How The Grinch Stole Christmas review (early rough print)
Published at: June 1, 2000, 12:20 a.m. CST by headgeek
About a week ago I was laying in my bed, working on
the site, when I suddenly received a phone call from a
representative from IMAGINE, that Ron Howard
company, telling me that Ron Howard wanted me and
Moriarty to take a look and give him feedback on
HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS.
I’ve heard for the last month or so that Ron had been
screening various rough cuts of this film to friends
and family, though I hadn’t been able to get anyone to
write a review, dagnamit.
For the past month and a half, I had put forth the
challenge to Moriarty to nab the GRINCH for
something special that AICN was going to do this
Well, that had fallen through... We had heard that the
print was just way too rough to screen. That they
were a bit nervous about screening it till more of the
effects were knocked out.
This actually concerned me quite a bit, because... So
much of the film is performance and character work
within makeup... and ultimately what is happening off
in the distant background shouldn’t really matter to
this film. THE GRINCH needed to work as a
character piece between THE GRINCH and Cindy
So when I got this call I was a bit edgy. If the film
wasn’t ready to screen for a big audience, if it wasn’t
ready... then would it not work for me too?
Before I could ask anything else I was told that
Moriarty and I were being screened the film, but that
officially... in the real world... we would have never
seen it. Ron wanted us to comment to him about the
film... not the world.
Eeeeek, that sounded like trouble, but... I needed to
know where this movie was. Was it SANTA CLAUS
THE MOVIE or was it NIGHTMARE BEFORE
CHRISTMAS? Where did this movie fall?
So with a dry mouth, I accepted their offer and flew
out to Los Angeles.
Checked into my hotel, and then awaited Moriarty to
come pick me up. I was very nervous about this
You see, for me... Ron Howard can make a bad
movie. I have disliked RANSOM, THE PAPER,
FAR AND AWAY and WILLOW. As for the rest of
his filmwork... I have enjoyed his comedies most. I
adored APOLLO 13 and BACKDRAFT. But really...
SPLASH, COCOON and PARENTHOOD have been
my absolute favorite Ron Howard films.
As a ‘grand scale’ filmmaker, I have felt Ron lacks in
the realm of sweeping epic-ness. I think going into
the screen I was terrified of watching a film made up
of medium shots and close-ups. That Ron would try
to concentrate too much on Who-Ville and not
enough on the two characters that the story needed to
focus on. This little girl, and this crogedy old Grinch
that lives far away from anyone.
Before the screening, Moriarty and I were talking
back and forth with one another about our fears.
About the odds that what we would see would be a
jumbled mess, that the amazing make-up would be
lost due to boring camera movements and bad pacing.
Now the screening we were attending was being held
mainly for the sound team working on THE
GRINCH. Before the film started Ron came out and
asked that the sound people pay particular attention to
the dialogue. That Jim (Carrey) and himself were
worried that some of the lines might be unintelligible
due to the fake teeth and to write down a line of
dialogue and pass it to the end of the row while you
watched the film, so they would know what needed to
be looped. Ron said that both he and Jim could
understand every line, but that they had seen it and
been a part of it so much, they knew what the lines
were supposed to be. And basically wanted these
sound folks to, check their homework.
Moriarty and I sat on the front row and as the lights
went out we looked at each other and did that sigh.
As if to say... Alright, here we go.
Straight up, when this film is completed, it is going to
be the film that redefines Ron Howard as a
filmmaker. That reemphasizes the importance of
make-up on talented actors, vs motion capture cgi,
and is yet another example of why Jim Carrey is a
The state of the film is at an extremely rough state.
Nearly every frame still has the blue screen where the
sky is supposed to be. There are shots that still have
crew members with fans dumping snow flakes in front
of them to push up into the air.
Imagine, if you saw a print of THE WIZARD OF OZ,
where every matte painting and backdrop was not yet
in place, and in their place you would see the walls of
the soundstage itself. To simulate some of the shots
there were terrible video composites of characters
floating around, that you could see through. The vast
majority of the film had no score, but from time to
time the temp track would belt out Herrmann’s
NORTH BY NORTHWEST Mt Rushmore tunes, the
car chase music from THE ROCK and even THE
With all these shiny pennies and so much left to be
done... The film works really well. Really really
SO well, that after talking to Moriarty and I after the
film, they gave us the ok to go public about it.
Ok... let’s address the differences between the script
reviews you have heard via this site and Stax.
I have not only read that script, but everyone’s
reviews of that draft as well.
#1 change. There is no teenage Grinch. No
Who-venile delinquent/WILD ONE/REBEL
WITHOUT A CAUSE sequences. The Grinch is not
a disgruntled stand up comic anymore.
#2 change. Many of the minor subplots that was
padding the film to a length that it quite frankly didn’t
need, were gone. No longer is there the Christmas
Light Contest between two neighbors.
The film has been honed to being a story about how a
little girl, when given the knowledge that there is one
person on the planet for whom Christmas is not given.
A person that all others hold in disdain, but if this be
true, then what is the worth of Christmas if Christmas
is indeed not for everyone. If Christmas is just about
presents and parties and not something more. In her
pursuit to discover what made the Grinch so grinchy,
what drove him from the town... Well, she discovers a
story of a broken heart. And in turn we, the audience
discovers that The Grinch works every day to shrink
his heart into nothingness. That he wishes to feel
nothing, to be numb for the rest of his life. Feelings
hurt too much, so he decides to obliterate them.
This version of Dr Seuss’ original story concentrates
on the heart of the story, which was to emphasize that
Christmas is about more than the size of your present,
that Christmas is something to celebrate as long as
you have others to share it with.
The film has some amazingly funny sequences in it,
but at the end of the day, the film is about a man who
decides to love and live again.
As for the brilliance of Jim Carrey’s GRINCH... This
is at two levels. First there is Rick Baker, who has
constructed quite possibly the single greatest work of
make-up I have ever seen. Why? Well, first off... it
allows and amplifies every nuance of Jim Carrey’s
face beneath, while still seeming completely natural.
The Grinch is a wonder to behold. At no point does it
look or seem like there is a human in there or even a
As for Carrey... You know the moment where the
Grinch’s heart grows two sizes too big? Jim does that
all himself. No makeup tricks, no cgi. The color of
his skin doesn’t change, they don’t trick the lighting
on his face. This is pure John Barrymore - Dr Jekyll
Mr Hyde time. In one shot, you see all the callous
cynicism and anger drain from him. Then you see a
warmth pour into his eyes, a zen like grace imbue his
face and suddenly he is whole again.
They don’t cheapen the scene by cutting to an
‘INSIDE THE GRINCH’ shot to show his heart big
again. Instead, Ron had the confidence in Jim to just
let that moment not be some goofy computer
whoop-de-doo, but to be a man beneath some of the
most amazing make up ever... shine.
Now is this a GREAT film yet?
Noone can answer that yet. Right now there is still so
much to be done. James Horner has got to write his
greatest score ever. It simply must be nothing short
of that. Then, DIGITAL DOMAIN has got to uphold
their side of the bargain... make all that blue screen
disappear and come to life. Fill the streets with
weirder and odder Whos and other wildlife. The sky
and the sun must shine. Birds must fly and the world
outside of Whoville must be built by them.
What I saw was an amazing theater production,
filmed as wonderfully as can be done. But Digital
Domain is going to complete this and make it grander
still. Horner has got to construct the musical soul of
HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS will be
the film Universal is hoping for. Small children will
begin the film with their little hands over their eyes,
but by the end of the film... Their hands will be in
their laps and they will have both eyes open wide.
The film is magic in the way that BEAUTY AND
THE BEAST was magic.
I can not wait for this film’s completion. For those of
us that love the strange and unusual and that love
Christmas and Seuss. This is very much the film we
are waiting for.
Harry here, with some additional thoughts about the film. It should be noted that this film does not ape Tim Burton at all. The visual flair goes from the very comic mayhem to very tender. Also, it must be noted that when the Grinch steals Christmas it is very much the thing that must be done. You see, the Whos are all so busy buying and wrapping and eating and chatting that they have lost what it means to celebrate Christmas. So when all the trappings of Christmas are gone, there is a stunned look, a brief bit of confusion and the slightest of anger. In the end, The Grinch's act is not only his cure for his own shallow heart, but for that of all in his little snowflake world as well. We all know how the story ends, but I really was not prepared for how well the pay off pays off here. You know... this is very much the type of film that needs to be seen around Christmas... where everyone thinks it necessary to max out their cards and accounts. Not only is the original intent of Seuss' story in place... but it has even been fleshed out a little more than it has ever been before. And that's all I have to say.