Holiday Specials


By • Dec 20th, 2001 • Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6

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Christmas is always a time for bigger gifts, hence this column, while recommending terrific product on DVD, emphasizes multiple-disc presentations.

From Universal: How the Grinch Stole Christmas – 2000.
1 hr. 45 mins. 1.85:1 Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks. Mucho extras including an interactive playhouse geared toward children, which didn’t work quite right when I played it, but then I’m not a child, so maybe I missed something. Featuring Jim Carrey.

In direct contradiction to my opening paragraph, this DVD contains only one disc. However it’s such a perfect Xmas event, I had to lead off with it. Also, I’m a tad guilty about it… A year ago, the prospect of seeing this film along with the usual November/December deluge of screenings for the National Board of Review was just too daunting to seriously consider. I never watch coming attractions, but these were everywhere, and I caught a few seconds despite my best efforts to the contrary. The sets looked garish, the performance by Carrey over the top (quel surprise…), the little girl a sugar plum to gag on, and the rest of the gags churlish and deadly. It seemed that the spirit of Seuss was being debauched. I’ve liked much of Ron Howard’s work, and Carrey has been testing the envelope, so perhaps I should have exercised less cautious.

Well, indeed I should have, unless the tightness of home theater has worked its peculiar magic once again. Because just about everything succeeded for me on that Proscan screen. The script, stuffed like a giant Xmas stocking with delightful gags, was deftly dealt out by Howard in portions equally palatable to kiddies and their handlers. The little girl was cloylessly good, the mutt was terrific, and Carrey found every possible way to triumph over that all-encompassing body suit-and-face. I found myself laughing out loud, over and over, over his and Howard’s choices. Even the original trailer, which is included on the disc, looked better, cut to Greig’s ‘Peer Gynt’.

No one was more surprised than me…well, maybe that isn’t quite true. My screening mate was surprised to see my knee-slapping behaviour, and didn’t find the film quite as successful, because of what she often perceived to be Carrey’s shameless mugging and offputting accent. But having heard her out, I still highly recommend it. I think it actually is a perennial, and there haven’t been many of those since Alastair Sim’s A Christmas Carol (see VCI Home Video below) back in 1951. And Carrey’s accent feels like a substantially altered nod to Boris Karloff’s original reading of the story. With a little W.C. Fields thrown in.

As an aside, I was even amused and appreciative of the liner notes, wherein the key creative forces were quoted in a jocular manner. Of veteran animal trainer Roger Schumacher’s quest to find the right pooch to play the Grinch’s pet, it is said he ‘made calls all over the country to obtain photos of all possible candidates. Naturally the dog chosen came from no more than five miles from Universal Studios….the Glendale animal shelter called Schumacher about a dog that might fill the bill. The dog had run away from home and the shelter picked her up. The first time the dog ran away, the fee for the owner was $25 to get her back. By the fourth time, the fee was $100 and the owner told the shelter to keep her.’ Grinch-like behaviour from the owner paid off big for us viewers.

And Carrey has an amusing quote in said liner notes. “When the movie project came up, I realized that it was a dream come true even though I never had fantasized about it before.”

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