How The Grinch Stole Christmas

How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
Universal Home Video
Cast: Jim Carrey, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Molly Shannon
Extras: Documentary, Deleted Scenes, Outtakes, Featurettes, Music Video, Trailers, Games and so much more

We all have seen the animated version of Dr. Seuss story of the evil Grinch countless times, who has a heart that is two sizes too small. Combined with Boris Karloff’s narration, for generations this version of the story has been cherished by millions with every television re-run around Christmas time. It was long overdue to create a live action version of the story, but the quirky look of Dr. Seuss’ world and characters always made this quite a challenge. Director Ron Howard took on that challenge and decided to create his version of the story and with Jim Carrey in the lead, they pulled off the impossible, bringing Whoville and its inhabitants to full-fledged life in a comedy adventure for the entire family. After a very successful box office run, the film is now coming to DVD from Universal Home Video, just in time for the holidays.

"How The Grinch Stole Christmas" is the story of a creature outcast from Whoville. Green in color and furry, he was too different to blend with them and after years of embarrassment and harassment, the Grinch left Whoville in anger, hating anything and anyone Who. One year, as Christmas time arrives once again, the Grinch decides to play his usual pranks on the Who, when a little girl spots him. She is intrigued by the strange creature and begins to find out more about his history and why the Grinch is so mean. She believes that in his heart, the Grinch is as good as anyone and she is determined to show the Grinch – and the people of Whoville – that the Grinch really is one of them and belongs in their midst. But neither the Grinch, nor the Who think so, and so she has to convince them all.

While some people dismissed the film as a failure, I have to admit that I found it impossible to escape its charm and beauty. It certainly is no cinematic masterpiece, but the story of the Grinch and his struggle about his inner peace has never felt more real than in this film. Jim Carrey once again proves that not even inches of latex and rubber can restrain his facial expressions and his comedic talents. It is unquestionable that no other performer would have been able to give the Grinch the kind of electricity, tenacity and cartoonish (in)humanity. Much like "The Mask," this is a part tailor-made for the Canadian comedian. But also in his performance and delivery, Carrey manages to nail the character of the Grinch dead-on.

But even beside the Grinch’s immediate antics, director Ron Howard managed to create a small world that is rich, filling in details and information that were not part of the original story, but feel homogenous in the overall context. With beautiful camera angles, and great special effects, Howard presents us a vivid real-world cartoon world, giving it dimension and real life, and very tangible characters. The visual style is perfectly mimicking Dr. Seuss’ illustrative style. From the clouds to the mountains, the houses all the way to the Whos, everything is distinctly Seussian, making sure that viewers always remember that this is a truly classic Christmas tale they are watching.

The special effects further add to the mix, as they allow the filmmakers and actors to create real-life cartoon scenarios where the Grinch is literally bouncing off the walls, tip-toeing on his fingers, and flying through the air. The effects are well executed for the most part and never try to be more than what they are – gimmicks that allow the story to take on a cartoony turn within a whimsical cardboard cut-out world.

Universal is offering "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" in two different versions. One of them features the movie in its theatrical <$PS,widescreen> presentation, framed at an <$16x9,16x9 enhanced> 1.85:1 aspect ratio, while the second one is more oriented towards families with children, offering the movie in a <$PS,fullscreen> transfer and a unique packaging that contains a storybook-like foldout. In terms of the other contents and the quality, these two releases are identical, though.

The transfer of "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" is pristine and absolutely free of defects or blemishes. Absolutely clean and stable, the video presentation is as great-looking as you would hope it to be in every way. The movie uses a powerful color palette, masterfully conjuring up Dr. Seuss world of the Whos and the Grinch. The DVD perfectly restores these colors in a reproduction that literally leaps off the screen. Nonetheless, the colors are never over-saturated and create a well-balanced and pleasing image throughout, finely delineating even the most subtle shades and gradients. The level of detail in the print is also meticulous, bringing out even the most subtle details in the beautiful production design, the costumes and the set pieces. Blacks are very deep, giving the image very good visual depth while highlights are balanced and never bleed. No noticeable edge-enhancement is evident in the presentation and the compression is free of artifacts.

On the audio side, the DVD fares just as well. With a ponderous <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> audio track, the film is as explosive as it is hilarious. The DVD also contains a <$DTS,DTS> version of the audio track that is equally impressive and manages to reproduce James Horner’s beautiful score with even more subtlety. Aggressive use of the surround channels makes the presentation an engaging experience that bombards the viewer with noises and sounds from all directions, and the wide frequency response gives the bass plenty of bottom while the high ends of the spectrum always remain clear and without distortion.

The DVD is filled to the brim with extras, such as an insightful "Spotlight on Location" documentary. It takes you behind the scenes of the production and filled with interviews and on-set footage, it gives viewers a well-rounded look at the production of the movie and the problems it posed to the filmmakers and cast. You can also find a number of great deleted and expanded scenes on the DVD, together with a number of outtakes in which we get to witness mostly Jim Carrey flub his lines in the rubber suits.

A brief featurette covers the creation of the make-ups for the movie. Interview footage with Rick Baker reveals how he gradually worked on the look of the Grinch and the Whos, allowing us to see how the look gradually changed until he finally found the perfect formula. In the same vein, the disc contains a 5-minute feature on the movie’s production design in which Michael Corenblith explains how to tried to capture the Suessian look and feel in a life-action film. The third featurette in that same category then takes a look at the special effects. Visual Effects Supervisor Kevin Mack explains and displays a few examples how computer technology has been used to expand the world and break the physical boundaries, giving the movie the final trim of Seussisim.

Faith Hill’s beautiful "Where Are You Christmas?" music video is also part of the release, and I have to admit I was amazed at the clarity and sharpness in which this <$PS,letterboxed> music video presents itself.

On the lighter side of things – but nonetheless equally interesting – the DVD also contains supplements, such as a recipe for Martha Whovier’s Designer Onion Wreaths, Peppermint Patties, Brownies and other delicious Wholiday recipes. It’s a good thing…

Movie statistics, trailers, production notes and other small little bonuses round out this rich release from Universal, including a demo trailer and playable demo for DVD-ROM users of the "Grinch" computer game – although it doesn’t look very good.

An entirely separate section of the DVD is dedicated to Max, the Grinch’s dog, and he has his own special features in "Max’s Playhouse." Here you will find Sing-Alongs and Read-Alongs, as well as a fun little game called "Dress The Grinch." All these features are clearly targeted at the youngest viewers of the film and as such work very well.

A lot of thought has been put in to the is release. The features and supplements are designed to cater to the entire spectrum of viewers. From film fans all he way down to toddlers everyone will find a fun bonus feature that suits his whims. The presentation of these features and most importantly the presentation of the movie itself are flawless, making "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" a delectable Christmas treat that you shouldn’t miss out on.