The Grinch (PG)
FINALLY, it’s about time.
After years of overdosing modern kids on saccharine, schmaltz and other sugar-coated dross, Hollywood has sat up and taken note of what we knew all along: the best children’s films are from stories by people who understand kids.
Roald Dahl knew. He combined fantasy with a touch of cruelty to create a recipe which children the world over could appreciate and understand. Nowadays, when anyone wants to hit the jackpot with a film for kiddies, they turn to Dahl.
An author who for years has been ignored by the major studios was Theodore Geisel, aka Dr Seuss, the inspired creator of The Cat in the Hat. While The Cat… sold millions around the globe and was turned into cartoons, no-one was able to persuade the Geisel family to sell the live action rights to his other great work, How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
In Ron Howard’s mesmerising tale the Grinch – yellow-eyed, green-furred and packed full of malevolent glee by Jim Carrey – comes vividly to life, thoroughly dominating Geisel’s fantastic world of Whoville and its annoyingly happy denizens as they prepare to celebrate Christmas.
Intelligently and lovingly adapted from Geisel’s original phantasmagoria by Jeffrey Price and Peter S Seaman, this is possibly the first perfect children’s movie in years, effortlessly capturing the essence of Dr Seuss and the intemperate, nefarious and plain miserable character of the Grinch.
Like Roald Dahl, Geisel injects pain, misery and nastiness into his stories, and full marks go to Howard, Carrey and Co for sticking with it and not watering it down.
Carrey is unrecognisable beneath layers of make-up and costume, putting 110 per cent into creating a character which appears as real as any of the ‘movie stars’ which infest our cinema screens like locusts.
It takes a huge amount of courage to so completely lose oneself in a role, and actors normally only do it once in a career. This is Carrey’s chance, and he triumphs.
Put away all thoughts of the gurning goofball who marches through fare like The Cable Guy and the Ace Ventura flicks. Here, Carrey marshals all of the comic versatility which has made him the screen’s biggest comic draw and shoehorns them all into one magnificent portrayal.
Throw in some bright one-liners – “One man’s toxic sludge is another man’s pot-pourri,” says the Grinch as he delves into Whoville’s trash, conveniently dumped on his mountain – and it becomes apparent that this is written not for kids of all ages, but adults of all ages. The narration is by Anthony Hopkins, who adds even more class to an already classy film.
Geisel always strove to treat his juvenile audience as young adults, and The Grinch does the same. It’s never patronising, always interesting, and Carrey is sensational.
Like the great children’s movies of the past – Mary Poppins, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – The Grinch blends magic and fairytale to create a combination of Scrooge, The Mask, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Edward Scissorhands.
What it represents is the re-discovery – or re-invention, if you like – of all the elements that made for the great kiddie classics of the past.
There is innocence tinged with cruelty, petulance tempered with love, nastiness cured through redemption, and a fabulous central character brought to life by the comic genius of Jim Carrey.
The children’s film is back. Hooray for The Grinch!