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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Grinch: SE
The Grinch: SE
Universal // PG // November 20, 2001
List Price: $26.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Phillip Duncan | posted November 4, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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The film Dr. Suess' How the Grinch Stole Christmas had everything going for it while it was being made. You could not have found better source material, both visually and story-wise. Ron Howard, while not considered to be in the upper echelon of directors, has a proven track record of enjoyable films. Likewise, Jim Carrey has matured as an actor and can deliver a performance both touching and comedic (see Man in the Moon). Also, don't forget the talent of Rick Baker. He and his make-up have won more Oscars than any other physical effects team in the business and he always produces the highest quality work. With that impressive list, I simply have to say, what went wrong?

The film has its flaws, but it has its enjoyable moments as well. I feel the main problem lay in trying to extend the story to feature film length. This was a dangerous job, but it had to be done for the film to work, but the tone of the original should have remained. Unfortunately, it did not. Whether it was Carrey himself, or maybe perhaps the writers were writing with him in mind, the story has taken a decidedly dreadful comedic turn. There is nothing wrong with being funny, but the Grinch himself should not be.

Seuss' worlds were never in the realm of slapstick. The inhabitants were amusing, as often the situations were, but the laughs never came at the cost of the story. Here the Whos are 2-dimensional, undefined characters. They were similar in the original, but in extending the story, characters needed to be developed. Instead, it seemed it was focused on how to get the Grinch to interact with the townspeople and how to make him funny.

While radically different from the source the Grinch needed some form of interaction with the people of Whoville before the end of the film. This was done in an intelligent way, with the Grinch causing mischief and mayhem in the town while in disguise. Where the film went wrong was by turning him into a long, lost member of the Three Stooges. He became Jim Carrey in Grinch makeup doing his act. There are performers that often do this and ruin the illusion of the character they are creating. Robin Williams and Jim Carrey are probably the two worst offenders and Carrey does it here. The Grinch goofs off and plays around too much to believe he is this character with a heart two sizes too small. He seems awful cheerful for someone who holds such a grudge toward the people of Whoville.

Having said that, the movie is still worth a rent if only to see how Rick Baker truly outdid himself and visually brought the world of Dr. Seuss to 3-dimensional life. There is no problem in this representation of Seuss' work. He combined the right amount of respect for the source and elaboration to strike a perfect balance. Every Who-person, Who-house, and Who-gadget look different and it adds to the belief in this world. Baker has proven that not only can he create the characters, but also with the right team of people, he can fashion whole worlds.

The DVD:

The Video: Again I was disappointed in this area and it is a mystery as to why. Perhaps the image looked this blurry and washed out in the theater, but on the small screen of video, it becomes distracting. The colors of the Whos and the town should pop from the screen, much the way the Land of Oz does in the Wizard of Oz. Instead, all the wonderful effects work is hidden in shadow, low light, and the wintry fog that permeates the town. There is no edge to the video, everything blends into everything else, and it all lacks any definition. To preserve the original theatrical aspect, this widescreen version is presented in an Anamorphic 1.85:1 aspect ratio.

The Audio: There are four surround tracks available on this disc. English 5.1, French 5.1, and DTS are present. The English 5.1 track is done well. The vocals are easily heard and there is some action throughout the film in the rears and the sub. It's no showcase piece and it doesn't need to be. Also included is a Dolby Surround DVS (Descriptive Video Service) track that describes the action and scenes in the film along with providing the standard soundtrack. Included for the blind, it's a storybook like feature that should be included on more DVDs.

The Extras: The disc boasts an impressive amount of extras, but few are very entertaining. There is a "Spotlight on Location" feature that has much of its material repeated later in the disc. There are entertaining moments, including the day the Ron Howard was put in the Grinch makeup and directed all day as the Grinch. There are a few deleted scenes that have been strung together, but they seem more like different takes on existing scenes in the film, than excised scenes. Also included are a few outtakes that are quite funny by themselves.

There are also several short documentaries included that detail the making-of process. These rehash a lot of material over-and-over again, but two or three of them are extremely entertaining. "Who School" details the creation of the Whos. From their walk to their entertaining and acrobatic way of doing thins, it's all looked at in this short. The next entertaining short deals with the make-up. Baker himself dresses up in the early test versions of the make-up and there are several versions of the Grinch shown. Lastly, a short details the amount of computer visual effects that were seamlessly added to flesh out the world of the Whos.

There are several more extras included on the disc. There are a few interesting recipes for Wholiday snacks. The "Where Are You Christmas" music video by Faith Hill is included along with the original theatrical trailer. Also included are the standard cast and crew write-ups and production notes. The mysterious choice called "The Grinch's Special Offer" turns out to be nothing but two commercials for Universal Studios Hollywood and Orlando.

Kids might enjoy Max's Playhouse. It's an area that has a few read-along games and a sing-along to You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch. A storybook version of the film and Dress the Grinch are also thrown in for good measure. The DVD-Rom features would not work for me, but there are a few on the disc.

Overall: The film is a mildly enjoyable, but overall flawed, extension of a Christmas classic. Rent it, enjoy the visuals, and then pull out the copy of the Chuck Jones animated original that everyone should own.
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