Corrections or additions?
This review by Jack Florek was prepared for the December 6, 2000
edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
At the Movies
The Grinch has a long history of averting catastrophe.
It seems that no matter how close he comes to the cliff edge atop
old Mount Crumpit, ranting and cursing at the Whos down in Who-ville,
he always manages to avoid plunging into the abyss.
Likewise, when Universal Pictures bought the rights to bring the
"How the Grinch Stole Christmas" story onto the big screen,
all signs seemed to indicate impending disaster. Surprisingly, despite
all the hype trumpeting the "soon-to-be-holiday-classic,"
it’s not half bad. And it’s earning sackfuls of money for many
moribund movie houses.
Superficially, "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" may seem like
just another example of Hollywood’s penchant for serving up defrosted
babyboomer yum-yums of the past. But making a successful movie version
of "The Grinch" was harder than whipping up your standard
"Charlie’s Angels," "Flintstones," or "Mission
The basic formula seems to be to spoon-feed the public the warm and
fuzzies, being careful to remove any embarrassing vagaries such as
polyester or Afros, then add a dash or two of trashtalk, a little
potty humor, and a rich helping of computer-generated phantoms, and
you’ll have a winner. The result is often disappointing."
But with the release of "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" the
stakes are a lot higher. After all, the Grinch isn’t just any old
frozen muffin coming out of the icebox. He is a certified cultural
treasure, created by a certified cultural genius named Theodor Geisel,
a.k.a. Dr. Seuss. A recent article in the New York Times Magazine
credits Geisel with inventing our modern way of viewing childhood
in much the same way that Harold Bloom credits Shakespeare with
our modern way of interpreting humanity itself.
Geisel may have died in 1991, but Dr. Seuss is currently running
the cultural landscape like a runaway freight train. With 44 books
still in print, a theme park in Florida, and a Broadway musical that
opened last week, Dr. Seuss is a regular cultural phenomenon. And
with two more Seuss books being prepped for big screen treatment
Cat in the Hat" and "Oh the Places You’ll Go"), it seems
that Seuss-mania will be around for a while.
Geisel’s book, "How The Grinch Stole Christmas,"
has long been a staple of children’s reading, yet it is certainly
through the Chuck Jones cartoon version of the 1960s that the Grinch
has actually become part of the American psyche. Each year countless
parents plop their little darlings in front of their TV sets to watch
the pickle-green Grinch, behind the soothing narration of Boris
struggle his way through to the "real" meaning of Christmas.
It has been said that by the time a typical child goes away to college
he or she has watched the cartoon version of "How the Grinch Stole
Christmas" at least 25 times.
So the last thing Universal Pictures wanted was to leave themselves
open to charges of tampering with such ingrained Americana. Such an
action would be akin to tampering with the Gettysburg Address or
Kansas in "The Wizard of Oz." So on the whole the studio
exactly tamper, but merely updated and elongated.
Jim Carrey was hand-picked to play the Grinch by Audrey Geisel,
widow (who has donated many sackfuls of Dr. Seuss earnings to such
worthy causes as literacy programs and university libraries). Thus
one might expect Carrey to be the best thing about the movie. And
he is. His evil Grinch-like grin peeling across his face is straight
out of the ’60s cartoon and is probably enough to make Chuck Jones
proud. He plays the Grinch as a sort of angry bumbling creature trying
his darndest to be evil, but despite himself, finds that he is being
taken in by all the holiday good cheer, and the pleasant little
who won’t leave him alone. Although he peppers his speech with a lot
of trendy self-mumblings, on the whole Carrey pays close attention
to the integrity of the cartoon Grinch of yesteryear.
The script, however, departs wildly from the original book and cartoon
show, adding a psychotherapeutic angle to the story. The Grinch is
conned by a well-meaning little girl, Cindy Lou Who (played by Taylor
Momsen, who bears a disturbing resemblance to the late Jon Benet
to join the Who-ville pre-holiday celebration. Here the Grinch’s
ire is irked by the gross avarice being displayed by the Whos, who
seem to have little interest in the real meaning of Christmas. He
decides to throw a fit, destroys their decorations and immolates their
We are then treated to a flashback sequence of the Grinch as a little
green bearded boy being harassed by his schoolmates. This, we find
out, is where the Grinch’s emotional damage occurred and the real
reason he hates Christmas. Also, startlingly, the movie adds a love
interest (Christine Baranski) to the Grinch’s emotional bag.
The cast, apart from Carrey and Momsen, has little to do but
and "ahh" in Who-like fashion. Bill Irwin, one of the best
physical comedic actors in the world, is wasted in his role as Cindy
Lou’s dad. Director Ron Howard has, as always, provided a small role
for his brother Clint. This bit of nepotism has become a kind of
game that is played out in every Howard film; you can look for him
the same way you’d look for the cameo in a Hitchcock film.
Although "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" is pleasantly
it’s hardly the holiday classic it aspires to. For that, as far as
big screen holiday movies go, I’d opt for "The Nightmare Before
— Jack Florek
Destinta, Loews, MarketFair, Regal.
Web" on Saturday, December 9 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday,
December 10, from noon to 4 p.m. There are major roles for adults,
children, and teens. Bring a resume, photo, and short monologue or
poem to recite from memory. Performance dates are February 16, 17,
and 18 at the Kelsey Theater, Mercer County College. Tom Bessellieu
is directing. Auditions are by appointment only; call 609-737-7529.
for Christopher Kyle’s "Plunge," a comedy/drama about a
of college friends, on Saturday and Sunday, December 18 and 19, at
7 p.m. Casting three men and two women, ages 20s to 30s. Show dates
are February 16 to March 3. Call 732-873-2710.
professional theaters, offers gift certificates for its state-wide
Theater Sampler Series. The recipient chooses three different plays
from three different theaters from the 19 participating venues. The
cost is $60 per sampler, a savings of up to 50 percent off single
ticket prices. To order call 973-593-0189 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
new books for holiday giving to disadvantaged kids. They may be
to the library’s Children’s Room for distribution to a variety of
library, charity, and community programs. Jan Johnson, the library’s
director of youth services says, "The holiday season is the
time to promote reading by giving the gift that lasts a lifetime."
Books will be accepted through December 22. For information, contact
Bonnie Kunzel at 609-924-9529, extension 241.
AAA are sponsoring a toy drive for special needs children in Mercer
county schools. Almost 1000 new toys, including stuffed animals,
and trucks; are needed for seriously ill or physically challenged
children. Toys should be unwrapped and may be dropped off at AAA
in Princeton, Hamilton, Mt. Laurel, Bridgewater, and Edison. The drive
will end on December 9.
and paperback books for disadvantaged children in Middlesex County.
The "Books to Keep" program began in 1990 to promote the joy
of reading. The books will be distributed though social service
including service clubs, day care centers, soup kitchens, and programs
serving children with AIDS. Funds are also needed and checks payable
to Libraries of Middlesex and mailed to Leah Wagner, Monroe Township
Public Library, 4 Municipal Plaza, Monroe Township, 08831. Books
for children from preschool through adolescence may be brought to
the Franklin Township Public Library through December 15. For
call 732-873-8700, extension 112.
plane on Sunday, December 24, at 11 a.m. Families are invited to bring
a wrapped gift with child’s name in large text for Santa to distribute
when he arrives. Participants are also asked to bring an unwrapped
gift of clothing, books, or toys to be distributed through United
Way of Somerset County. Donations of money can be made to the FoodBank
Network of Somerset County. Deadline to participate in the free event
is Sunday, December 17. Call airport manager Kenneth Nierenberg at
at Quaker Bridge Mall on December 6. For a donation, volunteers
will wrap gifts of all shapes and sizes in a variety of wrapping
bags, and boxes. The booth is located on the upper level near Lord
& Taylor and will be open during mall hours through Christmas Eve.
themed days of games, crafts, cooking, and visiting farm animals at
Cook College farm. December 27 is "Barnyard Beach Bash,"
28 "Let it Snow," and December 29 is the "New Years Eve
party." The program runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; each day costs
$35. For more information, call Audrey Rozger, at 632-249-2077.
vacation day programs for students in Kindergarten through fifth
The days are themed from December 22 to December 29 and include trips
to the movies, Disney of Ice, and clown school. Cost is $35 per day
for members; $45 for non-members; with a five-day bonus plan
For more information, contact Sue Weiner at 609-883-9550.
basic acting techniques, fundamental improvisation, and creative
skills for students enrolled in fourth to eighth grades. Using sound
and movement, students will collaborate to write and stage an original
story that they will perform in Shoestring ensemble style. Classes
will be held on Saturdays, beginning February 3 and running through
March 24 from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. on the Douglass Campus of Rutgers
University. The cost if $100 and the deadline for registration is
January 24, 2001. For information, call 632-932-9772.
seeks applicants over 18 years of age, with access to transportation
and a valid driver’s license. Background investigation including
and completion of a 40-hour training course beginning in January.
Contact Captain Kevin Pollard at 609-581-4035.
training begins in spring 2001. Call 609-394-0136 for information.
donors when they drop off holiday donations at 1860 Brunswick Avenue,
Lawrenceville. Qualifications include social skills and the ability
to carry bags and boxes weeks of December 11-15 and December 18-22
between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Call 609-394-0136 for information.
since 1792, is seeking volunteers to help guide visitors thorough
the historic capitol. Guides lead groups through the newly restored
Rotunda, legislative chambers, Governor’s reception room, and
caucus room. No experience is necessary and volunteers receive
training to work on a convenient schedule. For information, call
and applications for FY 2001-2002 grants for Special Projects,
Serving Artists, and Community Arts Collaboration events. Intent to
apply forms are due to December 22 and completed applications by
23, 2001. To request forms, call 609-292-6130.
More information is available at the interactive
for students in grades six through eleven. Each grade level will have
three prize winners and the first place winner will receive a $150
savings bond and plaque. Essays should be between 250-500 words; may
be written or typed; and will be judged on creativity, originality,
neatness; and the correct use of grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
For more information, call 609-292-8897 or visit the website at
of guidelines and application for the 2001 grants program in general
operating support, special projects, mini-grants, and prizes. Grants
may be $1,000 to $10,000 for non-profit organizations incorporated
in New Jersey or municipal or county government agency. According
to Mary R. Murrin, director of the grant program, "Many of our
grant categories are available to local civic groups, ethnic clubs,
schools, churches, libraries, and other organizations – and even to
individuals." Contact Murrin at 609-688-8168 or download the
from the website at newjerseyhistory.com.
Entries must be received by February 1, 2001. Over 1000 participants
in the fifth annual Run With Aimee 5K and One Mile Ramble will receive
shirts. The event is on Sunday, April 1 at Montgomery High School.
Entries must be submitted to Run With Aimee, c/o Schilke Construction,
301 Valley Road, Hillsborough, 08844. For information, contact race
co-director Gary Verhoorn at 973-491-7464 or visit website at
Out" exhibit honors New Jersey diners while featuring a historical
overview of New Jersey’s food from colonial times through the present.
The society has also recreated a New Jersey diner on-site. The exhibit
will run through August, 2001 at 52 Park Place, Newark. New Jersey
natives can vote for their favorite diner by calling Kimberly Russell
at 212-843-9203 or e-mail email@example.com. The deadline for
entries is December 31.
for an individual or organization that has played a significant role
in the prevention of child abuse on a local or state level. Award
recipients will be honored at the annual awards luncheon on April
20 at the Princeton Marriott. CAP also presents workshops for
parents, and teachers including "No More Bullies, No More
Call 856-582-7000 for application or workshop information.
must be submitted by January 19, 2001.
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