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Click above to purchase "Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas: Collector's Edition (widescreen)" at amazon.com

 

Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas
Collector's Edition
(Full Screen)

review by Zach B.

 

Rated PG

Studio: Universal

Running Time: 105 minutes

Starring Jim Carrey, Jeffery Tambor, Christine Baranski, Molly Shannon and Anthony Hopkins as the Narrator

Screenplay by Jeffery Price & Peter S. Seaman
Based on the book by Dr. Seuss

Directed by Ron Howard

Retail Price: $26.95

Features: Spotlight On Location, Deleted Scenes, Outtakes, Who School, Makeup Design and Application, Seussian Set Decoration, Visual Effects, Faith Hill Music Video - "Where Are You Christmas?", Wholiday Recipies, By The Numbers, The Grinch's Special Offer, Production Notes, Cast and Filmmakers Bios, Recommendations, Theatrical Trailer. Max's Playhouse: Rhyme Time, The Care And Feeding Of A Grinch Storybook, Dress The Grinch, How Do I Find Things?, Sing-Along Songs. DVD-ROM: Screensavers, Wallpaper, DVD Newsletter

Specs: 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, English DTS 5.1, English DVS, English Captions, Scenes (20 Scenes)

Released: November 20th, 2001

Last year's biggest box office hit (raking in a rather tremendous 265 million dollars) has finally made its way to DVD in full Universal Collector's Edition glory (what? when's the Ultimate Edition?). Even though it'll be just a tiny bit over a year from the theatrical release to the DVD release, I think it was worth the wait. Even though the film was announced rather early on DVD, studios sometimes tend to wait a longer time than usual to release some movies with holiday themes. You can't blame them, as while people would buy them no matter what, they feel they can get the most out of it being the season and advertising campaigns. And yes, there's that word - "season." To just get that warm feeling inside, and have a movie to for a time to come out at around that time. You wouldn't go out taking a Christmas-themed movie and hyping it in March, and then using more money to do the same kind of hype around the holidays? It's just easier to go once around that way, and again, the whole "season" of it all. There's no doubt in my mind that "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" will be a huge seller on DVD during the 2001 holiday season considering the success of the film and its popularity.

I wanted to see the "Grinch" in theaters, but every time I attempted to, it was sold out, so I had to wait another year for the film. I guess you can't blame the public. There was a pretty strong critical backlash on the film, as many reviewers thought some deal of sweetness of the book was lost, and that there was too much potty humor within the screenplay (I think Seuss' widow, who I believe had screenplay approval, thought that there was too much in the original draft). A film like this is review proof, people will flock to see it no matter what. Still, the book by Dr. Seuss and television special, which are still read and watched constantly all these years later, are held in very high regard. Though some people were disappointed with it all, a lot were pleased. So what did I think, after being one of the last to actually see the film? Let's see...

For the six or seven of you who are unfamiliar with the story, the film is based, as I've said before, on the classic Dr. Seuss book and adds a good deal to it. It's about the one and only Grinch (Carrey), who, because of his own torment, decides to steal Christmas from the Whos in Whoville and make everyone unhappy. However, can the Grinch make his heart grow and learn the true meaning of the holiday season with the help of Cindy Lou Who? Sorry if that sounded corny... I don't even know why I bothered with a plot summary.

"Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas" is a pretty interesting adapation, and it's pulled off pretty well. This, being a movie, has to stretch out longer than a half-hour television special and a pretty short book. Since there's a more of a timespan here, and as a factor, there's a whole lot more to the story. Things are added not featured in the book or special, so there are some new modifications to the Seuss universe (it turns out the poor Grinch was rejected by his peers at school). Elements are also built and expanded upon, perhaps to create some more funny moments and show off more of the beautiful costumes, sets and of Carey's natural and entertaining zaniness.

This adaption, even if it does feel a bit manafactured in some areas and draws away from the book in some areas, is pretty well done and pulled off. The strong production values of this movie really shine, as we can see the incredible effort found in the highly imaginitve sets, tense and high powered makeup and the great costumes. The art direction here is simply tremendous and some of the best I've seen in film in a long time. The world of the Whos come to full life with the talents of Rick Baker and Michael Corenblith.

Ron Howard, who offers superb direction, doesn't miss his mark here. He perfectly captures the magic of the season, the Seuss universe and all of its characters. He sets up some great shots and the film features good editing. However, I guess where the film disappointed me was with the screenplay adaption. It tries to create too much, and as a result, I feel tries to hard in some areas. The film isn't that funny, and while it features eye candy, I felt they needed some better pacing throughout and more depth in some scenes. Still, it's not terrible and the film is entertaining.

But I've saved the best for last. Jim Carrey was simply born to play The Grinch. Under all that makeup is pure Carrey, and he plays the character to the bone. He captures the wackiness, the evilness and hilarity the character offers. He digs deep into his skin and hits it perfectly (Carrey was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance). Christine Biranski and Jeffrey Tambor are quite good in their respected roles, and Molly Shannon is good when she shows up. However, the other big standout is Anthony Hopkins narrating the film. His voice has much warmth and strength in it, making him a great choice for the part and it really helps the film.

All in all "Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas" is a fine family film and perfect for the holidays. It could have been better, but with great performances and great creativity within the production, the timeless story on film makes it stand out. It's worth checking out if you haven't seen it and like Seuss tales, but for those who have and loved it (and their families)... it'll be on your shelf.

Universal is offering the "Grinch" in two seperate versions. For familes there's a seperate full frame version, and widescreen lovers... a widescreen version (make sure you get the one that suits you!). The 1.33:1 full screen transfer is intended for families and is rather good, but it can be disappointing besides the fact there is a lot of cropping of pretty nice shots. Blemishes and pieces of dirt pop up on the transfer which can be distracting. Grain is rather visible, but what I found disappointing was how soft the transfer looked throughout. It almost looks dreary. It can be murky at times as well. Still, the softness really gets it down. Detail is decent and I expected much deeper and brighter colors. If this transfer was sharper, and they spruced up fleshtones and colors and really made it pop out, it would have been a feast for the eyes. Still, the major flaws that ruins the visuals at times sets it back to above-average.

Universal has provided English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks and an English DTS 5.1 track for the film. Both are excellent and neck and neck with one another, so no matter which one you choose you won't be disappointed. James Horner's great score is well mixed through the channels, not to mention the bevy of Christmas songs that are played throughout the film. Dynamic range is excellent, as well as the .1 LFE. There's a lot of great surrounds to enjoy throughout the film. There are a good deal of crashes and explosions that give off a great effect, not to mention the more action packed sequences. Sounds are sharp and crystal clear. Dialogue is easy to hear and is not distorted, and nothing overlaps it. There's a great balance in the sounds, and the tracks pack some great punches. This won't disappoint anyone. Also included, which I have not seen on DVD in a long time, is Descriptive Video Service for the blind. It describes the movie in detail and what's happening on screen. It's pretty descriptive, so those who can't take in the visual beauty can use this as their guide and use their imagination. Also on the release are English captions.

This isn't a Collector's Edition for nothing! The typical promotional Universal Spotlight On Location featurette is on the disc with clips from the movie, behind-the-scenes footage and a whole slew of interviews. Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Jim Carey, visual effects supervisor Kevin Mack, Rick baker and more are interviewed here covering a good deal of the movie's production atmosphere and the atmosphere, let alone the Seuss universe. It's promo, but the way they make it tries to trick you it's not. It's also shorter than most of their featurettes, clocking in at seven minutes.

There are six Deleted Scenes, coming in at over nine minutes. They are complete and in non-amamorphic widescreen and two channel sound. Some of these play out like extensions. You can see why they were cut, as there's not such a good flow to them (I thought), but they're worth a watch.

Three minutes and fifteen seconds worth out Outtakes are also included. There are pretty entertaining, despite how short all of it lasts.

Who School is a near six minute featurette that focuses on the Whos. It has storyboards and interviews with Charles Croughwell (the stunt coordinator), Molly Shannon executive producer Todd Hallowell and Ron Howard among others. This featurette has behind-the-scenes footage of "Who" training basically, and how actors adjusted and how things worked. It's interesting and light-hearted. Very nicely done.

Makeup Application and Design lasts seven minutes, and focuses on the wonderful Rick Baker makeup. With behind-the-scenes footage, clips from the films and interviews with Carrey, Howard, Baker and others. It's also well done, and talks about creating the makeup and the application process. As we see makeup tests and the like for Carey. I wish it had some focus on Whos though...

Seussian Set Decoration lasts a little over five minutes and has your usual clips and behind the scenes footage, plus interviews. Corenblith, Howard and others talk about the challanges of bringing Dr. Seuss' world to life. We see construction and storyboards too of it all. I wish it was longer, but it covers just enough so you can get a taste of what they wanted and being true to Seuss.

Visual Effects is the longest of all these, clocking in at nearly eleven minutes. Obviously, besides the behind-the-scenes stuff and clips, but this is far more interesting as we see wireframe models and examples of how effects were done. How things were created and filled in, all with insight from visual effects supervisor Kevin Mack. He covers a whole deal of things in this featurette and how things were accomplished. This was really well made and put together, so if you have any interest on how certain things were done, check this out for sure.

The rest is your standard stuff. The Faith Hill Music Video "Where Are You Christmas?" is included, plus some Wholiday Recipies you can make by following the instructions. By The Numbers is a one sheet factoid of some staggering stats about making the movie, while The Grinch's Special Offer is promos advertising the Universal theme parks. Ech. Recommendations (might as well make some cheap plugs to cash in on the season) can be viewed for more family titles, while you can read some Production Notes and Cast and Filmmakers Bios. They are detailed and really worth the read. There's also the non-anamorphic Theatrical Trailer, which is really the teaser. Universal has failed to include the full trailer.

For the kids, there's Max's Playhouse. In the "Fun and Games" section, you can Dress The Grinch (click a profession and see him in a different costume), play Rhyme Time (fill in rhymes while seeing some short film clips) or read The Care and Feeding Of A Grinch (have it read by Max the dog or read it to yourself). Still, the How Do I Find Things? is a rather fun section which is a great tutorial for kids on using DVD. The music section lets you view the Faith Hill music video, or Sing-Alongs to the video ("Where Are You Christmas?") or "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch." Kids should enjoy these, plus standard DVD-ROM materials like screensavers, wallpaper and the Universal DVD newsletter.

In the DVD keep case are some production notes that are also in the DVD section. I wish Ron Howard provided a commenary, as he has done in the past, but maybe he wants the movie to stand on its own.

Finally, I've saved the best for last. Right before the movie starts, you are treated to a great trailer for something coming in March 2002. It's in non-anamorphic widescreen and either Dolby Digital Surround or DTS 5.1 (depending which track you choose). All that I'll say is be prepared to phone home again...

Sure to be a big seller, "Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas" is a fine film adaption. The DVD may have a somewhat disappointing transfer, but the nice extras everyone can enjoy and audio mixes make up for it. It's worth the price and worth checking out for sure.

(3.5/5 - NOT included in final score)

(3.5/5)

(4/5)

(3.5/5)

(4/5, NOT an average)

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