Already annoyed by Christmas? Well, it’s not going away as we have yet another children’s movie that’s gonna probably calm your kids down for 86-minutes. Now we have The Grinch: a film that nobody was asking form but here we are. And no, this is not one of those reviews that will involve rhyming.
For those who do not know the story of The Grinch: In the city of Whoville, everyone loves the spirit of Christmas, but not the disgruntled Grinch (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). He despises everything about the holiday season. He gets the idea to steal Christmas from Whoville by dressing up as Santa and stealing all their presents on Christmas Eve.
Personally, this is probably my favorite Dr. Seuss book. I always loved watching the 1966 Chuck Jones TV special that comes on every year. Then came Ron Howard’s live-action How to Grinch Stole Christmas, released in 2000 and starring Jim Carrey, and it wasn’t exactly a good movie, but it’s a Christmas guilty pleasure for me. With this being the second Illumination movie based on Seuss’ source material (the first being the underrated The Lorax), can’t say it looked promising.
The trailers did nothing for me as I didn’t like what they were taking the story. Plus, it wasn’t helping when they put out those savage billboards that gain attention. Really had zero thoughts of thinking this was gonna be enjoyable since it’s clearly made for young kids. Turns out, The Grinch wasn’t a disaster, though it isn’t worth the time.
Cumberbatch is stepping in this time as the titular character. When he was announced that he was voicing him two years ago, it honestly didn’t sound like a bad choice. He was capable at going all out trying to make his version his own and sounds different without his British accent that doesn’t sound like him a lot of times. As the Grinch himself, he wasn’t even all that mean or scary, to be honest. Yes, he finds a bit of comfort with his adorable dog Max, but he doesn’t come off hateful as he should have.
Animation wise, I gotta say is absolutely beautiful, like every movie from Illumination. Every frame looks vibrant and feels like the holidays with the snow, lighting, and the designs of the houses and buildings in Whoville.
The familiar beats of the original story are in here to stay a little true to the beloved classic, and it makes this formulaic and predictable. We have our narrator Pharrell Williams, who should’ve used more pep in his voice telling us about what’s going on about. But you wanna know what his and the live-action adaptation have in common? Both stretches out the cartoon’s short and simple plot and pads it out for a feature-length movie. Screenwriters Michael Lesieur and Tommy Swerdlow quickly explain the Grinch’s backstory, but it wasn’t convincing enough to care about him in the end.
We also focus on little Cindy Lou (voiced by Cameron Seely) and her side plot that could’ve been written out as it’s about catching Santa in the act and wants her overworking mother (voiced by Rashida Jones) to take a break. That wasn’t nearly as important.
Was it funny? The slapstick humor is aimed towards kids who liked Illumination’s previous work. All of the jokes aren’t that clever or showcased in the trailers. I did get a laugh out of myself later on.
It was odd that Tyler, the Creator was brought in to provide a couple new songs, including an updated version of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” in rap form, of course. What’s worse is that the song is both catchy and annoying. And the addition of other modern songs didn’t work.
In the end, The Grinch didn’t leave me in a mood of depression after it was over because there wasn’t an ounce of anticipation going into this, but it’s now realized that I have what is called “Illumination Fatigue”- that means the movies that the popular animation studio puts out recently never been great; only mildly passable.
My recommendation: Watch the older animated special instead and feel good about yourself watching it with your family.
The Grinch probably lends a little credibility with its beautiful animation and Benedict Cumberbatch’s committed voice work, yet this re-telling doesn’t provide anything exactly special or new, and that’s pretty weak.