Directed by: Ron Howard
Starring: Jim Carrey, Taylor Momsen, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Bill Irwin, Molly Shannon
If you can believe it, The Grinch was one of the highest-grossing films of the year 2000, and is to this day the second highest-grossing Christmas film of all-time, behind Home Alone. Despite a fairly mixed reception initially, The Grinch has grown in appreciation over the years and remains a firm favourite in my household every Christmas. Last year, upon rewatch number umpteen, it truly struck me and my mum just how funny the film is. It’s become a staple of the Christmas film season, and for me, rightfully so.
The Grinch stars Jim Carrey in the titular role as a weird, green demon hellbent on ruining Christmas. Adapted by Ron Howard from Dr. Seuss’ classic tale, Carrey terrorises the town of Whoville, of which he used to be a citizen, and vows to ruin Christmas for everyone below his dwelling high in the mountains. What follows is a genuine masterstroke of filmmaking from a character and production design standpoint, all of which is elevated by a classic Jim Carrey performance, the master of physical comedy that he is.
It’s fair to say that The Grinch wouldn’t have been the success it was without Jim Carrey. In his grotesque green costume with his bizarrely hairy features, protruding stomach, and slightly misshapen face, Carrey delivers a comedic performance for the ages. Every gesture, every grunt, every line is delivered with absolute maximum effort for the comedic impact that is still referenced today; “oooh…ahhh….hmmm….that’s it I’m not going” and “hate, hate hate hate, double hate…LOATHE ENTIRELY!” are two quotes that I reference all year round, regardless of the season. The way he slinks through every scene, high knees and all, never fails to bring a smile to my face. Carrey is reliably great in almost everything he’s in, but The Grinch uses all his comedic power as humanly possible, and it’s a damn delight for doing so.
What truly defines a Christmas film is its sentiment, its overall message, and The Grinch has such a message in abundance. In amongst all of the glorious nonsense is a story of someone struggling with their self-imposed isolation; their true desire is to feel a part of something again. After humiliation as a child at school (a genuinely moving sequence that could’ve sunk like a stone but really works thanks to the young actor committing to being a young Jim Carrey as much as he could), Mr Grinch (per Cindy Lou) cut himself off to punish the town, to try to cast a light on its internal elitism. Truthfully, this angle has never properly struck me until recently, but it’s a very un-subtle metaphor for assumed social hierarchy, and for that, it deserves a lot of credit.
Beyond that though, as is the tradition with most Christmas films, is the discovery of the meaning of Christmas. The Grinch, one could argue, is an anti-materialist venture, showing that Christmas has nothing to do with material gain and presents, but the overall sharing of the season with the ones we love. The ultimate reason the Grinch starts to care again is this very realisation. In a surprisingly spectacular moment in which the Grinch, after robbing the entire town of their Christmas gifts, the Grinch holds the stolen gifts high above his head in a feat of inhuman strength, and declares “I’ve got you, Cindy Lou!” He doesn’t want the satisfaction that he saved the town’s presents, all he cares is his new friend is safe. He’s grown, he’s matured, 3 times over in fact. He’s another embodiment of Ebenezer Scrooge in the form of an actual demon, and it makes me feel absolute joy as the film concludes.
The Grinch is hilarious thanks to Jim Carrey, it’s a marvel in creature design, but most importantly, it’s a faithful Christmas story with a proper Christmas message at its core. That’s what a Christmas film should be.