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Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas(2000)
The curmudgeonly recluse Grinch, who hates Christmas, becomes annoyed with the out-of- control Christmas festivities in Whoville, the town lying below his cave dwelling on Mt. Crumpit. But after the Grinch conspires to deprive the Who's of their favorite holiday by sneaking into town on Christmas eve to steal everything associated with the holiday, he learns that the spirit of Christmas goes much deeper than tinsel and toys.
For more about Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas and the Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas Blu-ray release, see Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on October 12, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Jim Carrey, Jeffrey Tambor, Molly Shannon, Taylor Momsen, Christine Baranski, Bill Irwin
Narrator: Anthony Hopkins
Director: Ron Howard
» See full cast & crew
Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas Blu-ray Review
A divisive Seussian adaptation receives a downright mediocre Blu-ray release...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, October 12, 2009
Of all the holiday films and television specials that make the rounds each December, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas is, without a doubt, one of the most beloved, most unforgettable Christmas classics families have continued to invite into their homes every year. Even at a mere 26 minutes, Chuck Jones' animated heart-warmer is a powerful reminder of how easy it can be to become distracted with the trappings of the season; a graceful, streamlined masterpiece that faithfully adheres to Dr. Seuss' original children's book, embraces the author's message with unwavering passion and conviction, and effortlessly lifts spirits, even some forty years after its debut, with charming humor and sly soul. Sadly, the same can't be said of director Ron Howard's How the Grinch Stole Christmas, an overwrought, overcooked, overbearing adaptation that reeks of excess and ego.
Most everyone should be familiar with the story of the Grinch, a bitter, cynical hermit who lives in a cave overlooking a bustling city whose citizens, the Whos, are anxiously preparing for their annual Christmas celebration. But rubber-faced funnyman Jim Carrey, while certainly looking the part, renders his Grinch a much uglier creature; so much so that his inevitable conversion fizzles long before it has the chance to garner any emotional response from his audience. His Grinch isn't a victim of circumstance (as Howard so desperately attempts to convey), he isn't a tragic figure who has a tear-jerking change of heart (as he does in Jones' animated special), he isn't even a misunderstood monster whose bitterness pushes him to do the unthinkable (as he was in Seuss' mind). No, Howard and Carrey's Grinch is little more than a smug, smarmy, camera-mugging blight that doesn't deserve sympathy or a seat at Seuss' table. The Whos are just as vile at times. Far from the pure, singing souls that populate Jones and Seuss' Whoville, Howard's Whos are often as flawed, mean-spirited, and classless as their mountaintop menace. Aside from the precocious Cindy Lou (Taylor Momsen) and her well-intentioned father Lou Lou (Bill Irwin), they're an obnoxious bunch of Christmas junkies with as much to learn about the true spirit of the holiday as the Grinch.
From the moment he signed onto the project, Howard knew his chief challenge would be filling in enough blanks and concocting enough story to stretch Seuss' book and Jones' animated special into a feature length film. Unfortunately, he filled those blanks with such joyless, unfamiliar creations and storylines that one begins to wonder how much the Oscar-winning filmmaker actually cherished his source materials. (Look no further than Jimmy Hayward's 2008 adaptation of Horton Hears a Who, another Seussian production starring Carrey, to find a film that succeeds in faithfully expanding its original story). Cindy Lou is elevated to the roll of Christmas savior, effectively popping up in every scene that requires a heartbeat. A greedy mayor (Jeffrey Tambor) is inserted to add another layer of villainy to the proceedings. A love triangle (one of the most unnecessary subplots wedged into Howard's adaptation) is used to pit the mayor against the Grinch. An origin story is offered that finds a green-furred baby growing up under difficult circumstances. Even the Grinch's eventual turn is shallow and superficial. Carrey rolls around on the ground rather than undergoing a touching transformation, his character retains much of the bite and bile Jones eliminated with a simple change in eye color, and his reunion with his childhood sweetheart is as painful and predictable as they come. He pushes the Grinch so far over the top, so exaggerates his every mannerism and groan, so eagerly hurls out pop culture references and lame one-liners that I braced myself for impact every time he began to wiggle his mouth or curl his fingers.
Ironically, How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a wholly commercialized endeavor; one in which special effects trump heart, extravagant design choices foil legitimate emotional connections, Carrey's insatiable appetite for attention devours entire scenes, and slapstick comedy, pushed to the Nth degree, undercuts every meaningful moment Seuss and Jones gave us so many years ago. I have no doubt kids will enjoy a lot of the humor that Howard's Grinch has to offer. I'm sure many a family will have a fun night at home watching his characters stumble about his team's impressive sets and entertaining designs. However, Seuss' message is so lost in this bloated production that I can't help but question the film's value as an adaptation. Is it colorful? Sure. Will it make children laugh? My son had a decent time with it all. Will it appeal to their parents? Perhaps, particularly those who aren't as attached to Jones' 1966 animated special as I am. Regardless, I loathe Howard's How the Grinch Stole Christmas more and more every time I have the misfortune of sitting through it. As entertaining as some find the film, as much money as it earned at the box office, as stunning as its production values may be, I would suggest you test the waters long before you consider purchasing this dubious adaptation.
Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas Blu-ray, Video Quality
Whether you love Howard's How the Grinch Stole Christmas or absolutely loathe its every frame, there's no denying how awful, how truly, truly awful its 1080p/VC-1 transfer looks. The entire image is cloaked in a gray haze; an exceedingly drab veneer of poorly contrasted colors that rob the presentation of any depth, dimension, or punch. In short, contrast is a joke. While the film's palette is a bit stronger than it is on previous DVD releases, and fine detail a smidge sharper, everything else bears a striking resemblance to its standard definition counterpart. Blacks are unsatisfying and unresolved (referring to their color as charcoal would be generous), mediocre delineation frequently obscures the set designers' hard work, object definition is inconsistent and soft (even blurry at times), texture clarity is dull and indistinct, edge enhancement is out of control, and many shots... nay, many scenes are murky and lazily rendered. From the dreary confines of Whoville to the unforgiving shadows of the Grinch's cave, there isn't much to praise (aside from some bolder greens and more visceral reds). Sure, the picture doesn't suffer from any significant artifacting or banding -- two issues that plague the standard DVD -- but ringing, aliasing, crush, smearing, waxiness, and print damage still litter the proceedings.
I can't imagine how fans will feel when they see this mess. Had I enjoyed the film itself, I would be thoroughly heartbroken by Universal's shoulder-shrug of a transfer. A minor upgrade at best, How the Grinch Stole Christmas looks like a first-generation Blu-ray release, and a shoddy one at that. Prepare yourself accordingly.
Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas Blu-ray, Audio Quality
At least Universal's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track adds some value to this bargain bin-bound release. The only aspect that represents an upgrade from the standard DVD, The Grinch's lossless mix offers clear, well-prioritized dialogue, decent dynamics, and a series of suitably weighty sound effects (namely a rocket-powered sleigh, some packaging swiping contraptions, and the monstrous welcome mat pictured above). While the LFE channel isn't as robust or resonant as I had hoped, it nevertheless did a fine job with the film's more chaotic scenes. Unfortunately, the same can't be said of the rear speakers. Ambience is spotty, acoustics are unreliable and often unconvincing, and the two-dimensional soundfield produces an undeniably front-heavy experience. The musical score and the film's various action sequences tap into each speaker, but the majority of scenes fail to take advantage of the possibilities. Even so, the track bests the DVD's Dolby Digital bore, avoids any serious mishaps, and delivers a mix that will give enthusiasts some much-needed justification if they decide to buy the disc.
Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
How the Grinch Stole Christmas arrives on Blu-ray packing all of the special features that appeared on the 2002 Deluxe Edition DVD, and presents each one in standard definition. Granted, the content focuses on the technical aspects of the production rather than the various thematic, structural, and fundamental changes the filmmakers made to Seuss' original tale, but fans of the film will enjoy seeing how Howard and company brought the Grinch and Whoville to life.
Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Ron Howard's How the Grinch Stole Christmas is far removed from Seuss' original tale. Yes, its costumes, sets, and makeup applications are incredibly faithful, but don't be fooled. It may look the part, it may feel Seussian, it may resemble Jones' animated classic, but Howard's Grinch is a misguided Jim Carrey vehicle through and through. It lacks the heart, soul, and honesty of its progenitors and, despite a lofty budget and some exceedingly bloated production values, fails to reproduce the emotional resonance of Jones' 1966 television special or Seuss' 1957 book. The Blu-ray edition is just as problematic. It features a decent DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, but its high definition transfer is such an underwhelming disappointment that it ruins the entire release. Soft, drab, and inconsistent, it will leave fans and critics wondering why a box office success has been cursed with such a poor video presentation. Rent it if you must, but I strongly suggest skipping this mess and investing your hard-earned cash elsewhere.
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