By Jack Dignan
In Cinemas November 29th
Whether it’s the original book, or the safe, friendly adaptation from the 1960s, or the more bombastic, borderline frightening adaptation from the 2000s, you’re probably familiar with the story of The Grinch. He’s a mean one, that Mr. Grinch. A lanky green Who with a protruding belly and a heart two sizes too small. He’s grouchy, he’s grumpy and he wants nothing more than to be left alone. His story is told over Christmas amongst nearly every generation, as each newborn child slowly becomes familiarised with his timeless tale. And now, we return to the town of Whoville once more.
Because of this universal familiarity, the idea of a new film telling his story feels somewhat uninteresting. What more can you add? What else is there to tell? Surely this book is becoming over-sutured on the big screen. And to a degree, it certainly is. Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch doesn’t find an awful lot of new ground to cover in this latest adaptation, but even through the burdens of familiarity, the story remains the story. As somebody who willing watches the same movies over and over again, watching this new Grinch is akin to doing just that. You won’t be surprised by any new additions, but its risk-free, harmless approach to the story will leave a warm feeling brewing deep inside.
Taking on the titular role is Benedict Cumberbatch, whose versatile voice proves shockingly effective when paired up against the bouncy green character he’s embodied. As he moves into middle age, going through existential crisis after existential crisis and stress eating in the process, the frighteningly relatable Grinch begins to cook up a plan that’ll mean the end of Christmas for all of Whoville. His secluded lifestyle deep within a far away cliff lends itself to the animated medium. Illumination creates a number of creative, visual gags that further the essence of who this character is and what his home says about him.
Also getting more attention is the Grinch’s dog Max, who, like all the animals in this film, feels straight out of The Secret Life of Pets. He’s fun to be around, but the gags feel familiar. Scenes with an overweight reindeer bring about a number of laughs, but they come to a close before anything of great significance gets underway. In fact, one of this film’s biggest burdens isn’t that it just feels familiar for those who know the story; it feels familiar for anyone who’s seen any of Illumination’s other works. The animation design is consistent, as is to be expected, but the approach to characters and storytelling is indistinguishable from any of their previous films.
Young Cindy-Lou Who (Cameron Seely) is reminiscent of Edith from the Despicable Me franchise; a young rebellious child with love in their heart and a wardrobe that only consists of pink. While the character is technically a little young here (probably?), the similarities feel lazy. Her storyline lends itself to the core themes of love and family, but it’s never as interesting as when the Grinch is off living his Grinchy ways. Even at 86 minutes, this film still feels a little too long, but given its undeniably short runtime, you’ll still have plenty of time left in the day to celebrate the holiday season after this movie inevitably warms your heart. Granted, if you give it a week I’m probably going to forget I ever saw it.
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