Do the Tinsels
Like Christmas Day?
From my lair
On Mount Critic…
It’s tricky to say.
They Tinsel up holiday movies each year
But I don’t see much joy or holiday cheer.
For years now, they’ve built up a gloomulous glut
Of glum Christmas flicks. They’ve been stuck in a rut —
From R-rated dregs to Tim Allen-ish dreck
And the Jim Carrey Grinch, which is awful as heck.
The Tinsels don’t Seuss well. Their efforts fall flat
From the unspooky Lorax to Mike in the Hat.
Only Horton was done right, kind and angelic
And Blue Sky’s Who-ville was drolly Geisel-ic.
But Ron Howard’s Who-ville was ugly and vile:
A hell in the ’burbs in true Tinsel-town style.
Shallow, promiscuous, cruel through and through.
If I’d been born there, I would be a Grinch too.
Now we’re back in Who-ville for the Grinch’s return
With the Lorax and Minions crew — cause for concern.
While they’ve mastered the “secrets” of box-office glory
Their “despicable” debut was their last decent story.
It’s easy to see how this thing could go wrong
With Lorax-ish satire that doesn’t belong
In this tale of kind Whos who welcome a crank,
Enlarging his heart and forgiving his prank.
So I’m happy to state, though my praise may be faint-ish,
My critical heart is more pleased than complaint-ish.
The Tinsels have managed to Seuss out this one
And it’s decent, good-hearted, forgettable fun.
It’s visually playful, with gadgetry Gru-vy
Repurposed in new ways both Grinchy and Who-vy.
Especially the heist — a logistical dream
As much as a mean anti-holiday scheme.
Replacing Karloff-ian malice and spite
Cumberbatch-ian grousing makes this one Grinch-lite.
It’s a kinder and gentler tale than we’ve seen —
Of course he’s not nice, but this Grinch is less mean.
(I knew that he wasn’t as mean as he said
When he caved to his pets and let them in his bed.
And one is a reindeer as big as a moose!
This pushover’s not the guy scripted by Seuss!)
But he does still hate Christmas! The whole thing is bosh!
Except … gingerbread might be worth a nosh
And scenes of togetherness of kith and kin…
He sneers, but it’s clear he’s conflicted within.
And, you know, I’m okay with this sour-sweet sinner:
Clinging to mean … tempted by Christmas dinner.
The Whos are quite decent, I’m happy to say,
In an innocent, cheerful, Ned Flanders-ish way.
They may go a bit far with the whole Christmas thing,
But they sing for-real carols about Christ the King.
Then there’s Cindy-Lou Who, bouncy and sprightly —
A bit like young Ellie from Up, very slightly —
Determined to make contact with Santa Claus,
But her mother’s well-being is her only cause.
(Mom is single, a nurse, and works hard to get by.
It’s the third Dad-less Seuss film with no reason why.)
There are bits that don’t work, to tell you the truth,
Like glimpses of Grinchy’s unfortunate youth.
There’s hit-and-miss slapstick, and weak gags are made,
And added narration doesn’t quite make the grade.
(Pharrell Williams’ delivery falls a bit short;
Anapestic tetrameter isn’t his forte.)
But the group-hug finale sells it with feeling,
And Who-ville, though silly, is warmly appealing.
All are accepted, whatever the hue,
Or the shade, or the size, or the shape of the Who.
Even nasty outsiders, green-furred and alone
Find kindness and mercy to such as them shown.
The classic tale takes this too much as a given.
Seuss’ Grinch is converted — but is he forgiven?
When he brings the Whos’ things back down from Mount Crumpit,
Announcing himself with a literal trumpet,
Does he apologize — repent in the least?
Or merely presume of his place at the feast?
Grace is a gift, not a matter of course.
And that’s one way this movie improves on its source.
By the time that you read this short essay of ours / The Grinch will have made ten squintillion more dollars! / The people have spoken! The Grinch is a hit! / So who cares if some critic writes critical crit?
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.