A mean, green cave-dwelling creature becomes so angry at his neighbors he plots to steal Christmas from them. If you were unfamiliar with the titular character in Dr. Suess’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” that description would seem pretty far from a famous Hollywood idea. But that Dr. Suess had a gift for sneaking smart, layered, stories to an unsuspecting audience of children and adults. The book is funny, clever and has a great deal of heart. The joy of Suess’s work, for me, was that there weren’t really bad people and good people, but people who had yet to learn how to love and accept others. The Grinch wasn’t a terrible guy, he was just lonely and that made him mad. It’s a valuable lesson that sometimes gets lost in bigger splashier films. Let’s look at the three most famous representations of the Grinch and see how they measure up.
How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966 – Television Adaption)
Okay, this one has an unfair advantage both in its rendering and in this bloggers’ personal opinion. The thing about this version is that it had the great fortune of the author, Ted Geisel (aka Dr. Suess), actually working directly on it during production. With Geisel handling the screenplay adaptation as well as the principle artwork and animation, it would be pretty difficult for the thirty minute special to stray too far away from the source material.
For me, this will always be the best version of the story. My parents recorded it off the television during a CBS Christmas Spectacular block that included several other Christmas classics and I kept the VHS for years, watching every holiday season. Even now I can recite all of the commercials on the tape, recorded before anyone learned how to hit pause and then record to avoid the advertisements. Would you like me to sing all of “Hard-nosed Mrs. Hatcher” the McDonalds commercial about a tough second-grade teacher whose students eventually learn she only pushed them to be their best? Because I can.
The Grinch (2018 – Film)
I was pleasantly surprised with this most recent adaptation. To start, Benedict Cumberbatch should voice all characters for the rest of time so I went in with high expectations and, as usual, the internet’s boyfriend delivered. The story sticks mainly to the classic rendition, with a bit more backstory to fill it out and obviously, the animation is leaps and bounds from the original. The biggest change is The Grinch himself, who is a kindler, cuddlier, version than the original. I don’t recall being frightened of the original as a child, but I was also busy memorizing advertising jingles. Would definitely recommend over another adaptation.
How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000 – Film)
Whooboy. And here we are. This movie has actually aged much better than I thought it would. Having not seen it since its original release, and being markedly unpleased at the time, I didn’t go in with high expectations. Where the newest adaptation pulls away from the bite of the original, the 2000 version leans into… hard. Jim Carrey is doing some particularly heavy lifting in this movie, trying to center all of the moving parts, and he does a pretty great job. A live action version of any work by Dr. Suess is a tough undertaking as the writer created entire worlds’ solely from his imagination. Recreating that world with actual people doesn’t always work, but in this case I think it does.