I suppose kids today are tired of that old flat 2D hand-drawn animation, just like as a kid, I was repulsed by the black and white films of old. During Christmas, Dr. Suess’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas was an annual tradition in my home that faded over with the advent of streaming and the ancient hand-drawn process. Just like the colorization process, The Grinch got an upgrade thanks to Illumination Studios and the mind behind the Minions, Christopher Meledandri in the producer’s chair.
From the beloved Dr. Seuss, Christmas is coming to Whoville, and the formidable Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch) can’t stand it. Hoping to hide for its duration with his loyal dog Max, the Grinch discovers he ran out of food. Mustering the courage, he makes the long trek into Whoville to replenish his supplies. Hoping to slip in and out, Grinch is discovered by local Whovillian, Mr. Bricklebaum (Kenan Thompson), who is overly determined to pass on some Christmas cheer. As cartoons go, this ends up disastrously.
Angered by the events of the day, and of course an unknown traumatic experience in his past, the Grinch hatches a plan to steal every Christmas ornament, tree, and gift on Christmas Eve. If the Grinch can’t enjoy Christmas, nobody can. The job is enormous, and the plan is elaborate, but can he pull it off with Max and a giant fat reindeer (a new addition to the story)?
“…the Grinch hatches a plan to steal every Christmas ornament, tree, and gift on Christmas Eve.”
In Seussian fashion, there is heart. A little one, in fact, named Cindy-Lou Who (Cameron Seely), who just wants to find the perfect gift for her hard-working single-mother Donna Who (Rashida Jones). As the Grinch plans to steal Christmas, Cindy-Lou intends to stay up late on Christmas Eve with the help of her friends and ask Santa personally for a special gift for her mother.
The task for directors Yarrow Cheney, Scott Mosier and writers Michael LeSieur, Tommy Swerdlow is simple: stretch the original 1966, 26-minute television special by precisely one hour and convert it into the fancy 3D animation the kids dig today. For the most part, they did exactly that.
The best thing I can say about The Grinch is it’s a faithful adaptation of the original. The landscapes, town, Christmas decorations, and creatures are beautiful. Illumination Studios continues to up their game in quality. The Grinch himself is fantastically rendered with a furry texture that the hand-drawn television style could not match.
“…other than the expanded story and the upgraded effects, it is exactly the same…”
Acting wise, Benedict Cumberbatch gives a wonderful performance as the Grinch. He loses himself in the role, which is more than I can say about Jim Carrey, who was Jim Carrey in a Grinch suit. Cumberbatch is subtle and keeps his performance within the character, so at the end, the transformation is an actual transformation. The rest of the performances are good, but the real stand-out is Kenan Thompson as Mr. Bricklebaum. He brings noticeable joy to the story and he’s memorable when the credits roll.
The only real negative for me is the hip-hop adaptation of the classic You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch. My assumption is The Grinch is supposed to take over for the original classic. So why take one of the most iconic songs from the original (that everyone loves to sing) and replace it with a hip-hop version that no one can sing. Bad marketing.
In the final analysis, where does The Grinch stand next to How the Grinch Stole Christmas!? It’s the same. The Grinch, other than the expanded story and the upgraded effects, is exactly the same and leaves you with the same warm feelings for the holidays. As much as we think Benedict Cumberbatch is hot, he’s no Boris Karloff. Your kids may make The Grinch the new holiday tradition, but you’ll shed many tears knowing the classic (song and all) will one day fade into obscurity.
The Grinch (2018) Directed by Yarrow Cheney, Scott Mosier. Written by Michael LeSieur, Tommy Swerdlow. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Cameron Seely, Rashida Jones, Kenan Thompson.
8 out of 10 stars