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Our Inner Grinch Loves Popcorn

November 29, 2000|CHRIS ERSKINE

Here we are at the money-plex, lining up behind a million other movie fans, all waiting to feed $20 bills through the slot in the ticket window to a woman who says "Happy Thanksgiving" every time she snaps up our money.

"Is she the Grinch?" I ask the little girl.

"No, Dad," the little girl says.

"You can't be too careful," I say.

It's a little uncertain whether we will get in to see "The Grinch." We've been in line 10 minutes now, watching people pour through the door in groups of a dozen.

Soon the money-plex will be running out of seats, and we'll be left standing here with $20 bills in our hands. If there's a sadder sight in America, I can't think of it.

"We're not going to make it," says the boy.

"Yes, we are," I say.

It is a strange line of movie fans. A blockbuster line, a $100-million line. As people get closer to the ticket window, they become excited. Disoriented. Confused.

When they finally reach the ticket window, they spin around, then squint at the show times, as if trying to sound aloud the words.

"How much?" I ask the woman in the ticket window.

"Sixteen dollars," the woman says.

"That's pretty good," says the little girl.

"Yeah, Dad, that's a bargain," says the boy.

"Happy Thanksgiving," the woman says.


Inside, we head for the gigantic candy counter, an Ellis Island of candy, where mobs of people wait impatiently, poke each other, then wait impatiently some more.

Now people are really confused. Sno-Caps or popcorn? Milk Duds or Gummi Bears?

Customers get to the counter, then lean forward on their elbows as if ordering whiskey, which isn't a bad idea on this holiday weekend, a little snort on the way in to see the world's most popular movie. Just a little snort. A holiday snort. That's what the Grinch would do.

"That'll be $14.25," the snack girl says as she finishes our order.

I hand her a 20. At the money-plex, $20 bills are as fleeting as the popcorn.

"Is she the Grinch?" I whisper to the little girl.

"No, Dad," she says.

"Happy Thanksgiving," the snack girl says.

Into the theater we go. Now you should know that Dr. Seuss and I go way back. Forty years ago, when the Grinch first stole Christmas on television, I was there. I saw him steal Christmas with my own eyes. Him and Max the dog. On CBS, it was.

And for a few years when I was young, Dr. Seuss was my pediatrician. According to my mom, he was the doctor who delivered me. There was a Wocket in his pocket. I think it bit me.

So I enter this theater with huge expectations--me, the boy and the little girl and a bag of popcorn, extra butter. I enter the theater hoping to see greatness.

"The Grinch," the little girl asks. "Is it fake or real life?"

This is her way of asking if it's a cartoon. Of course, I'm the wrong person to ask. I've always had a hard time distinguishing between cartoons and real life. It's like a form of colorblindness.

"Is it fake or real life?" the little girl asks again.

"You mean is it a cartoon?" I ask her.


"I think it's real," I tell her.


We settle into our seats and watch a bunch of long, loud commercials for upcoming movies. Fortunately, as my hearing gets worse, movie previews get louder.

"Is he the Grinch?" I yell at the boy.

"No, that's Nicolas Cage," the boy says.

"He looks like the Grinch," I say.

"That's just his eyes," the boy says.

Mostly, it's a young audience, a fidgeting audience, wiggly and full of excitement.

They will watch this movie with their legs curled up beneath them, bouncing up and down at the exciting parts.

Me, I will sit with my feet on the floor. I may be the only person in the theater with both feet on the ground.

This is probably because the bottoms of my shoes are lacquered to the theater floor by 40 layers of spilled Coke. When I get up to leave, my shoes will stay for the next show.

"That's the Grinch," the little girl finally says.

Up on the screen, there's Jim Carrey as the Grinch. Green. Middle-aged. He's got a 5 o'clock shadow all over his body. He doesn't need a shave, he needs a bikini wax. On his forehead.

He sits in his BarcaLounger and rages at the world, laments over what has happened to Christmas, the commercialism and the greed.

"That's what it's all about, isn't it?" the Grinch says. "That's what it's always been about. Gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts."

About 10 minutes into the film, it's all pretty clear: This Grinch is me.

"Who does he remind you of?" I finally whisper to the boy.


"Exactly," I say, then settle back to enjoy the rest of the movie.


It's a fine movie, though not great. They've taken a splendid 20-minute story and stretched it to almost two hours, like watered-down soup.

In this version, the Grinch has a history. His shrunken heart stems from a nasty shaving experience when he was 8. This ruined a terrific romance and soured his biggest dreams.

"I think you need a timeout," Cindy Lou Who says as the Grinch hops around like Al Pacino, howling and foaming at the mouth.

"Kids today. . . ." growls the Grinch.

And the song's not quite right. The Grinch song. I think they tweaked it a little. Anyway, it's sort of a disappointment, the big Grinch song.

But overall, the movie is a good experience. As it progresses, the fidgeting kids quit fidgeting. The kid behind me quits kicking my seat.

On the screen, the sets are brilliant. The special effects seamless.

Toward the end, of course, it drags a little. I fall asleep and dream briefly of Karenna Gore, an internal special effect I can't control. Just my luck. I'm finally getting over Tricia Nixon and along comes Karenna Gore.

"Dad, you're snoring," says the little girl, elbowing me as the movie winds down.

"I was laughing," I tell her.

"No, Dad, that was a snore," the boy says.

Kids today. . . .


Chris Erskine's column is published on Wednesdays. His e-mail address is

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