Tag Archives: Scott Mosier

Exile in Whyville

The Grinch

by George Wolf

Before we get to the Whos, let’s consider the Whys.

Is it too much of a GOML (Get Off My Lawn) moment to ask why, beyond the obvious cash grab, The Grinch has to be redone? The original, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, is 25 minutes of perfection, an animated TV classic that was already the subject of a charmless live action update for the big screens of nearly 20 years ago.

Now we’re back to animation, and facing the same quandary.

How do you add an hour of narrative that is more than just filler, substantial enough to not dilute what made the original work so simply joyous, so universally touching?

In 2009, Spike Jonze showed it can be done, delivering a wondrous and emotional take on Where the Wild Things Are.

But in this latest re-imagining of The Grinch, what writer Michael LeSieur and Tommy Swerdlow giveth only ends up taking away.

We’re still told the heart of Mr. Grinch (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) is two sizes too small, yet we’re given a new backstory for additional explanation as to why he hates Christmas so much.

His heart is two sizes too small, didn’t you hear? That’s the reason! Well, it should be, but then we see the Grinch do little acts of kindness for his dog Max and some other creatures, meaning the whole idea of Mr. Grinch being such an unpleasant misanthrope (and thus the impact of the story’s entire resolution) is compromised early.

The narration (courtesy of Pharrell Williams) includes some of the delightful Dr. Suess wordplay from 1966, plus some fresh attempts to imitate it that, as you might guess, stand out like a ten dollar Rolex. Mr. Grinch’s ultimate change of holiday heart doesn’t fare much better, as he and Cindy Lou Who (The Greatest Showman‘s Cameron Seely) spend ample time hammering home a message that, while still welcome, shouldn’t require that much force.

Directors Yarrow Cheney and Scott Mosier craft a few giddy sequences set among the snowy terrain of Whoville, and SNL’s Kenan Thompson squeezes as much humor as he can from his role as the Mean One’s erstwhile “best friend,” but for anyone hoping to recapture the magic of a holiday standard, The Grinch is nearly as empty as Cindy Lou’s living room on Christmas morn.


The Kevin Smith Movie, Evolved


by Hope Madden

In 2010, I had the chance to interview writer/director Kevin Smith. The proposed subject was Smith’s SModcasts – comic podcasts co-hosted by Smith and his buddy Scott Mosier – but I had other ideas. I knew Smith, a filmmaker most known for his juvenile comedies, was putting the finishing touches on his first horror film, Red State, and I was giddy to find out more about that.

Smith told me, “For years I’ve called myself a filmmaker, but it’s not really true. Really I just make Kevin Smith Movies. I’m at that stage where I could make a Kevin Smith Movie with my eyes closed. Let me see if I can make another movie.”

Too few people saw Red State, a flawed but fascinating film that boasted an absolutely mesmerizing performance by Tarantino favorite Michael Parks, but Smith knew he had something great in this actor. Wisely, when the filmmaker returned to horror with this year’s Tusk, he did so with Parks in tow.

Though Tusk is a surreal, utterly bizarre horror comedy, it is without question Smith’s most personal work as a filmmaker. The film follows a podcaster (Justin Long) who travels to an isolated cabin in Canada to record conversations with a recluse (Parks). The podcaster hopes to bring a good story of a weirdo back for the next show, but this story proves a little too weird.

The basic idea, in fact, comes from one of Smith’s actual SModcasts. He found online a letter from a man seeking a lodger, and he and Mosier read it aloud and mocked the man and giggled – the general MO for the show. But somewhere in all that, Smith found the story of man losing his humanity.

Yes, Tusk is a comic riff on The Human Centipede. It’s also an insightful kind of stress dream, so close to home for Smith that, even with all its utter ludicrousness, it feels almost confessional.

Once again, the greatest strength in the film is a hypnotic performance by Parks as the old seafarer with nefarious motives. He’s magnificent, and Long’s work is strongest when the two share the screen.

Smith’s tone shifts wildly from absurd comedy to real terror, but given the film’s insane premise, the approach works because nothing is ever what you expect. Like Johnny Depp as a French Canadian Inspector Clouseau.

There is no film quite like Tusk, certainly not in Smith’s arsenal, which, I suppose, means this is not a Kevin Smith Movie. And yet, there’s more Smith in this film than in anything else he’s made.