It was early in the morning hours of Saturday on November the 18th, in the year 2000. The Regal Cinema at Shiloh Crossing in Avon, Indiana was completely deserted. The front lobby was dark, and the doors were all locked. I was alone, tired, and I smelled like a mixture of stale popcorn and bleach. Just before dawn was beginning to break I reached the final theater in the 18-screen cineplex. I had purposely waited until I was done with everything else before tackling this last one. I knew it was going to be bad. I had been working there as the night janitor just long enough to know that cleaning up a theater after the opening night of a family feature was the closest I would ever be to Hell itself. As I propped open the double doors and pushed the dumpster up the corridor, I mentally braced myself for what I was about to see. And there’s only one word that can describe the scene as I flipped on the lights and beheld the full scope of the disaster laid before me: loathsome. Family features… they never failed to generate an overgrown pile of disgust in the wake of their passage. But this was the worst I had seen—even worse than ‘Meet the Parents‘ which had featured in that same theater just weeks before. After opening night of that movie I had been forced to use a leaf blower to push all the trash to the front, and then a snow shovel to get everything into the rolling dumpster. I had filled that dumpster half a dozen times, with each load requiring me to go empty the contents into the main dumpster outside. I thought that it could never be worse than that. But as I stood there in the aisle on this particular night, starring into the depths of western civilization’s ultimate display of affluent depravity… I knew the end was near. Ron Howard and Jim Carrey’s adaptation of ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ had premiered in there the night before. And it took me the next three and a half hours to get that final theater room back to working order. I quit not long after that night. The Grinch may not have succeeded in stealing Christmas from the Whovillian townsfolk, but he had made short work of any Christmas spirit I was in danger of feeling that year.
I silently swore to myself that night that I would never watch that horrible abomination of a film. What can I say? It was a traumatic experience… I was young… and in my heart at the time there was only room for one Grinch movie anyway—the animated classic from 1966—narrated by Boris Karloff and officially sanctioned by Theodor Geisel himself.
But I guess we all have to grow up eventually. I realize now that I judged this film’s right to exist on the fact that the neanderthals who had patroned the theater that night all those years ago didn’t know how to put their trash into the trash containers.
It took 16 years, but I finally gave in and watched it. I needed help though. I could not have done it alone. Sometimes we need friends to help us see things in a different perspective. Thank you, friends. You know who you are. And now, just over a year later, I’ve seen it twice more.
I can say, without hesitation, that this is one of Jim Carrey’s finest performances. His portrayal of Andy Kaufmann and Tony Clifton in 1999’s ‘Man on the Moon’ are the only thing that top it in my opinion. More importantly, the atmosphere of the film, the set designs, the costumes and makeup, are all faithful representations of both Dr. Seuss’ original artwork from 1957 and Chuck Jones’ animation from ‘66. And Ron Howard can do no wrong in the director’s chair (fingers crossed for the Han Solo movie he just finished shooting). But aside from all that, where this adaptation of the Grinch really excels, is in the story elements it adds to fill out the characters—the Grinch’s backstory in particular. Without taking a single thing away from the character in the original book, we find out that he wasn’t just some scroogy hermit living in the Swiss Alps. He was an orphan who ran away from his adopted family after being ostracized by his classmates during a Christmas party for a botched attempt at shaving in order to impress the girl he loved. That’s backstory gold right there. Being humiliated in front of the girl you love is enough to turn anyone to the dark side, Christmas or no Christmas.
I mean, look, here’s the deal… We all know how the story turns out. We all know the moral that it’s trying to communicate to us. And year after year, we continue to read, watch, and re-tell the story of the Grinch, because year after year we are in danger of forgetting that Christmas doesn’t come from a store—that “Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”