Americans love Dr Seuss. They really, really love him. Okay, so a fair few of us Brits enjoyed twisting our tongues around such nursery-room classics as Green Eggs And Ham, but we don't love Seuss like they do in the States. And we're certainly not as familiar with perennial favourite, How The Grinch Stole Christmas. So a movie which represents a massive, seasonal phenomenon over there has much less cultural significance here - yet what it lacks in relevance, it makes up for in curiosity value.
This is mainly due to the fact that the eponymous anti-hero is played by Jim Carrey, one of the most recognisable faces in Hollywood. Yet, due to an extensive, yak-hairy make-over by Rick Baker, you won't see Carrey's face for a single second. You don't even see his teeth or eyeballs, for Santa's sake. But who cares? The result is, frankly, fantastic. Baker's Grinch is a close approximation of Seuss' original, but with even curlier eyebrows, an even sneerier snout, and an even quiffier hairdo.
Carrey wears the costume well, and doesn't let the intense discomfort get in the way of his all-singing, all-prancing performance. Even his patented rubber-faced gurning doesn't seem too inhibited by wearing a second rubber face and, as if he didn't think his total-body transformation was enough, he also tweaks his voice into a gravelly, fang-grinding growl, like a vocal blend of Sean Connery and Regan in The Exorcist.
Yet anyone expecting a comedy performance which pushes the PG rating as far as it can into the realms of Me, Myself&Irene-style adult humour will be let down. This is a family movie through and through, and by family we mean children. Very tiny children. Seuss' widow Audrey Geisel requested that the more toilety humour be axed from the script, so few gags are aimed at grown-ups. And those that are can rarely change a polite smile into a belly-laugh.
Furthermore, the bulking out of a 50-page bedtime story into a full-blown script means less Seuss, more schmaltz. The bit-part of little Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen) is beefed up to offer some commentary on how Christmas is, like, getting too commercial (which is ironic, considering the movie's massive merchandise cash-ins), while we're given an entire backstory to explain why the Grinch feels so alienated in an attempt to up the sympathy levels long before the `heart-warming' conclusion.
Yet only a real Scrooge could truly hate The Grinch. It may pander to the tots, but from the vast CG-realisation of Whoville, to Baker's Oscar-deserving fuzzification of Carrey himself, there's no denying that this year's big Xmas offering stands out as a hugely imaginative technical achievement.
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Carreymay be on top form, but fans of his gross-out gurnery should be warned that The Grinch sees a watered-down Jim for pre-teen audiences. Still, if you can swallow the Christmas schmaltz, this still makes for crazy, colourful Yuletide entertainment.