'The Grinch' Steals Laughs Along With Christmas

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'The Grinch' Steals Laughs Along With Christmas

by Stephen Gold (Contributing Writer)

"How the Grinch Stole Christmas" has a lot going for it, or so it appears.

It has a director, Ron Howard, who consistently has turned out quality popular movies in the last decade or so. It has the current king of the box office, Jim Carrey, in the lead role. It has a story based on the writings of Dr.Seuss, probably the most popular American children's author of the last half century.

But what this family comedy does not have is laughs. It is not funny. And that is a surprise.

Ron Howard movies are technically well-made, if not always great. In the past 11 years he has made "Parenthood" (1989), "Backdraft" (1991), "Far and Away" (1992), "The Paper" (1994), "Apollo 13" (1995), "Ransom" (1996) and "EdTV" (1999). All did well at the box office.

And "The Grinch" is drawing large audiences as well. In the U.S. it is number one at the box office for 2000, taking in almost $200 million in the four weeks since its release.

But quality is another story.

The 1966 26-minute animated TV version of "The Grinch," with Boris Karloff as the Scrooge-like voice of The Grinch, is con-sidered a classic. Despite the simple story line, it works because of a
heavy dose of Dr. Seuss' wonderful rhyming lines. The same gems, stretched over roughly four times the length (105minutes), just is not enough. And so Carrey resorts to his same old shtick (for example, the clacking of his teeth) that is starting to wear very thin.

Speaking of wearing thin, do we need yet another spoof of the race scene from "Chariots of Fire" complete with that insipid music? I don't think so.

Carrey's "Liar Liar" was a side splitter. "The Mask" illicited a healthy share of knee slappers. But "The Grinch" stole the chuckles along with the Christmas goodies. Not that it is a complete disaster. Taylor Momsen, as the young girl Cindy Lou Who searching for the meaning of Christmas, is excellent.

And the film will probably, and deservedly, win Oscars for its sets, hairstyles and costumes. The wild vaguely 1950s-ish hairdos are wonderful. Little Cindy looks exactly like big Cindy Wilson of B-52s rock group fame.

Also, delightfully nasty is Jeffrey Tambor (Dr. Phillip Greene in the 1970s TV series "Three's Company") as the mayor of Whoville (the mythical setting for the story) and The Grinch's boyhood
bully and rival for the girl.

Dr. Seuss might say that this new film of "The Grinch" was in fact a frightening bore, that made some snore while others ran for the door. So, if you must watch it, wait for it to come to the video store.
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