Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Cameron Seely, Rashida Jones, Kenan Thompson
Directors: Scott Mosier, Yarrow Cheney
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: Each year at Christmas they disrupt his tranquil solitude with their increasingly bigger, brighter and louder celebrations. When the Whos declare they are going to make Christmas three times bigger this year, the Grinch realizes there is only one way for him to gain some peace and quiet: he must steal Christmas. To do so, he decides he will pose as Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, even going so far as to trap a lackadaisical misfit reindeer to pull his sleigh. Meanwhile, down in Who-ville, Cindy-Lou Who-a young girl overflowing with holiday cheer-plots with her gang of friends to trap Santa Claus as he makes his Christmas Eve rounds so that she can thank him for help for her overworked single mother. As Christmas approaches, however, her good-natured scheme threatens to collide with the Grinch’s more nefarious one. Will Cindy-Lou achieve her goal of finally meeting Santa Claus? Will the Grinch succeed in silencing the Whos’ holiday cheer once and for all?
When you take a beloved Christmas story like The Grinch and remake it for a new audience, naturally there is going to be some pushback from people who love the original version. With 2018’s version of The Grinch being released in early November compared to post-Thanksgiving or the weeks leading up to Christmas, needless to say I was skeptical about the quality of this movie. It turns out though that I had nothing to worry about, as this version of The Grinch is pretty entertaining and predominantly harmless. Complimented by a beautiful animation style, The Grinch should be able to warm the hearts of audiences of all ages.
The film follows the Grinch (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), a green, anthropomorphic monster that lives in a mountain outside of Whoville. As Christmas approaches in Whoville, the Grinch is reminded why he hates the holiday so much while the people of the town eagerly await their favorite day of the year. After a series of bad experiences in town, the Grinch decides to do the one thing he thinks would destroy these townspeople; he will take away their Christmas from them. The things that made the original telling of this story so successful is that the message was clear, the music was timeless, and the character was fun to root against. When a project like this is updated for a younger audience, and specifically with a movie like this which is adapted from a 26 minute television special, creative liberties are going to be taken. With an additional 60 minutes added to the runtime here, new character development and plots are going to emerge to keep the story long on track for the new extended runtime. The Grinch does this by shifting the main character’s intentions from that of evil and malice to a character that lives more in a world or sarcasm and spite. This movie can be described as if you remade the original movie but targeted it at Millennials. There is a solid amount of humor in this film and while it may be a turn off for some traditional viewers, I felt as though most of these moments stuck the landing. Outside of the humor, the animation style is very impressive. My initial impression is that the movie looked a little cheap and unfinished in the trailer, but those concerns were unfounded based on the finished product. The colors pop off the screen, the transitions are smooth, and at no point did I ever feel that the effects were distracting or off-base. Sure there are some new characters and storylines that are introduced to keep the story going, but that will come naturally with any adaptation. While I did not particularly care about the Cindy Lou (voiced by Seely) storyline, at least it was a new attempt to tell a story that a majority of people have seen before. On the other side though, I think learning more about why the Grinch hates Christmas adds a layer of depth to character that was not there in the original book or television special. Not all of these moments pay off, but at least an attempt was made to improve upon the origins of this story and do something different.
Overall, is The Grinch a perfect movie? Of course not. Is it one that everyone in your family can sit down and enjoy together? Absolutely. Cumberbatch was a great choice to voice the lead role, as he is able to successfully capture the displeasure and snarl that the Grinch speaks with. I always get nervous whenever someone attempts to remake one of Dr. Seuss’ works, but in this case The Grinch hits its mark as a light, enjoyable break to the slew of Oscar contenders it is competing against.
Overall Score: 7/10