Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” has received another remake in the form of a computer-animated facelift, but it is time to examine if it really needed one or if this iteration of the now-classic Christmas tale is just another cash grab by Universal Pictures.
To get to the bottom of the question, one needs to look at the beginning, i.e. Dr. Seuss’ original illustrated book. Originally published in 1957, Seuss considered the book a rushed product. According to his biography, “Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel,” he had worked for what felt like years to develop the characters and mythology of the Grinch and the Who’s only to have to quickly throw something together after his wife suffered a stroke, causing the couple to have financial struggle.
Despite this hardship, Seuss’ tale remains a standard of Christmas cheer and since then it has been adapted into several films, beginning with many people’s first introduction to the Grinch: the 1966 traditionally animated TV special. At the time, the special was revolutionary for animation. It provided a comical yet seriously taken examination of the Christmas spirit that really hadn’t been seen since Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Story.” The film’s message is the closest to Dr. Seuss’ original intended meaning to the piece: enjoy the season of love created by the holiday season, with Seuss’ holiday of course being Christmas, but I think the message applies to all celebrations that happen throughout the months of November, December, and January.
After the TV special, there was an initially short-lived Broadway musical that received positive reviews from publications like “The New York Times” describing it as “100 times better than any bedtime story.” The production started in 1998 at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, and after the curtain closed it was picked back up for Broadway and a small U.S. tour in 2008. Since then, it has toured every fall season. The production does what adaptations begin to do: change things to fit the changer’s message. The musical simply adds songs and filler dialogue to make for a nice 85-minute runtime. Structurally speaking, the main story stays intact, and the message doesn’t change all that much.
In 2000, the live-action adaptation, that younger people might be more familiar with, was also produced by Universal Pictures, directed by Ron Howard, and starring Jim Carrey. This adaptation takes the Hollywood approach and adds to the lore that Dr. Seuss so carefully cultivated by making the Grinch actually one of the Who’s, just a little more rotten. Howard also pads the runtime with useless character additions like a love interest for the Grinch who happens to be dating his arch-nemesis from school, the Mayor of Whoville. If you think that’s all a little crazy from the original meaning of the story, you’d be correct in thinking so. The story is framed in a 20th-century mindset of “Christmas has become too commercial,” and this is shown by the Who’s’ need to excessively outdo one another or to buy extravagant gifts for every member of their seemingly large families.
Finally, we approach the latest adaptation, simplified to just “The Grinch.” As the title may suggest, the film focuses more centrally on the titular character rather than his actual escapade, i.e. “how he stole Christmas.” Whereas Ron Howard’s live-action film is made for all audiences, including some rather clever jokes disguised in plain sight, the newest adaptation is just bland, because it panders to the kids in the audience. It capitalizes on animal characters and lazy slapstick humor to make its point, and according to “The Washington Post,” “adds little to nothing new to the source material.”
The question at hand, though: did we need another Grinch to keep up with the modern world? This film critic has to say no. Like some reviews stated for the relationship between the 1966 T.V. special and the 2000 live-action film, you’re better off watching the original, rather than sitting through this obvious attempt at making the most of a money magnet.