Illumination’s back with another animated film adaptation of a famous Dr. Seuss narrative: The Grinch.
It’s difficult to love any other interpretation of the Grinch after growing up with Jim Carrey’s phenomenal take on the character in the 2000 film, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. But it’s important to note that we’re not the targeted audience anymore—sad as that may be—because there’s a whole new generation of children who have no idea about the Grinch or how he stole Christmas.
For those of you that don’t know the classic Dr. Seuss story, fret not, because The Grinch—directed by Yarrow Cheney and Scott Mosier—does a perfect job of encapsulating the essence of the original tale.
Much like the original, The Grinch tells the story of a green, mean and nasty creature known as the “Grinch” (Benedict Cumberbatch) and how he takes away the physical existence of Christmas. With the help of his loveable—though completely undeserved—canine companion Max, the Grinch’s plot is a desperate attempt to upset the Whos of Whoville. But a sweet little Who girl named Cindy Lou (Cameron Seely) challenges the Grinch’s begrudging feelings, as he learns of her earnest and selfless Christmas wish for her hardworking mother—Donna Who (Rashida Jones).
In this take, the Grinch has been reinvented, and is no longer hideous or terrifying in any shape or form; even the people of Whoville aren’t intimidated by him at all until he—of course—goes out of his way to be a complete jerk. Though the most obvious change would be that both Cindy Lou and the Grinch are supplied with different backstories which diverge from previous adaptations of the story.
While The Grinch deviates from the original as well as previous versions, it’s honestly executed in such a tasteful manner that there’s really no fault to it at all. Unlike the original, in which the Grinch simply hated Christmas due to the noise pollution it created, Illumination’s take on the Grinch’s backstory is a little more poignant. In this sense, The Grinch follows in the footsteps of it’s 2000s predecessor. But, instead of the Grinch acquiring his hatred for the holidays as the result of constant bullying and rejection, this version makes his distaste for Christmas a result of the fact that he was raised as a lonely, orphan who was never provided with the opportunity to experience the joy of Christmas. Instead, every December this Grinch was reminded of just how lonely and unwanted he was.
Despite the fact that this film is obviously targeted towards a younger demographic, I still found that the film offered some profound meaning. From the very beginning, the Grinch voices his disgust for Christmas, claiming that Christmas is just an excuse for everybody to be greedy. However, he almost aborts his beliefs when Cindy Lou later mistakes him for Santa and requests for him to help her mother—not supply her with material presents. From this, we not only gather that the Grinch’s cynical thoughts surrounding Christmas are not entirely unreasonable, and his faith in Whomanity is restored after he realises, and the Whos remember that, underneath the materialistic façade, Christmas is about love and being together.
Additionally, I have to compliment the film’s soundtrack. While I am definitely not a fan—at least significantly—of Christmas carols, Pentatonix has to be commended for their phenomenal renditions of them. The Grinch dedicates a scene which features Pentatonix’s vocal performance of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and it is absolutely hilarious—not to mention vocally amazing. But the music doesn’t stop there. Tyler, The Creator also delivers his take on You’re A Mean One, Mr Grinch, with one of his new singles, I Am The Grinch. It’s catchy—in a modern sense—yet nostalgic, and one thing’s certain: it’s definitely a bop. But if you’re still left confused as to why Tyler, The Creator is now singing with children, on what is technically considered a Christmas song, don’t worry—he manages to fit in his “ayo” in this track too.
The film in its entirety was great, but Benedict Cumberbatch’s attempt at the role was slightly underwhelming and, frankly, disappointing. Cumberbatch blatantly tries his best to mimic Carrey’s unique and cultivated take on the role, instead of exploring what else he had to offer. It’s no secret that Cumberbatch isn’t gifted when it comes to tackling accents, and, unfortunately, that still rings true with his vocal performance as the Grinch. It’s disappointing, because this definitely wasn’t some interview in which Cumberbatch was handed a card with some character’s name on it and was told to give his best impersonation of them on the spot. He’d already been given the role—the least he could’ve done was make it his. He could have seized the creative opportunity to challenge Carrey’s famous performance; instead, he settles for the infamous Cumberbatch-American accent topped off with a feeble attempt at Carrey’s Grinch. I’m not surprised that #NotMyGrinch is trending.
While this film certainly won’t be replacing your annual screening of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, I think it’s important for children to learn the morals The Grinch has to offer: the spirit of Christmas isn’t about splurging on expensive gifts to boost the financial economy—it’s about love and kindness. And if Carrey dressed in green fur is way too old school (or frightening) for them, then it’s good to know that Illumination’s The Grinch has got it covered.
The Grinch is out in Perth cinemas now.