Jim Carrey’s The Grinch Isn’t the Best Part of the Christmas Classic

Movies


The Big Picture

  • Martha May and Betty Lou steal the show in How the Grinch Stole Christmas with their hilarious and escalating house decorating competition.
  • A deleted scene reveals the sad resolution of Martha and Betty’s rivalry, highlighting the rigged system and making us root for Betty even more.
  • Christine Baranski and Molly Shannon bring their comedic talents to these characters, adding depth and humanity to the Whoville citizens.


In Ron Howard’s 2000 adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, everyone knows that the green grouch living just north of Whoville does not like the Christmas season. Jim Carrey is outstanding (or terrifying to certain viewers) in his frenzied performance under all the Grinchy makeup, a little too much that required him to seek out the help of the CIA in how to deal with it. But the 2000’s version also has two characters no other adaptation includes that help to further develop the Whoville setting beyond the Grinch. That, of course, would be the glamorous Martha May Whovier (Christine Baranski) and the frazzled Betty Lou Who (Molly Shannon), both of whom steal the movie every time they are on-screen. How Jim Carrey plays the Grinch’s relatable loneliness, before the finale’s self-redemption, could use an extra holiday kick to bring the laughs and pathos when the camera isn’t on him. Martha and Betty take this on, harnessing the comedic talents of Baranski and Shannon, and it’s time to cheer with Whobilation joy for these Whoville women.

Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas

On the outskirts of Whoville lives a green, revenge-seeking Grinch who plans to ruin Christmas for all of the citizens of the town.

Release Date
November 17, 2000

Rating
PG

Runtime
104

Main Genre
Comedy

Genres
Comedy , Family , Fantasy , Musical

Writers
Dr. Seuss , Jeffrey Price , Peter S. Seaman

Tagline
You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch!


Martha May and Betty Lou Duel Over Christmas Lights

Christine Baranski as Martha May in How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Image via Universal Pictures

Cindy (Taylor Momsen) spends a busy day with her father before heading home where there is quite the surprise waiting. “No lights on in the house,” Lou (Bill Irwin) tells his daughter, “your mom must be shopping.” No sooner does he mention this, do audiences get their first sight of Betty Lou Who, furiously adding to a light display on the house’s roof. Betty uses up every light source and bulb she can get her hands on, from purchases and from inside the Lou Who home (so much so the family has to use candles at night). Then Martha enters the scene, calling out with a carefree attitude and drawing out her greeting to show she knows the spotlight is on her, “Betty, hiii!” Cindy’s mom, dressed in a red-blue-green striped robe, with huge peppermints in her hair curls, can’t beat Martha’s Santa-themed skirt with ruffles, proudly showing off her legs than any other Who has or will. The fashion is impeccable. Martha is Whoville royalty, even if in an unofficial capacity, but she is in no way dainty.

Their petty fight over decorations is hilarious in how quickly it escalates. Martha takes pride in a new appliance for this year, a cannon that shoots out string lights to stick on the roof ledges with ease. Baranksi sells the physical comedy here, her body shaking from the sheer power of the cannon, along with a face of confidence. Blowing away the cannon’s smoke once finished, Martha knows how to make an entrance and when to leave, calling out behind her, “Well, good night, Betty.” Molly Shannon doesn’t miss a beat either, she dives right into how dumbstruck Betty is at her competition’s new leap ahead, leaning too close over the roof’s edge, but her grip on string lights keeps her from completely tumbling over. Martha might find convenient ways to decorate that won’t get her hands too dirty, but then there is Betty, whose home improvement skills can let her improvise at any given moment. She even steals a traffic light (and causes a crash) to ensure the Lou Who house shines the brightest. But while the theatrical version of How The Grinch Stole Christmas drops this storyline, a deleted scene wraps up the feud between Martha and Betty.

This ‘Grinch’ Deleted Scene Was Too Important To Leave Out

For most audiences and fans who have seen the holiday classic, Martha and Betty’s house decorating seems to be an attempt to one-up the other without a true payoff. It may be funny enough, but in a deleted scene, their competition reaches a sad and unsurprising resolution. Martha and Betty take turns leaving their fellow Whos awestruck with their house decorations and lighting, two displays that require specialized sunglasses for those in attendance. The scummy and arrogant Mayor Augustus MayWho (Jeffrey Tambor) is in charge of reading out the winner from this competition the Who-women were prepping for, which means trouble for who got picked.

The Mayor ignores Betty’s name which is printed clear as day on the piece of paper handed to him. He takes it upon himself to call out Martha’s name for her to win the prize, only because Maywho wants to spoil her rotten and force her to reciprocate the feelings he has for her. Betty can’t beat a rigged system, which makes you want to root for her even more. Even without this scene, the theatrical version could have easily made Martha a snotty, upper-class Who, but what lessens her privileged self, is the regret she admits over what happened with the Grinch years ago.

The Who Women Resemble Other Roles Christine Baranski & Molly Shannon Have Played

Martha (Christine Baranski) demonstrates a new way to decorate the house.
Image via Universal Pictures

The professional that Baranski is, treats Martha’s sitdown with Cindy as comedy gold and a bit of pathos for the role. Miss Whovier is barely able to hold back her attraction to him (“the muscles!”), but her personality darkens when she recognizes how horribly the Grinch was treated. Baranski’s wistful performance brings in a layer of humanity to the Whos of Whoville, despite their faces having snouts, and yes, that they live on a snowflake, but Martha’s pained reflection on the past is the kind of regret anyone could admit to in real life. Molly Shannon isn’t left out of playing up the dramatics. The way her face falls upon learning she didn’t win in that deleted scene, is disheartening to anyone who also has felt such a loss. The talents of each of these actresses are why these characters don’t get lost in the Dr. Seuss tale, both actresses having made a career in playing roles that resemble their Whoville citizens.

Christine Baranski has played a regal, overzealous woman in many movies. In The Birdcage (1996), she plays Katharine Archer, the biological mother to the son of drag club owner Armand (Robin Williams) and drag queen starlet Albert (Nathan Lane). Decades later, Katharine comes back into their lives to help them in their ruse of posing as a straight couple for their son’s conservative in-laws, and once Baranski appears, she brings the sex appeal. She can’t help but become horny, eager to sleep with Armand again, despite Albert in the next room. In Mamma Mia! (2008) and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018), Baranski plays the cocktail-sipping, triple divorcee Tanya, who can barely stay in her stilettos while navigating a rickety dock or the Greek island’s rocky terrain. As for the frustrated Betty, it isn’t the first time Molly Shannon took on the obsessive, jumpy attitude.

She did this more frequently on Saturday Night Live sketches, and in the SNL-inspired features, A Night at the Roxbury (1998) and Superstar (1999). Frequently, Shannon would be the neurotic character, who can lose her patience within seconds or nearly implode from the energy building up within her. Mary Katherine Gallagher, an SNL sketch character, then turned main character in the feature-length Superstar, encapsulates Shannon’s hyperactive comedic timing. It’s what she brings to Betty Lou Who, in her drive to beat Martha by any means necessary. How the Grinch Stole Christmas lets Christine Baranski and Molly Shannon add their Whoville character onto their full career list of roles, letting them feel independent to the central Grinch storyline.

Martha May and Betty Lou Are as Memorable as The Grinch

Little Cindy’s persistence in seeing the good to the Grinch, gets the girl into trouble yet again, when she climbs up Mount Crumpit and into the sleigh bursting with the stolen gifts. A redeemed Grinch saves the day, driving the sleigh back to Whoville triumphantly — until then the brakes fail. On the sight of Cindy and the Grinch speeding down for what will surely be a Christmas Day crash, any bitterness is dropped once Martha and Betty join forces to stop the out-of-control sleigh, uniting in a way that feels distinct to each of them. Betty’s creativity in house decorating, whether stealing a traffic light or snatching up her home’s bulbs, is how she quickly figures out to use string lights to try and slow down the sleigh. As for Martha, she joins, dressed in an elegant, icy blue robe, unable to help herself from spotting the wonderful fashion sense her ex-competitor Betty has accidentally taken: “By the way, these lights match your outfit perfectly!”

How the Grinch Stole Christmas needs to fill out the runtime, stretching out a short story to almost two hours. It populates Whoville with colorful Whos beyond the little rebel that is Cindy, and the best new additions, by far, are Martha May Whovier and Betty Lou Who. These Whoville queens forget their quarrel in time to try and save Christmas Day. How the Grinch Stole Christmas happens to be one of the highest-grossing Christmas movies of all time, headlined by Jim Carrey in green fur and a mischievous smirk. While The Grinch is the star, the Who women played by Christine Baranski and Molly Shannon are just as funny and memorable.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas is streaming on Fubo in the U.S.

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