It’s well-understood that the green and hairy Grinch, who lives just north of Whoville, hates Christmas. A group of young Whos climb Crumpit mountain, to the Grinch’s lair. They find a small, green, barred door. This reveals a scary face with teeth and burning, red eyes. The group is sent tumbling back down the mountainside.
The Grinch has mouldy vegetables. He takes a bite from an onion, plays with it and rubs it under his arms. He fancies a little social interaction. Dressed in brown cloak and face mask, he walks among the Whos. He gives children a hacksaw to play with and casually unbalances a Who carrying many gifts. He breathes toxic, green breath on somebody else.
Louie Lou Who with daughter, Cindy Lou, says nothing beats Christmas. Cindy asks if the commercial trappings don’t seem superfluous. At the Whoville Post Office, Lou speedily processes parcels. The Grinch discreetly causes havoc by disordering Christmas cards and distributing jury duty letters, blackmail, pink slips, chain letters and eviction notices.
Lou warns Cindy of the sorting machine. She sees the Grinch and falls backwards screaming into the mail shaft where she becomes trapped. A whistle blows and the Grinch holds up Cindy by a leg. She thanks him for rescuing her. He fashions her into a parcel.
Lou finds no lights on in the house. His wife, Betty Lou, says she’ll have the most spectacular lights in greater Whoville. Even the bulb from the fridge is going up. Every year, neighbour, Martha May Whovier has the best lights. Martha demonstrates a Christmas light machine gun that fires lights in neat rows up onto the house.
The Grinch catapults a bag of hazardous waste at a photo of mayor Augustus. He zip-lines some distance into an easy chair and hurls his creeping socks about as he sings. He chews on a glass bottle, appreciating the vintage. He’s got all the company he needs right there, playing with his voice’s echo, which starts calling him an idiot.
For research purposes, Cindy meets the Grinch’s adoptive mothers and asks where he came from. He drifted down from the sky in his own pumbersella, like every other Who child. Baby Grinch is offered a Christmas cookie, but instead takes a bite out of the plate.
He draws Santa’s sleigh burning. Young Martha’s wordlessly besotted. Young Augustus tells Young Grinch he doesn’t stand a chance with Young Martha. He’s eight years old with a beard. Young Martha tells Young Grinch she loves the colours of Christmas, especially the green.
Next day, Young Grinch has made Martha a home-made Christmas angel. There are shaving cuts all over his face. Everyone laughs, except Martha. Young Grinch shouts that he hates Christmas, destroys the tree and moves into his lair.
Cindy nominates the Grinch as Whoville Holiday Cheermeister. Augustus says even the term “Grinchy” shall apply when Christmas spirit is in short supply. Cindy says The Book of Who also says no matter how different a Who may appear, he will always be welcomed with holiday cheer.
Augustus invents another argument, but Cindy calls him out. She says the Cheermeister’s the one who deserves a back slap or a toast. And it goes to the soul at Christmas who needs it most. The crowd murmurs appreciatively before cheering and singing Christmas songs.
The Grinch faintly hears the singing and covers his ears with a pillow, then activating a loud road drill. Cindy arrives and sees the Grinch having his head repeatedly bashed between a giant mechanical monkey’s two cymbals.
The Grinch holds the cymbals closed and the monkey malfunctions. He raises his arms menacingly and makes fearsome noises. Cindy remains composed, removes her hairband and addresses him politely. He makes more fearsome noises and flamboyantly tells her she’s doomed. She laughs. She came to invite him to be Holiday Cheermeister. She wants him to reunite with the Whos and enjoy Christmas.
The Grinch suspends her horizontally inches from the floor. She says there’s a trophy and everything. If he wins, there must be losers, some could even be emotionally-shattered. Cindy says Martha will be there and she’ll see him as a winner. He’ll go, then he sends her down through the floor back to Whoville.
He successfully whips away a tablecloth from a loaded table, then returns to sweep it all onto the floor, letting the table itself topple as he leaves. He snatches a yodeller and changes into his clothes.
In Whoville, Augustus isn’t surprised the Grinch hasn’t shown. Then, the Grinch does appear. He flies through the air, bounces off a drum, into a banner finishing up with his face in Martha’s bosom. The Grinch scares others, but Martha’s overcome.
He makes his way to the stage, asking after an award and a cheque. Cindy denies the cheque part. Augustus produces the Grinch’s adoptive mothers who give him a Christmas jumper. He’s forced into the Chair of Cheer. The Grinch is unhappy. The Grinch then judges the Who pudding cook-off. Pudding is thrust into the Grinch’s mouth until it’s dribbling down his chin.
Next, the Grinch must lead a conga line. More food samples are crammed into his face. Although he’s racing children at the sack race, he’s fiercely competitive. He’s lifted on shoulders where he whoops and cheers and gloats and points, laughing at a child.
He strikes triumphant poses. Then, he’s given an electric shaver, a trigger for him. The audience laughs. Augustus proposes to Martha with a diamond ring and a new car, courtesy of the Whoville taxpayers. The Grinch scratches the car.
He says Christmas has always been about avarice. People want golf clubs, diamonds and ponies. He takes the shaver and shaves Augustus’s head. Whos run about screaming.
He torches the Christmas tree. The metal star falls to the floor. After a brief police chase, there’s leaking petrol by a naked flame. The Grinch leaves the scene just before a huge explosion. Cindy tearfully tells Lou she wanted everybody to be together.
The Grinch says he enjoyed that. The Whos find a replacement Christmas tree. The Grinch says they’re relentless. Inside his lair, there’s music. Max has been having a ball by himself, dancing to dog music and wearing a hat. The Grinch reacts angrily.
Then, the Grinch decides to pretend to be Santa Claus. He assembles a hi-tech sleigh made of scrap metal. He looks down on Whoville and sees Santa and sleigh depart. The Grinch realises he forgot the reindeer. He dresses up Max as Rudolf.
Max removes his red nose with a paw. The Grinch interprets this as Max rejecting the glitter of commercialism. The sleigh raises up. The couple swoops uncertainly off the mountain, repeatedly flying upside down. The Grinch eventually regains control.
They land on a snowy roof and the Grinch flies down the chimney. He releases a can of moths, which quickly devour the Christmas stockings. The Grinch feeds a long hose down the chimney which sucks up all the gifts, food and decorations. They repeat this for all the other houses.
With the sleigh too full to fly, Max alone is made to pull it the three thousand feet up Mount Crumpit. Max collapses at the top. The Grinch is overjoyed. The Whos will be waking up soon and will be completely devastated.
A policeman says he’s been robbed. Augustus’s bed is dragged out through a wall. He says they listened to a little, not-to-be-taken-seriously girl who hasn’t grown into her nose, yet. He tells Cindy he hopes she’s proud of herself. Lou steps forward and says he is. He doesn’t need anything more for Christmas than his family.
On the mountain top, the Grinch prances with glee. He starts pushing all the presents off the edge. Then, he hears merry singing, even with no presents. The Grinch hasn’t stopped Christmas. He asks maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. He convulses on the floor.
He’s feeling. He feels all toasty inside and he’s leaking tears. He expresses his love for Max, who comes bounding over and licks him. Max then alerts the Grinch to the teetering sleigh full of presents. The Grinch summons reserves of strength and rescues the sleigh. Max dances on his back paws. The Grinch, Max and Cindy all ride the sleigh down Mount Crumpit.
Lou stops it from hitting the main Christmas tree. The Grinch tells the policeman he’s the Grinch that stole Christmas and he’s sorry. The officer says the Grinch apologising is good enough. The crowd rejoices. Every gift is accounted for. Martha returns Augustus’s ring. She says her heart belongs to the Grinch, who whoops and prances.
The Grinch turns all the Whoville lights on. Everybody cheers. Cindy takes the Grinch’s hand and they sing the Who Christmas carol. In the Grinch’s lair, a long table is filled with Whos. Max is given first serving.
Starring Jim Carrey. Taylor Momsen. Jeffrey Tambor. Rated PG. Dir Ron Howard. Released in the UK 2000. Runtime 1hr 44mins