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The Grinch – Movie Review

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The Grinch – Movie Review

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Universal Pictures

Dr. Seuss’s books have been adapted into a number of movies this century, with many facing the problem of trying to take short stories and stretching them to feature length. While this latest incarnation of The Grinch also extends the book, directors Scott Mosier and Yarrow Cheney manage to find clever ways of expanding on the titular green creature and the citizens of Whoville. Most importantly, they inject it with a fitting heartfelt message and the humour doesn’t insult Theodore Geisel’s classic story of a lonely grump with a grudge against Christmas. Helped by Illumination Entertainment’s best animation thus far and you have a charming holiday escapade.

The Grinch expands the story in two key areas. First is the Grinch’s plan to steal Christmas. The film doesn’t waste much time in the thought crossing his green furry head, with a good chunk of the runtime spent on the actual assembling of the heist. The book and other adaptations are content to have the Grinch slip into his Santa Claus outfit and off he goes. This version shows the various nuts and bolts that go into how he was able to steal all of the presents, trees and Who roast beasts. This allows for some humourous set-pieces where the Grinch attempts to find a reindeer and lay down the complexities of his scheme. The other area is with Cindy Lou Who, who has her own subplot involving the search for Santa. It’s a sweet side-story that also captures that childhood sense of unlimited imagination.

The film even tackles the effect of childhood trauma on an adult. The Grinch only provides small peeks into the Grinch’s younger years, as opposed to Ron Howard’s adaptation spending large sections delving into his motivation. It’s effective, though, and a smart move on Mosier and Cheney’s part as it respects Seuss’s original story. There’s also a lot of fun had with exploring the Grinch’s grouchy side, primarily with how he messes with the Whos’ cheeriness. Having the Grinch frequently interact with other characters in Whoville gives the filmmakers another way to stand out from previous versions. Slapstick comedy also abounds, wonderfully animated by the folks at Illumination. The character animation on the Grinch is especially expressive and lively, elevating the gags. Meanwhile, the snowy mountains and the bright Christmas lights of Whoville are beautifully designed and rendered.

Benedict Cumberbatch makes the curious decision to speak in an American accent rather than his natural British, deep-toned voice and it doesn’t take long to get used to it. While the voice bears a striking resemblance to Bill Hader’s, it allows him to stand out from Boris Karloff and Jim Carrey’s interpretations. Pharrell Williams serves as the narrator and he tells the story with the proper spirit. What truly makes this adaptation of The Grinch work is the underlying heart. The message of Seuss’s book is kept intact and those disappointed with the rather mean-spirited characterization of the Whos in the live-action Grinch adaptation will be pleased with their depiction here. The warmth of this Grinch gives the film a cozy feeling that never comes across as cloying.

Illumination Entertainment has established themselves as an animation studio known for funny and pleasant, but ultimately formulaic pictures. With The Grinch, the filmmakers have slightly upped their game out of clear love and respect for the original source material. It obviously doesn’t reach the heights of Chuck Jones’s brilliant animated television special, but that adaptation was also twenty-five minutes long with no need for padding. The Grinch does the job of being a funny and heartwarming heist film with a lot of clever invention. By focusing on the themes that make How the Grinch Stole Christmas a timeless tale and even avoiding the common Seuss film pitfalls of pop-culture references, this becomes a fitting treat for the holidays.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE


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