There are lots of classic and not-so-classic films vying for the title of the Ultimate Christmas Movie: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, A Christmas Story, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Home Alone, and maybe even the relatively new Will Ferrell comedy Elf, to name a few. But I think that the best Christmas movie of all, is the one about the Grinch whose heart was two sizes too small.
My own childhood watching the Dr. Suess classic certainly biases my choice, but I believe nostalgia is only one of the film’s important merits:
- Script: Dr. Suess’ original poem How the Grinch Stole Christmas was a masterpiece. The journey from poem to animated film (including additional song lyrics by Dr. Suess himself) made the story a classic. Who can forget the instructions to “Trim up your pets with fuzzle fuzz/And whiffer bloofs, and wuzzle wuzz”? Or the heartwarming welcome to Christmas, “Fahoo Foraze”?
- Performance: Has any film ever been more expertly narrated? Sorry Morgan Freeman, but Boris Karloff’s voice is so low, so refined, so Grinchy, so Christmassy! Besides, Karloff had to read words that weren’t even REAL. Words like “jing-tinglers” and “who-wonkas”. Did you have to do that? No.
- Music: With instant hits like “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”, there’s no question the music in this film is awesome.
- Whimsy: In a whimsy competition, Dr. Suess is sure to win hands down. From his imaginative characters and locations, to his creative use of language (I’m pretty sure “pantookas” and “whoboohoo bricks” are not native to this planet), to his wacky and wonderful line drawings, Dr. Suess is the definition of “whimsy”. And no film can truly capture the magic of Christmas without some whimsy.
- The meaning of Christmas: this is by far the most important category, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas is not the only holiday film to decry greed and commercialization in favour of “the true meaning of Christmas.” Films like A Charlie Brown Christmas, for example, do just this. But unfortunately for me, the meaning of Christmas for Charlie Brown happens to be Jesus. There’s nothing really wrong about this. Christmas is, after all, technically a celebration of the birth of Christ (that just so happens to coincide with the winter solstice and the pagan celebration of Yule and the Jewish Hanukkah among other things). It’s just that the Christian theme of Christmas (the manger, etc.) has always excluded a person like me, who grew up celebrating holidays in a secular fashion but still believes in the magic of these special times of year. In How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the true meaning of Christmas is not revealed as being part of any particular religion. It is represented in the film as a glow created by the love and joy of the Who community coming together and welcoming Christmas, despite the loss of their material trappings. Dr. Suess’ message is also one of inclusion. Bitter and isolated in his mountain cave, the Grinch is able to join in the Whos’ Christmas cheer once he understands that their celebration isn’t about the superficial (toys, food, decorations, etc.), but about having a joyful spirit. With this spirit in mind, the Whos in Whoville immediately forgive the Grinch for taking their things and even grant him the honour of carving the Roast Beast.
I know everyone has their favourite Christmas film and that perhaps I have not managed to convince you. I don’t care. May the true meaning of Christmas give you the strength of ten Grinches plus two, on this Christmas and every Christmas.