Movie Review - How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)

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If you have ever read one of my negative reviews, you knew before you began reading this that I was capable of giving Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! a harsh rating. I’ve rated other films—ones just as nostalgic and traditional—pretty low, and, as much as I hate to do it, I’m not unwilling to do it again. However… you needn’t have worried; How the Grinch Stole Christmas! gets a positive review after all. Which is a good thing, because somehow I think the only way to handle a negative review of this film delicately would be to make all the disapproving parts rhyme.

Dr. Seuss definitely had a unique kind of poetry, didn’t he? If you think about it, though, it’s brilliant: if you’re stuck on a rhyme, just invent a whole new word to stick at the end of the verse. Well, it’s either brilliant or bizarre. Considering the enormous following his poems have had in the English-speaking world, I think it’s safe to assume that most people who come in contact with songs like Fah Who Foraze, Dah Who Doraze don’t find the plethora of nonsense words offensive. And I’m okay with that—I’m not particularly offended by fliffer bloofs, pantookas or zoozittacarzay. The fact is, I’m not exactly sure how to review nonsense—I mean, complete nonsense. On the one hand, it seems perfectly harmless, and on the other, it sure seems like imbibing that much gibberish has to have some negative effect on your worldview. Don’t worry, though; I think more harm is likely to be done by Seussian verse exacerbating a young child’s rhyming phase, than will be done by all the floofloovers in Whoville.

Families who are hesitant about the tradition of Christmas trees may find it a little uncomfortable when the Whos gather around the village Tannenbaum, hold hands, and begin singing; though, of course, it wasn’t meant to communicate tree-worship any more than the Christmas trees in Christian homes are. As far as Santa Claus goes, it is indeed true that the Grinch impersonates him in order to carry out his evil schemes… and it is also true that, despite the Grinch’s having gone up and down chimneys all night on December 24th, no real Santa—and no real Santa’s Christmas presents—are anywhere to be seen.

Now, it is to be expected that we would disagree with the Grinch’s attitude toward Christmas, but that does not mean that we would necessarily agree with everything the Whos had to say about it. The thrice-repeated “Christmas day is in our grasp, as long as we have hands to clasp,” and the similar line, “Christmas day will always be, just as long as we have we,” at least hint at a definition of Christmas that has more to do with family, friends and neighbors than it does with Jesus Christ. And we don’t necessarily hold the narrator guiltless either. “Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more,” may need explaining to younger children, who might not understand that “little” really wasn’t the best word to use there.

At the end of the story, of course—in another bout of ambiguity—“the true meaning of Christmas came through.” It’s not directly (or indirectly) tied to the celebration of the Incarnation, which means that, really, you’d have to read a Christian conversion into the story. There is, however, enough vagueness about the situation to allow for the idea that the Grinch, at that moment, realized the truth of the gospel he had heard before the story begins. I still don’t recommend calling How the Grinch Stole Christmas! a story of redemption without going out of your way to specify that rejecting materialism and embracing the joy of community were not what redeemed the Grinch, as the bit about his shrunken heart growing three sizes at the end of the movie might suggest.

The song, You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch, calls the title character “the king of sinful sots.”

My conclusion about the film? It’s not perfect, but it’s still definitely Enjoyable. You needn’t forsake the tradition, and those of you who have read my other reviews can stop cringing every time you start reading a review of a movie you’ve always loved. I must add, however, that because of the intense nature of the Grinch’s mountaintop peril at the end of the movie, and the disturbing appearance and attitude of the Grinch himself, this movie is not suitable for children under the age of six months, and immediate parental supervision is advised for viewers under the age of four; though, of course, parental guidance is always recommended in the case of ambiguous worldviews.

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