DR. SEUSS’ ‘HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS’ AND TIM BURTON’S ‘THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS’: A FESTIVE DOUBLE BILL OF HOLIDAY FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
DR. SEUSS’ ‘HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS.’ (2000) BASED ON THE WRITINGS OF DR. SEUSS. DIRECTED BY RON HOWARD. PRODUCED BY BRIAN GRAZER AND RON HOWARD.
STARRING JIM CARREY, TAYLOR MOMSEN AND ANTHONY HOPKINS AS THE NARRATOR.
TIM BURTON’S ‘THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS.’ (1993) BASED ON STORY AND CHARACTERS CREATED BY TIM BURTON. DIRECTED BY HENRY SELICK. PRODUCED BY TIM BURTON AND DENISE DI NOVI. MUSIC BY DANNY ELFMAN FROM ‘THE SIMPSONS.’
STARRING CHRIS SARANDON AND CATHERINE O’HARA.
These are two festive favourites that strike me as being kind of similar, which is why I’ve decided to lump ’em in together in this steaming double helping of Christmassy film reviews. They’re both beautifully animated and they each have a strong iconic male character in the lead role.
Namely, the Grinch who tried to steal Christmas because he f***ing hates it and Jack Skellington from Halloween Town, the guy who is so enchanted by the new and novel idea of Christmas that he tries to, well, not so much steal it exactly but, shall we say, he attempts to appropriate it for himself and his fellow ghouls just for one holiday season to see how it goes.
I’ll be totally honest with you guys. I possibly would have hated ‘HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS’ if it hadn’t been for the presence in it of Jim Carrey. He bends over backwards to deliver a powerhouse performance as the lead character, the furry green and wrinkly fellow who lives on the outskirts of the mythical town of Whoville.
He lives as a cranky and Christmas-hating outcast, mostly by choice but also because the townspeople are afraid of the Grinch and hate his practical jokes and negative attitude towards Christmas, the holiday season they love more than any other.
They go way overboard themselves for Christmas, turning the little town of Whoville into a veritable winter wonderland of fun, feasting and festivities. And all the while, the Grinch sits alone in his cave muttering ‘Bah Humbug!’ at each fresh manifestation of the townspeoples’ festive excess.
The only person (or are they really people with their freakishly flattened ‘League Of Gentlemen’ snouts?) in town with any compassion for the Grinch is little Cindy Lou Who, played by Taylor Momsen with a couple of really big ugly fake front teeth shoved in her pie-hole.
She’s sorry for the hated creature, with whose pitiful backstory we’re fully au fait through a sequence of flashbacks. There are perfectly good reasons for his miserly Christmas-hating, it seems. This makes us sympathise with the Grinch rather than the mercenary townsfolk.
Cindy Lou is also worried sick about the way that Christmas in her town has become all about the presents, the excesses and the materialistic element of the festive season. Can she make her parents and the rest of the Whos of Whoville acknowledge that the true meaning of Christmas is the love we share with friends and family?
And, in the meantime, a thoroughly hacked-off Grinch is planning to steal the whole kit and kaboodle, just like Homer Simpson from THE SIMPSONS when he has to save Christmas for the people of Springfield by stealing everyones’ Funzo toys. Let’s see now. That makes four Christmases he saved, versus six he ruined, three were kind of a draw…!
The animation is gorgeous and the songs are all cleverly written. The film has a great message but I’m very much afraid that I hated all the Whos, even Cindy Lou, and I still think in all honesty that Jim Carrey is the best thing about the movie. It’s still makes for a good Christmas watch for the kids, though.
And watch out for that awards ceremony. It’s the funniest awards ceremony since Fr. Ted Crilly picked up his Golden Cleric in the Christmas Special of FATHER TED back in the late ‘Nineties.
THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, a stop-motion animation film, is just sheer perfection all the way through. Chris (THE PRINCESS BRIDE, FRIGHT NIGHT, DOG DAY AFTERNOON) Sarandon voices the lead character of Jack Skellington, a lanky skeleton with the fancy title of ‘the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town.’
Halloween Town is the marvellous creation of Tim Burton, a fantasy world peopled by the most adorable ghouls, goblins, vampires, werewolves, witches, trick-or-treaters, boogeymen and other such wicked little oddities. The imagination Tim Burton must have simply defies all logic.
Jack is in charge of organizing their annual Halloween holiday, which the creepy residents of Halloween simply live for, which is cute indeed considering that most of the little blighters are actually Un-Dead, haha.
When we come in, however, Jack is actually starting to get bored and fed-up with the same old rigmarole every year. He’s actually bored with Halloween, if you can credit that, and he yearns for a change.
When he accidentally stumbles upon the holiday of Christmas and decides that it might be a bit of a lark to take it over for once, the stage is set for some distinctly un-Christmassy activities…
The animation here is exquisite, as are all the delightfully spooky entities with which Tim Burton has peopled his magical fantasy world. The songs are all brilliantly written by Danny Elfman of THE SIMPSONS, and the character of Jack himself is just a delight to watch.
Look at the way he carefully researches the holiday of Christmas and tries to figure out just exactly what is the deal with the whole thing! It’s marvellous and heartwarming to witness.
Sally the Rag Doll-slash-amateur-toxicologist (wonder if any of the naughtiest of the wee gremlins have ever asked her for roofies for a bit of the old ‘in-out…?’) is kind of the Cindy Lou Who of this film.
She’s the only one who can see that Jack Skellington is possibly heading for the disaster of a lifetime, kidnapping Sandy Claws and taking over Christmas and everything. She’s also madly in love with Jack, of course. Will Jack, the silly sausage, work this out in time, or is he too busy unintentionally ruining Crimbo…? Well, you know what men are like…
On my 2008 SPECIAL EDITION DVD of THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, two wonderful short films by Tim Burton are also included. That’s why you should always check out the extra features, people. You can find some real gems nestling amongst them sometimes.
The first of these is VINCENT from 1982, in which horror icon Vincent Price narrates a grisly little poem about a boy called- you guessed it- Vincent, who might be a perfectly normal little boy in some respects but who really wants to be like his idol, Vincent Price.
Little Vincent Malloy likes to read the writings of Edgar Allan Poe and wants to immortalise people in his wax museum just like his idol did in that marvellously creepy film about, well, a wax museum.
Directed and written by Tim Burton, this six-minute treasure (there’s no other word for it) is the most exquisite piece of horror cinema you’ll possibly ever see. Vincent Price narrates with fiendish glee and it’s so nice to hear the familiar rich deep timbre of his voice reading the cleverly twisted rhymes.
The second of these short films is called FRANKENWEENIE (1984), which was recently (2012) made into one of those glossy big kids’ films for Halloween. It’s the story of a young boy called- believe it or not- Victor Frankenstein, who’s an American kid from the ‘Fifties who positively adores his dog Sparky.
When a tragedy occurs and Sparky is called away to Doggie Heaven, little Vincent takes inspiration from a school science experiment to help him bring the furry critter back to life, with mixed results.
The film is one of the purest tributes to the original FRANKENSTEIN movies from UNIVERSAL you’ll ever see, and it also features horror royalty Shelley Duvall, the mom from THE SHINING, as Victor’s mother. And watch out for the canine Elsa Lanchester, she’s a real hottie…!
THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS is probably the only film that so successfully manages to blend our two favourite seasonal holidays. I can’t even think of any others. It makes great viewing for either holiday. Enjoy the hell out of it, dear readers, and Happy Holidays to everyone out there in Internet Land! May we all have a delightfully fiendish and ghoulish 2017. (In a good way, of course!) xxxxxx
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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