Three Faces of The Grinch
There have been three films of note based on the 1957 Dr. Seuss book, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. There was the 1966 cartoon, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” There was the 2000 live action movie “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. In 2018 Universal Pictures released the 3-D animated movie “The Grinch”. The movies are faithful to the book’s story arc. They all add to what is in the Dr. Seuss book. This article contains spoilers.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
This made for television cartoon was first broadcast in 1966. Even by 1966 standards the animation is rustic. Boris Karloff was both the narrator and the voice of The Grinch. Except for one line spoken by June Foray, the voice of Cindy Lou Who, Boris Karloff had all the spoken lines. It is as if Boris Karloff was reading the book. Another element was the song, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”, sung by Thurl Ravenscroft. Ravenscroft would sing a stanza in between Karloff’s narration. This cartoon is an excellent example of the voice talents of Karloff and Ravenscroft. Karloff won a Grammy Award for Best Recording for Children for his performance. Dr. Seuss wrote the song lyrics[i] and it fit the poetry of the story perfectly. The narration and song ran short for a half hour television slot. The film makers added the wild sleigh ride down Mount Crumpit to fill in the time. This cartoon has a 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating.[ii]
[i] U.S. Movie Database, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060345/trivia, last accessed 11/18/18.
[ii] U.S. Movie Database, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060345/trivia, last accessed 11/18/18.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Ron Howard directed this 2000 live action full length movie. This movie won the Oscar for Best Makeup. It was also nominated for Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration.
The setting in this movie is a snowflake. In the book and the 1966 cartoon adult “Whos” ranged in relative size from a few inches to a few feet. The movie did a masterful job of portraying the interactions of the characters with this wide range of sizes. Jim Carry did his usual over the top performance in his portrayal of the Grinch.
The movie covered the Grinch and the inhabitants of Whoville in great depth. The movie also has a couple of jokes for adults that would go over the heads of children. Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen), who was no more than two in the cartoon, is school age. The Grinch, at the coaxing of his dog Max (Kelley), saves Cindy Lou’s life. Cindy Lou does some research on The Grinch. The Grinch, like all “Whos”, fell from the heavens inside an umbrella. Even as an infant Grinch was mischievous. His umbrella lands at the house where two women are hosting a “key party”. When the Grinch is 8 years old (Josh Ryan Evans) has a crush on his classmate Martha May Whovier (Landry Allbright). Another classmate, Augustus Maywho (Ben Bookbinder), is constantly teasing the Grinch. The issue came to a head one Christmas Eve when Augustus led the other classmates in teasing Grinch mercilessly. The Grinch decided he hated Christmas and ran away to the top of Mount Crumpit.
Whoville is caught up in the Christmas spirit. Everyone is overspending on gifts and other Christmas related items. Augustus is Whoville’s mayor (Jeffrey Tambor). Martha May (Christine Baranski) is the mayor’s fiancé. She is in a heavy competition with Cindy Lou’s mother, Betty Lou Who (Molly Shannon), over who has the house best decorated for Christmas. Cindy Lou wonders if decorations, celebrations, and presents are all Christmas is about.
Cindy Lou nominates the Grinch for the Christmas Cheermeister. This upsets Mayor Augustus, who was the only other nominee. Whoville goes along with Cindy Lou and she brings the news to the Grinch. The Grinch goes to the celebration. Being Cheermeister isn’t all fun and games. It means being stuffed with food and drink. Mayor Augustus gives The Grinch a gift he knows will bring back memories of the event that caused The Grinch to run away from home. The Grinch wreaks havoc on the town and burns Whoville’s Town Christmas tree.
After a speech by the mayor the Whos break out their backup Christmas Tree and resume their Christmas celebrations. The Grinch is shocked by Whoville’s resilience. The Grinch finds Max in the Christmas spirit to the tune of “Christmas is Going to the Dogs.” The Grinch kicks Max out into the snow. When the Grinch pulls Max out of the snow Max has snow on his face that looks like a beard. This gives the Grinch the idea for stealing Christmas. The Grinch builds a flying sled. It works on the flight down to Whoville but has no fuel for the flight up Mount Crumpit. The Grinch looks at Max and says, “What are you laughing at, Rudolph?”
The Whos wake up to find they’ve all been robbed of everything that had anything to do with Christmas. The mayor rants about how The Grinch “pulverized” Christmas. He points the blame at Cindy Lou. Cindy Lou’s father, Lou Lou Who (Bill Irwin), says he is glad the Grinch took the presents. Lou Lou continues “You can’t hurt Christmas” because it’s more than gifts, contests, and decorations. Then the Whos break out in the signature song, “Welcome Christmas”. The Grinch hears the music and he comes to the realization that Christmas isn’t just presents and feasting. In this version The Grinch not only has to save the presents but Cindy Lou.
This 2018 animated movie uses state of the art CGI. The Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch) has an empty cupboard. He planned to have enough food in the house to last him to January. He hoped to stay away from Whoville during the Christmas season. He reluctantly goes into town to buy food. While there he engages in some rude and obnoxious behavior.
Cindy-Lou Who (Cameron Seely) is a take charge character. Her mother, Donna Who (Rashida Jones), is a single parent. Cindy-Lou enlists her friends in a mission to capture Santa Clause. The Grinch begins planning to steal Christmas early. He steals the sleigh from Mr. Bricklebaum’s (Kenan Thompson) house. Mr. Bricklebaum is filled with the Christmas spirit. There are plenty of reindeer near Whoville. The Grinch is only able to capture one obese reindeer. This is where the audience sees a “kinder, gentler” Grinch. Max, the Grinch’s dog, taught the reindeer “puppy dog eyes”. The Grinch can’t resist this look. When the Grinch is getting ready for his Whoville raid the reindeer’s family shows up. The Grinch lets the reindeer go. The Grinch informs Max he will take the reindeer’s place pulling the sleigh by sweetly telling Max it’s a “promotion”. The Grinch has his encounter with Cindy-Lou when she catches him in her Santa trap. The Grinch’s behavior and Cindy-Lou’s reason for wanting to capture Santa shows there is more to the characters than their outward persona. The rest is history.