to re-make a classic. It’s impossible. My Ratings: [2/3]
—~BlownAway~, age 16
This film could be very disturbing to younger children. The grinch’s lair is very dark, forbodeing and scary. The Grinch himself is extraordinarily grotesque with live bugs in his yellow teeth and demonic yellow eyes. There are the inevitable scenes of poor taste where crude humor is used and even some sexual innuendos. “Hell” and “Damn” are used several times as well as some revealing skimpy clothing. The idea of Christ having any connection at all to CHRISTmas is totally ignored. This is a purely secular view of christmas and has very little redeeming value to it other than the obligatory condemnations of too much commercialism. How about too much secularism? I did not take my children to this movie and do not plan to. Be courageous this holiday season and don’t give in to pressure to see this movie because of all the screaming, crying, and fit pitching. Explain to your husband that his tactics aren’t working and to get up off the floor. My Ratings: [3/4]
—W.C.Marberry, age 37
My children, mother and grandmother saw this movie over the weekend. The sets and costumes were awesome. I was very nervous before we went because Jim Carrey can be so crude. Their was some bathroom humor, but it was not outrageous. As far as the man kissing the dog’s bottom, it was inferred and was not shown directly.I was the only one in our family who picked up on it. My kids (who are 10,8 and 6) had no idea. There is one overly sensual character, Martha May. She acts so seductive that it is nauseating. I would caution parents of young teenagers to watch out for her! (My children missed all of that as well.) My Ratings: [3½/4]
—Melissa, age 35
Although there were some offensive elements, this is very good for a remake. I think that older fans of the story, rather than young children, are the target audience. Older kids shouldn’t have a problem with it, but you might want to think twice about bringing a younger child. My Ratings: [3/4]
—Josh Johnson, age 20
In my opinion this was a very good movie. I do not think it should have been rated PG. While there was no nudity besides the fact that the grinch is usually not wearing anything. But there were some jokes that could’ve been omitted. One in particular disturbed me: the Grinch is flying through the air and lands with his head in a particular womans breasts (cleavage). Also a scene where he put’s his dogs back end onto a sleeping mans lips for him to kiss. And also a joke about a baby looking like the mothers boss. There is very little swearing. No profanities. Sentances like “what the hey?” and “o my gosh” are basically what you hear. The Grinch has an attitude (which can be expected) and theres no doubt some children may be frightened by him. This movie has a very “Suess” feel I think they did a great job with the townspeople’s faces and although it is hard to imagine a human playing the grinch I think they did an excellant job on makeup and designing. If you don’t approve of n’s movies there is a good chance you will not approve of this movie. The people don’t look like human’s (afterall they are not humans anyways, they are “Who’s”). I found this movie funny and nice. It may help your kids realise that the true meaning of Cristmas isn’t toys and “stuff”. (But they do not say that it is Jesus’ birth that is important). It might be a good idea to show your children the Veggie Tales video “The Toy That Saved Christmas” to let them know what the real reason for the season is. I suggest this film for older children and not for the younger one’s, as it is rather frightening. My Ratings: [3/3½]
—Caleb Thiessen, age 16
Simply put, the cartoon is far better than this movie. To stretch out the cartoon into a full length movie, they choose to pad the original story with a number of useless (at best) scenes. The grinch with his face in the bosum of a woman, the alluded to kiss of a dog’s rear end, and some language that I wouldn’t want my kids to imitate, all seem to exist for no other reason than to give this movie a PG rating. In fact, if you’ve seen the cartoon (and who hasn’t?), you’ll spend this entire movie comparing to it. Save the money and some time—stick with the cartoon. My Ratings: [3/3½]
—Brent MacDonald, age 37
We were so excited about seeing this movie that we went on opening day. The book is a childhood favorite of mine, but this movie isn’t at all what I expected. The Grinch eats glass bottles and trash! It’s a big gross out film from the butt kissing sceen; to the Grinch having his mouth stuffed with Who pudding and it spilling down his face. I would not recommend this movie to anyone especially to small children. However, the Whoville set design and costume’s were very cute. My Ratings: [2½/3]
—Grace, age 38
Just in time for Thanksgiving, a turkey from Ron Howard. This movie is mediocre at best. Do not waste your money. By the time I paid for tickets and popcorn at the matinee I was out 28 bucks. The movie had virtually no character development, evoked little sympathy for anyone, and had only one admirable character, Cindy Lou Who. There was a gratuitous party scene where keys were dropped in a bowl which appeared to indicate wife swapping among the Whos of Whoville. Gee, I don’t remember this from the animated version. There were a couple of other pointless scenes which helped earn this movie its PG rating. For those of you who still want to waste your money, Cindy Lou Who does provide a good role model. She cares for the unlovable Grinch and attempts to socialize him. What a waste of Jim Carrey’s enormous talent. I checked my watch repeatedly throughout the film, hoping we were near the end. My Ratings: [3/2]
—Mark L. Gilliam, age 39
…contains a few questionable scenes and gestures. Otherwise, it spreads a good message, saying that Christmas isn’t about the gifts and everything. It’s about getting together and celebrating. With that said, How the Grinch Stole Christmas will be remembered as a modern depiction of a classic, which has been transformed into our cultures version of the story. I would recomend it to pretty much anyone who liked the cartoon. My Ratings: [3/2] —Tucker, age 14
Movie Critics
…MESSAGE—The meaning of Christmas shouldn’t be wrapped up in gifts…
—Kids-in-Mind
…some crude humor that particularly involves the suggestion of the Grinch holding a dog’s rear-end up to a sleeping man’s lips for him to kiss…
—ScreenIt!
…No doubt, this GRINCH will become a classic in its own right. But there are a few questionable scenes…
—Preview Family Movie and TV Review