Set in Whoville, The Grinch is based on a 32-line poem by Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, which appeared in Redbook Magazine in 1955 entitled “The Hoobub and the Grinch.”
In 1957, Dr. Seuss wrote and illustrated How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
The rhymed verse story gained instant critical praise, and 60 years later it has become a staple for children and adults alike at Christmastime, earning three film adaptations: The 1966 animated Christmas special, 2000’s live action film, starring Jim Carrey as the notorious Grinch, and this year’s new animated version, which featurs Pharrell Williams as the story’s narrator and Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice of the Grinch.
The story tells the tale of a miserable Scrooge-like Grinch, who is disgusted by the neighboring town of Whoville’s love of all things Christmas. In an attempt to ruin the town’s festive holiday, the Grinch steals every Christmas-themed decoration in town on Christmas Eve. When the townspeople continue to celebrate despite the thievery, the Grinch comes to understand the true nature of the holiday. He returns all of the stolen goods and celebrates Christmas with the townspeople as guest of honor, sharing a wonderful feast of roast beast.
The Grinch was not only the first adult to be cast as the main character in one of Dr. Seuss’ works, but also the first villain. The grumpy character was created from Dr. Seuss’ own bah-humbug feelings toward Christmas.
THE GRINCH, 2018 | PG
Benedict Cumberbatch, Cameron Seely, Rashida Jones, Kenan Thompson
Directed by Yarrow Cheney and Scott Mosier
Screenplay Written by Michael LeSieur and Tommy Swerdlow
Once again, it is just days before Christmas, and the Grinch is grumpy. The happy holiday cheer down in Whoville has reached new levels—three times the normal level to be exact. The Whos declare this Christmas will feature three times the lights, presents, and cheer. Aghast at the proceedings, the Grinch concocts a devious plan with his trusted dog Max to steal Christmas from the Whos. The Grinch researches Christmas and all its trappings to masquerade as Santa and rob the Whoville houses on Christmas Eve.
Despite the same basic framework, this new Grinch feels much different than the last cinematic version. Most of that comes down to Cumberbatch, who voices the Grinch. Cumberbatch portrays the Grinch as more of a loner, who just wants his privacy. This lends itself to a nicer, more genial version of the film. It’s possible to make the Grinch both a bit scary and likable; Cumberbatch’s Grinch plays it more straight down the middle.
The one major addition to the story, a large moose named Frank, gets some of the biggest laughs as he trains to be the Grinch’s reindeer. All of this makes the new addition fun, but rarely memorable.
The new story element that most resonates is Cindy Lou Who, a young Whoville resident, who is trying to meet Santa. The little girl engineers a plan to stay up on Christmas Eve to directly tell Santa her Christmas wish, which revolves around her mother, Donna Lou Who. The sweet young girl’s greatest Christmas wish is that her weary, single working mom will find love and/or someone to help her care for Cindy Lou and her siblings. It’s a sweet subplot that teaches kids to be cognizant of their parents.
For all that makes The Grinch redundant, there’s enough that still warms the heart. Illumination’s animation makes every shot light up the screen like a house full of Christmas lights. The supporting voice cast also features some standouts. Kenan Thompson provides lots of heart and cheer as Bricklebaum, the jolliest of all the Whos. This version features less memorable moments of oddness or quirks. There’s no Jim Carrey chewing glass, or Molly Shannon facing off against Christine Baranski in a Christmas lights contest. Still, the heart of the source material, which grows three times its size, continues to beat in this latest adaptation.
References: www.thegreenonion.com, www.awardcircuit.com, www.imbd.com
Merry Christmas from The REEL Corner!