Published on November 8th, 2018 | by Dan Nicholls0
Just what we wanted for Christmas! Yet another version of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! This time, Benedict Cumberbatch plays the green grump.
By now the classic Dr. Seuss book “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is practically a “tale as old as time.” You can’t find a soul above the age of 5 who couldn’t repeat the major beats of the story: Grinch hates Christmas, Grinch steals Christmas, Grinch’s heart grows after a young girl teaches him the meaning of Christmas.
The original children’s book came out in 1957 and the timeless animated TV special premiered in 1966. What is it about the Grinch that we keep coming back to? A monstrosity from 2000 starring Jim Carrey twisted it into something garish and unrecognizable but it was still the highest grossing film of that year. Now, 18 years on, we’ve got another pass at the green grouch in stunning computer animation hipped up with a Pharrell soundtrack. You know, for kids!
The Grinch comes by way of Illumination Entertainment, the masterminds behind Despicable Me and Minions. It’s a visual feast filled with dazzling colors – you’ve got to skip the 3D glasses to really take in just how beautiful it looks. Although there are more than a few moments of simulated rollercoaster loopiness to almost make the added dimension enticing. But with animation as gloriously rendered as this you sorta just want to take it in with your own eyes, like a drive through a small town on a night when every house is shining with colored lights.
Our smarmy, moody little Grinch is voiced here by Benedict Cumberbatch doing an American accent. The pivotal Cindy Lou Who is as adorable as one of Gru’s kids and voiced by young Cameron Seely, while the character’s mother is played by Rashida Jones. The subplot regarding the home life of the Lou Who family isn’t that engaging and is frankly shoehorned in because the producers needed to hit feature length from a story that isn’t designed for that runtime.
It’s sort of interesting how the filmmakers here decided to give the Grinch a sad little backstory about why he’s so miserable now. On one hand, it’s totally unnecessary – we’ve stuck with every other iteration without it – but on the other it does add a very timely tinge to The Grinch. Giving a beloved character PTSD from emotional trauma suffered as a small child is a pretty brave choice, even if the resolution sort of betrays this newly-added pain anyway.
Cumberbatch isn’t exactly the first person you’d think of to voice this character and one can’t help but imagine the same line readings coming from the actor’s natural British voice. But he’s game for the cheesy puns and the dialogue that tries too hard to be cool and modern; it certainly sounds like the Oscar-winner is enjoying letting loose a bit.
The zippy mayhem and enrapturing visual representation injected by the crew at Illumination is enough to ensure family satisfaction. There’s no way The Grinch will overtake the 1966 half hour iteration as the definitive Christmas champ but it’s charming and attractive enough to avoid tarnishing the original’s legacy.