The first time I watched the 2000 version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, I wasn’t impressed. The off-putting character designs, Jim Carrey’s strange voice, and the forced sentimentality all combined to make me dislike that movie from the start.
However, having children often allows parents to revisit old things and give them another chance. In this case, my kids recently wanted to watch this movie, and I couldn’t help catching a glimpse or two of some scenes as they watched it. And I was shocked. Instead of finding the performances grating, I found them endearing. It was my wife who helped me put into words the change of perspective I had. I’ll save that reveal for later. It made all the difference, and I’m excited to share it with you.
So let’s find out why How the Grinch Stole Christmas improves on multiple viewings!
Better Than The Cat in the Hat
Something that really helped me to change my mind is ironically by watching a terrible movie earlier this year. The Cat in the Hat (2003) was the next (and likely final) live-action adaptation of a Dr. Seuss book after How the Grinch Stole Christmas. And it was terrible. While How the Grinch Stole Christmas built on a solid story structure by providing more motivations for the characters’ actions and a deeper understanding of the stakes, The Cat in the Hat was pure self-indulgence and padding to get an adequate runtime.
Everything The Cat in the Hat did horribly, How the Grinch Stole Christmas did admirably. The Grinch is likable despite his gruff exterior. Cindy Lou Who is sweet and charming. And the mayor is a fun villain to hate. On the other hand, the Cat in the Hat is obnoxious despite his façade of fun. The brother and sister are boring and stale. And the neighbor couldn’t be more of a cliched mustache-twirling villain if he tried.
Basically, The Cat in the Hat showed how to fail at adapting a simple Dr. Seuss book. While How the Grinch Stole Christmas managed to do enough right to overcome any weaknesses it might have. This is a big-budget version of a children’s book done right.
I don’t know how to fully explain it, but most of the jokes landed perfectly for me on my most recent viewing of this film. The entire Who-bilation scene had me in stitches. I found myself chuckling just about every time the Grinch pulled a prank or told a joke. Especially when he talks directly to the camera. That made me roll my eyes the first time I saw the film. But not this time.
It could be that I’ve gotten older, and I can identify with the Grinch more. Not that I’m a fan of practical jokes, but that I can understand his cynicism a bit more. I try not to be cynical or hopeless about the state of the world. And the point of this movie is for the Grinch to learn that lesson, too. So I feel a kinship with him.
By the end of the film, the Grinch is a right jolly fellow. In fact, my favorite scene in the movie is when he has a well-deserved change of heart. Literally. His heart grows three sizes, and he’s suddenly not afraid to care about others. That leads right into the next section I’d like to talk about.
Have Their Cake and Eat it, Too
The film’s climax is a wonderful “have your cake and eat it, too” moment. Just like in the old cartoon, the Grinch has a change of heart at the end where he realizes that Christmas is about more than just presents. In reality, it’s a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. But this movie settles for Christmas being about family, togetherness, and genuine kindness. Pretty close, by Hollywood standards.
Anyway, the point is that the Grinch realizes that presents and material things aren’t all that important in the grand scheme of things. So when he sees his giant sleigh full of all the Christmas presents and decorations he stole from everyone in Whoville creeping closer to the edge of a tall cliff on his mountain, he at first panics and tries to save it. After all, he stole those things, and it would be good to return them to their rightful owners. But then he notes that they’re just presents, so he doesn’t have to worry too much if he fails in his effort to save them.
That is a wonderful message that is missing from the book and the old cartoon. However, as the audience, we want to see not only the Grinch come to that conclusion but also for the Who’s to receive all their things back after learning their own lesson. That would be the most satisfying conclusion to the story. And this movie finds a way to make it happen without coming across as hypocritical.
It navigates this tricky maneuver by having Cindy Lou Who come to Mt. Crumpit and get onto the sleigh. Suddenly, the person who helped the Grinch have his big change of heart is in mortal danger, and the Grinch has to save her. It just so happens that the only way to save her is by also saving all the presents on the sleigh. So we get a happy ending where the Grinch proves he’s changed by saving Whoville’s presents and one of his favorite residents of Whoville at the same time. Brilliant.
Unique Take on the Grinch Character
Jim Carrey’s performance as the Grinch is surprisingly sympathetic. He doesn’t come across as a thoroughly unlikable bully like Biff Tannen or a psychopath like Norman Bates. Instead, he presents himself as someone who’s trying to convince others that he’s meaner and scarier than he really is.
A perfect metaphor for that comes right at the start during his introduction. A couple of Whoville teenagers approach his front door on Mt. Crumpit for a thrill and to show they’re not scared of the Grinch. They are clearly terrified, though. And their fears are justified when the door flies open, and a scary monster emerges with red eyes and a mouth full of sharp teeth gaping open to devour them. The teens run away in horror and fall down the mountain back to Whoville. And then we see that the monster is just a prop amplifying the soft barks of a meek-looking dog named Max into a loud snarling sound.
That’s the Grinch in this movie. He likes to cause mischief and talk a big game so that others leave him alone. But, in reality, he’s a sensitive soul who’s afraid of anyone getting close to him. And he’s a bit lazy until he finds a cause he’s passionate about. As my wife helpfully pointed out, he’s a kind person who has been hurt. He is constantly betraying the fact that he cares all through the film. From saying “Gesundheit” to his dog Max when he sneezes to making a Christmas present for Martha May, the Grinch is constantly showing his true colors. Deep down, he’s a good person who looks different and got neglected, bullied, and pushed too far.
He’s not vicious. He’s more of a misunderstood prankster.
I want to love every movie I watch. It’s wonderful that I finally get to feel that way about How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It’s a heartwarming tale with a good moral. Now I can look past the garishness to see the sweetness at the center of it. Much like the Grinch himself, this film was hiding a tender heart I couldn’t see all at once. But now that I do see it, thanks to my wife and children, I’ll be singing “Dahoo Dores” come Christmas morning whether or not the Grinch has come to town.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
All images are the copyright of their owner.
Want to Support the Deja Reviewer? If you’d like to support the Deja Reviewer, please consider donating a few dollars to keep this site going strong. I’ll even send you an original joke if you do! Try it, and prepare to enjoy a good chuckle. $5.00
Want to Support the Deja Reviewer?
If you’d like to support the Deja Reviewer, please consider donating a few dollars to keep this site going strong. I’ll even send you an original joke if you do! Try it, and prepare to enjoy a good chuckle.