Review By Liam OBrien, 4 out of 5 “If you so much as utter one syllable ill hunt you down and gut you like a fish! If you’d like to fax me press the star keyT

Another year, another Christmas, another round of either very good, or stunningly bad telly. And, yes, its time again for those little seen x-mas videos/dvds to come out of the cupboard and earn their keep for another twelve months. But this year, don’t just rely on that really old copy of a Christmas carol, or a happy Smurfs Christmas for another year. This year, start a new family tradition, with The Grinch.

Director Ron Howard (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind) lends his talents to this offbeat and ever so slightly dark (yes! dark!) festive fable. The story revolves around the titular green furred trouble maker (played by the excellent Jim Carrey) attempting to ‘steal Christmas’ from his hated neighbours the Who’s. The main plot does, I admit, sound child like, but this is a true family film, with low brow humour for the kids, to the darker, more adult jokes for the oldies out their.

Taken from Dr Suess’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas, the film is a mixture of black comedy, and sticky sentiment (which can get stronger as the film goes on.)

As Suess’s book could not substantiate a 90-minute movie, the screenwriter has added new elements into the mix, but all of the additions are dead set in the spirit of the book.

The production meanwhile, is fantastic. The town of Whoville is one of the most bizarre, intricate sets ever put on screen, with its offbeat festive feel, the snow, the surrounding iced capped mountains, the lights, decorations and more. Meanwhile, the Grinch’s lair is dank, dark and dingy, much like the character his self. The costume design for the Who’s is brilliantly off the wall, perfectly in harmony with the set around them, with their outlandish dresses and head gear.

But this is all topped off with the make-ups; Carrey’s Grinch goes from evil to soft in moments, to dark to joker- the indescribable Grinch mask must be seen to be believed, and it is no surprise that it was created by make up maestro Rick Baker (MIB, MIB II, Planet of the Apes). The Who’s also look odd enough to match Suess’s illustrations.

And that really, is what it’s all about, capturing both the spirit of Christmas, the feel of Seuss, and the all important quality and sheen to seal it all together. All three are present, I am happy to report. Howard’s direction use’s the CGI at his disposal to the max (the incredible opening shot over Mt Crumpit and Whoville) that otherwise would have been near impossible to pull off; also the visuals are odd and energetic, only just keeping up with Carrey but giving it a much needed visual distinction.

However, there is a problem in this glorious Christmas cacophony. The Grinch’s is helped to see the wonder of the season by nine year old Cindy Lou Who. Now, Howard expects us to see this little girl as cute and sweet; but I just see her as damn annoying. She is sickly sweet, and is a total detriment to the whole picture. Only Carrey’s performance saves cuts through the sugar right until the very end, saving the film from the onslaught of ‘sweetness.’ And, she sings. Don’t even go there.

ANY GOOD? Howard’s direction, coupled by a brilliantly black Carrey and an offbeat take on the Chrimbo season helps this film stick in the mind, and not join the long line of crappy festive flicks. The sentiment can get overbearing, the song is terrible, but don’t hold that against it for too long- this is superior festive fare, and will be greatly received come young and old in the stockings come December 25th .

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