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Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000 film)

Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000 film)

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (also known as Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas and simply The Grinch in the UK) is a 2000 American Christmas fantasy comedy film directed by Ron Howard and written by Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman. Based on Dr. Seuss's 1957 book of the same name, the film was the first Dr. Seuss book to be adapted into a full-length feature film. The film stars Jim Carrey in the title role, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Bill Irwin, Molly Shannon, and Taylor Momsen.

Because the film is based on a children's picture book, many additions were made to the storyline to bring it up to feature-length, including some information about the backstory of the title character and reworking the story's minor character Cindy Lou Who as a main character. Most of the rhymes that were used in the book were also used in the film, though some of the lines were to some degree changed and several new rhymes were put in. The film also borrowed some music and character elements (such as the Grinch's green skin tone) that originated in the 1966 animated television special.

Produced by Howard and Brian Grazer's Imagine Entertainment, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! was released by Universal Pictures on November 17, 2000, to mixed reviews from critics, mostly criticizing the screenplay and innuendos, while the musical score, Carrey's performance, visual aspects, and production values (particularly Rick Baker's makeup effects) were favorably praised. The film grossed over $345 million worldwide, becoming the sixth-highest grossing film of 2000 and was originally the second highest-grossing holiday film of all-time behind Home Alone (1990), until both movies were surpassed in 2018 by the third film adaptation of the story.[2][3] It won the Academy Award for Best Makeup as well as getting nominations for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Directed byRon Howard
Produced byBrian Grazer
Ron Howard
Screenplay byJeffrey Price Peter S. Seaman
Based onHow the Grinch Stole Christmas!
by Dr. Seuss
Narrated byAnthony Hopkins
Music byJames Horner
CinematographyDon Peterman
Edited by
  • Dan Hanley
  • Mike Hill
Imagine Entertainment
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • November 8, 2000 (2000-11-08)(Los Angeles)
  • November 17, 2000 (2000-11-17)(United States)
Running time
105 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$123 million[2]
Box office$345.1 million[2]


All the residents of Whoville (Whos) enjoy celebrating Christmas, with the exception of the Grinch, a misanthropic, eccentric and egotistical creature and genius inventor, who hates the holiday as well as the Whos. No one likes the Grinch, due to the vengeful and harmful stunts he occasionally pulls on them. Six-year-old Cindy Lou Who believes that everyone is missing the point about Christmas by focusing on the gifts and festivities instead of personal relationships. She has a face-to-face encounter with the Grinch at the post office, in which he reluctantly saves her life, and she becomes interested in his history. She asks everyone what they know about him and discovers his tragic past.

Cindy learns that the Grinch arrived in Whoville as a baby, and was adopted by two spinster sisters. He showed some sadistic tendencies as a child, but was timid and not as cruel as he would later become. In school, the Grinch had a crush on Martha May Whovier, one of the prettiest girls in school, who seemed to reciprocate his feelings. Classmate Augustus Maywho, the school bully, was jealous that Martha seemed to like the Grinch more than him, and began to pick on the Grinch. When the Grinch was eight years old, he made a Christmas gift for Martha and cut his face attempting to shave after Maywho pointed out he had a beard. When Maywho and the rest of the Grinch's classmates (except Martha) laughed cruelly at his cut face, the Grinch lost his temper, smashed the Christmas gift, hurled the classroom Christmas tree at his classmates while angrily proclaiming that he hated Christmas, and ran away to live at the top of Mount Crumpit, north of Whoville.

Touched by this story, Cindy decides to nominate the Grinch to be the Christmas Whobilation "Holiday Cheermeister", much to the displeasure of Maywho, now the mayor of Whoville. She climbs Mount Crumpit to invite the Grinch to the Whobilation; he initially turns her down, but changes his mind as he considers the promised award, the fact that Martha will see him at the celebration, and the chance to upset his former rival. As Cheermeister, the Grinch endures being made to wear an ugly sweater by the spinster sisters who raised him (and are apparently still alive) and judging all the Whos' Christmas food concoctions, but he enjoys showing unsportsmanlike conduct by beating all the children in the competitions. Maywho reminds him of his childhood humiliation by giving him an electric shaver as a present, then publicly proposes marriage to Martha, giving her a large and hideously gaudy engagement ring and promising her a new car paid for by the local taxpayers. Enraged, the Grinch berates the Whos for their materialism and avarice, telling them that Christmas is only about gifts that they will end up throwing in the garbage, which is dumped on Mount Crumpit near his home. He then proceeds to ruin the party by shaving Maywho's hair with the shaver, burning down the town's Christmas tree, and causing chaos throughout Whoville. Disappointed, Maywho shames Cindy for inviting the Grinch to the celebration, leaving her upset.

However, the Grinch's actions prove fruitless, as the Whos have a spare tree, which they are able to erect before he even leaves. Since the Grinch's attack has failed to crush the Whos' Christmas spirit, he concocts a plan to prove his point by stealing all of their presents, decorations, and food while they are sleeping. He creates a Santa suit to disguise himself and dresses his dog Max as a reindeer, in addition to building a powered sleigh, and descends to Whoville and begins to steal all of the Christmas gifts. The first house he goes to is Cindy's family's home, and when Cindy catches him stealing their tree, he lies by saying that he is taking it to Santa's workshop to repair a defective light; Cindy believes him and allows him to escape. When they wake up on Christmas morning, the Whos are horrified to discover the theft, and Maywho reproaches Cindy for letting this happen to Whoville. Her cheerful father, town postman Lou Lou Who, comes to his daughter's defense by explaining to Maywho and all of the other Whos that he has finally figured out what Cindy has been trying to tell the whole town: Christmas is mainly about love of family and friends, not just gifts. Realizing how commercial and greedy they have been, the Whos agree with him and start singing Seuss's Welcome Christmas.

Before the Grinch can push the stolen gifts off the top of Mount Crumpit, he hears the Whos' singing and sees he has failed to prevent Christmas. He ponders this for a while until he has an epiphany that Christmas "doesn't come from a store", but "perhaps ... means a little bit more". His heart grows three sizes, and as the sleigh full of gifts begins to slide over the edge of the cliff, he desperately strains to save them, but cannot. He then sees Cindy on top of the sleigh because she has come to spend Christmas with him. Motivated to save not just gifts but Cindy's life, the Grinch finds the strength to lift the loaded sleigh and Cindy to safety. They then ride the sleigh down the mountain to return the gifts. The Grinch confesses to the burglary, apologizes, and peacefully surrenders himself to the police, who accept his apology and refuse Maywho's desire to pepper spray the Grinch, much to Maywho's disappointment. To cap it off, Martha also turns down Maywho's proposal and returns his engagement ring, declaring that her heart belongs to the Grinch. The redeemed Grinch joins in the Whos' celebration feast, carving the roast beast himself.


  • Jim Carrey as the Grinch, a misanthropic and devious green creature who despises Christmas and the Whos of Whoville. It is revealed in his origin story that he started to hate Christmas after his school classmates mocked him for trying to shave his face. Before Jim Carrey was cast to play the Grinch, Jack Nicholson and Eddie Murphy[4] were briefly considered. Josh Ryan Evans as the 8-year-old Grinch; his humiliation at school by May Who is what drives him into a hatred of Christmas.

  • Taylor Momsen as Cindy Lou Who, a young Who who thinks the Christmas spirit in Whoville is lost. In this version, she is six years old, whereas in the book in 1957 and TV special in 1966 by Chuck Jones she was "no more than two".

  • Jeffrey Tambor as Mayor Augustus May Who, Whoville's rude, arrogant, racist and judgmental mayor. He is revealed to be a school bully who picked on the young Grinch over his shaved face, which is what motivated the Grinch to hate Christmas in the first place. He also denounces the Grinch every chance he gets and wants to have a Grinch-less Christmas. Ben Bookbinder as 8-year-old Augustus May Who; he tormented the young Grinch, which then motivated the Grinch to hate Christmas.

  • Christine Baranski as Martha May Whovier, the Grinch's lifelong crush, the kindest citizen of Whoville, and the romantic interest of Mayor May Who. She ultimately rejects the Mayor and chooses the Grinch. Landry Allbright as 8-year-old Martha May Whovier. She shows compassion towards the young Grinch.

  • Bill Irwin as Lou Lou Who, the cheerful and slightly dim-witted postman of Whoville, as well as Cindy's father.

  • Molly Shannon as Betty Lou Who, Cindy Lou's mother and a rival to Martha in a house-lighting contest.

  • Kelley as Max, the Grinch's pet dog and only companion on Mt. Crumpit. It is unknown how or when the Grinch got him.

  • Clint Howard as Whobris, the mayor's sycophantic aid. Reid Kirchenbauer as 8-year-old Whobris.

  • Mindy Sterling as Clarnella Who, one of the Grinch's childhood caretakers.

  • Jeremy Howard as Drew Lou Who, one of the troublesome sons of Lou and Betty, and brothers to Cindy Lou.

  • T. J. Thyne as Stu Lou Who, one of the troublesome sons of Lou and Betty, and brothers to Cindy Lou.

  • Jim Meskimen as Officer Wholihan, the chief of police.

  • Mary Stein as Miss Rue Who, the Grinch's school teacher.


Ron Howard is the film's director and producer.

Ron Howard is the film's director and producer.

Before his death in 1991, Dr. Seuss had refused offers to sell the film rights to his books. However, his widow Audrey Geisel, agreed to several merchandising deals, including clothing lines, accessories and CDs.[5] In July 1998, Geisel's agents announced via letter she would auction the film rights of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. In order to pitch their ideas to Geisel, the suitors ultimately had to be willing to pay $5 million for the material and hand over 4 percent of the box-office gross, 50 percent of the merchandising revenue and music-related material, and 70 percent of the income from book tie-ins. The letter also stated that "any actor submitted for the Grinch must be of comparable stature to Jack Nicholson, Jim Carrey, Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman." Additionally, it was stipulated that the estate would not consider a director or writer who had not earned at least $1 million on a previous picture.[6]

20th Century Fox pitched its version with director Tom Shadyac and producers Dave Phillips and John Davis in attendance, in which Jack Nicholson was in mind to play the Grinch.[7] Additionally, the Farrelly brothers and John Hughes pitched their own separate versions.[8] Universal Pictures held its pitch presentation with Brian Grazer and Gary Ross in attendance, but Geisel refused such offer. Grazer then enlisted his producing partner Ron Howard to help with the negotiations. At the time, Howard was developing a film adaptation of The Sea-Wolf, and, despite being an avid fan of the animated special, did not express interest in Grinch, but Grazer talked Howard into traveling to Geisel's residence for the pitch meeting.[9] While studying the book, Howard became interested in the character Cindy Lou Who and pitched a film in which she would have a larger role as well as a materialistic representation of the Whos and an expanded backstory of the Grinch.[6][10]

On September 16, 1998, it was announced that Howard would direct and co-produce a live-action adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas with Jim Carrey attached to star.[11] It was also reported that Universal Pictures, who had acquired the distribution rights, paid $9 million for the film rights for an adaptation of Grinch and Oh, the Places You'll Go! to Geisel.[12] Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman wrote the final screenplay following eight drafts, but Geisel also had veto power over the script. She objected to several jokes and sexual innuendos in the screenplay, including one about a family who did not have a Christmas tree or presents jokingly called the "Who-steins" and the placement of a stuffed trophy of The Cat in the Hat on the Grinch's wall.[13] Alec Berg, David Mandel and Jeff Schaffer did an uncredited rewrite of the script.[14]

The film was shot between September 1999 and January 2000. Geisel visited the set in October 1999. Much of the Whoville set was constructed on the backlot of Universal Studios behind the Bates Motel set from Psycho. Rick Baker was hired to design and create the film's prosthetic makeup for Carrey and the rest of the cast. It took a number of tests, and ultimately Carrey admiring a photo of Baker in his first test makeup, for the decision to use Baker's original makeup design. The Grinch suit was covered in yak hair, dyed green and sewed onto a spandex suit. The first application of the makeup took up to 8 hours, after which a frustrated Carrey kicked a hole in the wall of his trailer, wanting to quit the film. The production brought in a CIA operative who instructed agents how to endure extreme torture techniques to coach Carrey to remain calm during the process.[15] The process was later refined so that it took only two and a half hours in the morning getting in, and one hour in the evening to get out. Meanwhile, Josh Ryan Evans, who played the 8-year old Grinch, wore the same makeup and bodysuit that Carrey wore, but took five and a half hours, two hours more than Carrey, because his prosthetics were smaller and more intricate. In total, Carrey spent 92 days in the Grinch make-up, and became adept at remaining calm while sitting in the make-up chair. Most of the appliances the actors wore were noses that connected to an upper lip along with a few dentures, ears, and wigs.


All music composed by James Horner, except where noted.

No.TitlePerformed byLength
"Kids Today"(Dialogue)
"Grinch 2000"(Dr. Seuss and Albert Hague)Busta Rhymes and Jim Carrey
"Green Christmas"(Steven Page and Ed Robertson)Barenaked Ladies
"Christmas of Love"(Rick Cherloff, David Forman and Rob Hyman)Little Isidore and the Inquisitors
"Lonely Christmas Eve"(Ben Folds)Ben Folds
"Grinch Schedule"(Dialogue)
"Better Do It Right"(Greg Camp)Smash Mouth
"Whoville Medley (Perfect Christmas Night/Grinch)"(Paul O'Neill, Robert Kinkel, Jon Oliva)Trans-Siberian Orchestra
"Christmas Is Going to the Dogs"(Mark Oliver Everett)The Eels
"You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch"(Seuss and Hague)Carrey
"Christmas Means More"(Dialogue)
"You Don't Have to Be Alone"(JC Chasez, Veit Renn and David Nicoll)*NSYNC
"Where Are You, Christmas?"(Horner, Will Jennings and Mariah Carey)Faith Hill
"The Shape of Things to Come"
"Memories of a Green Childhood"
"Christmas, Why Can't I Find You?"(Horner and Jennings)Taylor Momsen
"Stealing Christmas"
"The Big Heist"
"Does Cindy Lou Really Ruin Christmas?"
"A Change of Heart"
"The Sleigh of Presents"
"He Carves the Roast Beast"


Home media

The film was released on VHS and DVD on November 20, 2001.[16] A Blu-ray/DVD combo pack was released on October 13, 2009.


Box office

How the Grinch Stole Christmas grossed $260 million domestically and $85.1 million in other territories for a worldwide gross of $345.1 million, becoming the sixth highest-grossing film of 2000.

In the United States, The Grinch opened at number-one on its opening day, making $15.6 million, with a weekend gross of $55.0 million, for an average of $17,615 from 3,127 theaters. The film held the record for the highest opening weekend for a Christmas-themed film for 18 years until the 2018 film version of The Grinch passed it with $67.6 million. In its second weekend, the film grossed $52.1 million, dropping only 5.1%, settling a new record for highest-grossing second weekend for any film. The film stayed at the top of the box office for four weekends until it was overtaken by What Women Want in mid-December. The film closed on April 30, 2001, after five months with a final gross of $260,044,825.[2] Box Office Mojo estimates that the film sold over 48.1 million tickets in North America.[17]

Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 51% based on 135 reviews, with an average rating of 5.5/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Jim Carrey shines as the Grinch. Unfortunately, it's not enough to save this movie. You'd be better off watching the TV cartoon."[18] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 46 out of 100, based on 29 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[19] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.[20]

Roger Ebert gave the film two out of four stars, referring to it as "a dank, eerie, weird movie about a sour creature" and said, "There should be ... a jollier production design and a brighter look overall ... It's just not much fun." Ebert observed that Carrey "works as hard as an actor has ever worked in a movie, to small avail". Nevertheless, he decided that "adults may appreciate Carrey's remarkable performance in an intellectual sort of way and give him points for what was obviously a supreme effort".[21]

Paul Clinton of CNN declared that Carrey "was born to play this role" and noted that "Carrey carries nearly every scene. In fact, if he's not in the scene, there is no scene.[22] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly began his review of the film analyzing the Grinch's "mischievously divided, now-I'm-calm/ now-I'm-a-raving-sarcastic-PSYCH-o! personality" and summed up Carrey's Grinch as "a slobby, self-loathing elitist ruled by the secret fear that he's always being left out of things." Gleiberman expressed surprise at "how affecting Carrey makes the Grinch's ultimate big-hearted turnaround, as Carrey the actor sneaks up on Carrey the wild-man dervish. In whichever mode, he carreys [sic] the movie."[23]

Peter Stack of the San Francisco Chronicle said, "Nobody could play the Grinch better than Jim Carrey, whose rubbery antics and maniacal sense of mischief are so well suited to How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Dr. Seuss himself might have turned to Carrey as a model for the classic curmudgeon had the actor been around in 1957." However, he wondered why Carrey "made himself sound like Sean Connery" and warned that the character's intensity may frighten small children.[24] James Berardinelli of ReelViews wrote that Carrey's "off-the-wall performance is reminiscent of what he accomplished in The Mask, except that here he never allows the special effects to upstage him. Carrey's Grinch is a combination of Seuss' creation and Carrey's personality, with a voice that sounds far more like a weird amalgamation of Sean Connery and Jim Backus (Bond meets Magoo!) than it does Karloff." He concluded that Carrey "brings animation to the live action, and, surrounded by glittering, fantastical sets and computer-spun special effects, Carrey enables Ron Howard's version of the classic story to come across as more of a welcome endeavor than a pointless re-tread."[25]

Some reviews were more polarized. Stephanie Zacharek of Salon in a generally negative review of the film, wrote that "Carrey pulls off an admirable impersonation of an animated figure ... It's fine as mimicry goes – but mimicry isn't the best playground for comic genius. Shouldn't we be asking more of a man who's very likely the most gifted comic actor of his generation?" She concluded that in spite of "a few terrific ad-libs ... his jokes come off as nothing more than a desperate effort to inject some offbeat humor into an otherwise numbingly unhip, nonsensical and just plain dull story".[26]

Todd McCarthy of Variety wrote, "Carrey tries out all sorts of intonations, vocal pitches and delivery styles, his tough guy posturing reminding at times of Cagney and his sibilant S's recalling Bogart. His antic gesturing and face-making hit the mark at times, but at other moments seem arbitrary and scattershot. Furthermore, his free-flowing tirades, full of catch-all allusions and references, are pitched for adult appreciation and look destined to sail right over the heads of pre-teens."[27]


Academy AwardsBest MakeupRick Baker and Gail Rowell-RyanWon
Best Art DirectionMichael Corenblith and Merideth BoswellNominated
Best Costume DesignRita RyackNominated
Golden Globe AwardsBest Actor – Musical or ComedyJim CarreyNominated
Kids' Choice AwardsFavorite MovieWon
Favorite Movie ActorJim CarreyWon
MTV Movie AwardsBest VillainWon
Golden Raspberry AwardsWorst Remake or SequelNominated
Worst ScreenplayJeffrey Price and Peter S. SeamanNominated
Saturn AwardsBest Fantasy FilmNominated
Best DirectorRon HowardNominated
Best ActorJim CarreyNominated
Best Performance by a Younger ActorTaylor MomsenNominated
Best CostumeRita Ryack, David PageNominated
Best MusicJames HornerWon
Best Make-UpRick Baker and Gail Rowell-RyanWon
Best Special EffectsNominated

See also

  • Grinch

  • The Grinch (film)

  • The Grinch (video game)

  • List of films based on Dr. Seuss books


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