I approached the new Grinch movie with some trepidation.
It's a remake of a classic animated
TV show from the 60's and it stars Jim Carrey so I had reason to be worried. On the other hand, it is wildly successful at the box office so I wanted to see what it was like, and it's directed by Ron Howard. I feel like I grew up with Ronny Howard. We were both born the same year and when he (and I) were four years old, he started his run as Opie in The Andy Griffith Show. Since then, after his stint as Richie on Happy Days, he became a successful director of some pretty good movies including Splash, Cocoon, Apollo 13 and Edtv. So I went to see the new Grinch and I was pleasantly surprised. Although the original version of the Grinch will always be the classic version, the new one is quite watchable and I enjoyed it. As anyone who owns a TV knows, the original Grinch is a half hour animated version of the Dr. Suess book by the same name, memorably voiced by Boris Karloff. It is great and would get 5 bottles if I were reviewing it. The new version presents two possible problems. First, it is live action so some actor has to play the Grinch, and second, it is 104 minutes long. The first problem is solved by hiring Jim Carrey to play the Grinch. He is experienced since he has already made two movies where he wore green and obscured his face: The Mask and Batman Forever. The fear with Jim Carrey is that, well, he is Jim Carrey. With tight direction, Jim Carrey can be good and funny. If not, he can be way out of control. This is where Ron Howard comes in. Under Howard's control, Carrey does an excellent job as the Grinch, in which he is basically unrecognizable but makes the most of his elastic face and voice. His voice has an echo of Boris Karloff although sometimes sounds more like Mr. Magoo or Agent 86 from Get Smart. The second problem means that roughly three quarters of the movie must be new material not included in the original and not written by Dr. Suess who sadly is no longer with us. The writers of the new Grinch do a pretty good job of filling this void with one exception. They write a few new lines of verse which pale alongside the original narration. Replacing Boris Karloff, who also sadly is no longer with us, as narrator, is Anthony Hopkins who does a nice job. The new plot mostly involves an expanded part for Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen) who becomes an advocate for returning the Grinch to Whoville as a useful member of society. Momsen does a good job of not being too sickly sweet and looks very much like the original Cindy Lou. Also, in the supporting cast are the Mayor of Whoville (Jeffrey Tambor), and the Grinch's childhood sweetheart (Christine Baranski). Tambor is best known now as Hank on the Larry Sanders Show but for TV geeks, he is still remembered as the cross-dressing Judge Wachtel on Hill Street Blues. We also see the Grinch's childhood, where all his anti-social behavior had its inception. The Grinch, as an 8 year old, is played by Josh Ryan Evans, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Jim Carrey. Keep a lookout for Ron Howard's brother, Clint who appears in all but one of his brother's films. Here, he plays the Deputy Mayor of Whoville. All in all, under Howard's direction, the story moves along at a nice clip and all the scenes from the original version are lovingly recreated including the song, You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch. And there are several amusing asides that will go right over the kids' heads but will keep the adults in the audience happy. The movie, however, is stolen by the dog (uncredited) who recreates the role of Max perfectly. It's worth seeing the new Grinch just for this performance!