How the Grinch Stole Christmas! [1966]

Under a thick carpet of green-dyed yak fur and wonderfully expressive Rick Baker makeup, Jim Carrey is up to all of his old tricks (and some nifty new ones) in this live-action movie of Dr. Seuss's holiday classic. He commands the title role with equal parts madness, mayhem, pathos, and improvisational genius, channeling Grinchness through his own screen persona so smoothly that fans of both Carrey and Dr. Seuss will be thoroughly satisfied. Adding to the fun is a perfectly pitched back-story sequence (accompanied by Anthony Hopkins's narration) that explains how the Grinch came to hate Christmas, with a heart "two sizes too small." Ron Howard proves a fine choice for the director's chair with a keen balance of comedy, sentiment, and light-hearted Seussian whimsy. Production designer Michael Corenblith gloriously realizes the wackiness of Whoville architecture, and his rendition of the Grinch's Mt. Crumpit lair is a marvel of cartoonish, subterranean grime. Then there's Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen), the thoughtful imp who rallies her village to recapture the pure spirit of Christmas and melts the gift-stealing Grinch's cold, cold heart. You've even got a dog (the Grinch's good-natured mongrel, Max) who's been perfectly cast, so what's not to like about this dazzling yuletide movie? The production gets a bit overwhelmed by its own ambition, and the citizens of Whoville (including Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Molly Shannon, and Bill Irwin) pale in comparison to Carrey's inspired lunacy, but who cares? If a movie can unleash Jim Carrey at his finest, revamp the Grinch story, and still pay tribute to the legacy of Dr. Seuss, you can bet it qualifies as rousing entertainment. (Ages 5 and older.) --Jeff Shannon

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