Amazing Stories

FAREWELL TO A FAN and SHORT MOVIE REVIEW: THE GRINCH

Figure 1 – David E. Wilson

On Monday, March 4, David (“Dave”) Edward Wilson died. I’d known Dave since my early days in fandom, having met him through the late Paul “Smokey” Simms, who I believe I met at a NonCon, though it could have been a VCON. Smokey was an outgoing, larger-than-life fan, who made friends easily. Dave was also outgoing, though quieter; we discovered quickly that, besides science fiction, we had music in common, because he loved—and collected—1950s and 1960s music. He had an extensive collection of 45 RPM records (which is now even bigger than it was 40 years ago) and, if you’ve ever seen the movie Diner, was as knowledgeable as the obsessive guy (Steve Guttenberg?) was about music in that movie.

Dave was born and raised in Vancouver, and his first con was VCON 2; thereafter, he could usually be found supplying the dance music for VCON dances (he always made sure that “Rasputin” and “The Time Warp” were played.) In later years, he mostly liked to sit and talk with people.

Dave was a graduate of the RCAF, where he’d specialized in avionics. After getting out, he went to work for a company that eventually became part of Air Canada—he retired about six years ago. (He liked to joke that he worked in the same building for 40 years, but worked for four different employers.)

As I said, one of our mutual interests was music of the ‘50s and ‘60s; Dave had a really big collection of 45 RPM records (yes, vinyl!). He also liked collecting books, especially autographed books—he and Rose, his wife, have a big collection. He also collected music CDs, as well as DVDs and VHS tapes—both recorded off-air and commercial ones. (I used to kid him about that particular hobby.)

Unfortunately, on Feb. 28, Dave fell in his kitchen, while his wife was out shopping, and hit his head on something. Complications ensued, and on the first of March he was taken to the ICU. He died peacefully on March 4, with his wife Rose at his side. Contributions to the Diabetes Society are welcome in lieu of flowers. I’m glad I was able to see him a few days prior to his accident, and I will be missing him in years to come.

Figure 2 – Chuck Jones Grinch

Back in 1964, the great Warner Brothers animator and director Chuck Jones joined forces with Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel), and brought the Seuss book How The Grinch Stole Christmas to life in a 25-minute animated special for TV. This delightful short subject, with images that partook of Jones’ special animation skill, and Seussian drawings of Whos, was narrated by Boris Karloff, whose cultured British accent added just the right touch of macabre to the video. (In fact, it’s short enough that both it and Geisel’s Horton Hears a Who are both on the save DVD I own, along with a few “special features.”)

It became an instant Christmas “classic” that was, like MGM’s The Wizard of Oz, played year after year. But times change, and eventually, both Karloff and Chuck Jones were forgotten by the young and, sadly, Dr. Seuss himself died. In 1998, his widow sold the film rights—with proviso that the Grinch be played by an actor “of the stature of… Jack Nicholson” (and other A-list actors); eventually, Jim Carrey was signed to play the Grinch, with Ron Howard directing.

Figure 3 – Jim Carrey as Grinch

Despite Rick Baker’s terrific makeup based on the Jones/Geisel character, and despite Carrey’s rubber-faced overacting, the film was not an unqualified success. Although it became the sixth-biggest box-office of 2000, eventually critics and audiences seemed to tire of it. One of the complaints was that some of Carrey’s ad-libs were over the heads of the pre-teen indended audience. And the Grinch’s backstory, specially extended to fit a full filmic time slot (rather than TV’s previous 25 minutes), was somewhat iffy. But the movie continued to be played, along with Home Alone (and Home Alone 2 & 3) at Christmas, because… well, every Christmas movie ever made is played at Christmas: all those I mentioned before, as well as A Christmas Story, Scrooge, Scrooged, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and… well, you get the idea. Part of that backstory involved Cindy Lou Who finding out the Grinch’s awful childhood; i.e., what made him The Grinch.

Figure 4 – New Grinch

And that brings us to 2018, and some bighead noticing that the Carrey Grinch could use a remake, because hey! Who needs original ideas for movies? It’s Hollywood, right? And Christmas movies—film or TV—no matter how bad (look at the Hallmark Channel for examples), always make money for the sponsors. Never mind that live-action remakes of animated properties usually suck rocks and sink without a trace unless a TV station really needs to fill a time slot and doesn’t care what they put in. I won’t mention any names, but *cough cough* Mike Myers *cough cough* The Cat in the Hat *cough cough*… which made Ernest Saves Christmas look like Shakespeare!

Now, even the Myers version tried to make the Grinch look nasty as in the original short (see Figure 3), but the new one, sensing that today’s audiences don’t really go for nasty, settled on making him look naughty instead (Figure 4). And in an inspired bit of movie making (yeah, right!) they decided to throw in a young Grinch who even looked cute (Figure 5)!

Figure 5 – Young Grinch

And because no moviemaker lives who can stand to let even a classic movie—which to a certain extent the original short was, but the remake wasn’t—be remade as is, they decided to expand the whole Cindy Lou Who bit into a quest to capture Santa Claus so she could ask him to help her poor, overworked mother. And besides that, they cuted up Max, the typical Chuck Jones-influenced Seuss dog, and added an entirely unnecessary obese reindeer to the mix. And because there might be vegans/vegetarians who could be offended, they minimized the “roast beast” until it barely gets a mention. Oh, and they also minimized the one thing that I’ll bet everyone who’s ever seen the original remembers: the song “Welcome Christmas (Fab Who Foray)”! Ay, yi yi.

Plus, the Whos look too cute and have almost lost all resemblance to Dr. Seuss’ quirky drawings. For me, the only saving grace in this movie was that the animation and backgrounds—the set decoration—were very clever and quite Seussian in many spots. Since nobody knows who Karloff was anymore, they hired Eggs Benedict Cummerbund to play the Grinch, and “Happy” Pharell Williams to narrate. Meh.

But overall, I thought the movie was terrible, and not to be compared to the original. I give it two flibbets—only because a) the animation/backgrounds were good; and b) they had the guts to hire Bandersnatch Cucumbergrounds as the lead character. Besides, although he’s a pretty good actor, I like making fun of his name. Score: ¤¤

Comments? If you want to, comment here, or on Facebook. Your comments, good or bad, positive or negative, are welcome! (Just keep it polite, okay?) My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owner, editor, publisher or other columnists. See you next time!

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