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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

Impossible" nostalgia-fare.

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

The Grinch. Jim Carrey stars in the Dr. Seuss fable.


Destinta, Loews, MarketFair, Regal.

Top Of Page

The Pennington Players have auditions for "Charlotte’s

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.

Villagers Theater, 475 DeMott Lane, Somerset, has


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.

New Jersey Theater Group, the alliance of the state’s

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

Top Of Page
Holiday Giving

Princeton Public Library gathers unwrapped new or nearly

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.

The Sunshine Foundation along with Central-West Jersey

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.

Franklin Township Public Library is collecting new


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.

Princeton Airport will host Santa’s arrival by twin engine

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


Hadassah Cancer Research Group will open a gift wrap booth

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.

Top Of Page
Holiday Camps

New Jersey Museum of Agriculture Winter Camp offers three

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.

Jewish Community Center of the Delaware Valley offers

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.

The Shoestring Players’ winter drama program includes

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.

Top Of Page
Volunteer Alert

Hamilton Township Domestic Violence Victim Response Team

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.

Lawrence Township Domestic Violence Victim Response Team

training begins in spring 2001. Call 609-394-0136 for information.

Counseling and Support Services needs volunteers to greet

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.

New Jersey State House, the center of New Jersey’s


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


Top Of Page
Call for Entries

New Jersey State Council on the Arts announces the


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


New Jersey Agricultural Society sponsors an essay contest

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

New Jersey Historical Commission announces availability

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

Run With Aimee T-shirt design contest is seeking


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

The New Jersey Historical Society’s "Dining In, Dining

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 The deadline for


entries is December 31.

New Jersey Child Assault Prevention is accepting


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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